Though the faces have changed through the years, JC Sell, Jr. says many things about Cooleemee have stayed the same. For one, townspeople still live in the original mill houses built by Erwin Mills, though many have been renovated, added onto or moved.
Erwin Mills ran the town when Sell was growing up. Most of the townspeople worked at the mill and lived in houses owned by the mill. The rent was low, and Erwin's employees spent their time away from work enjoying the swimming pool, library and two theaters owned by the company.
Because most people used the space outside their homes for gardens, Sell says garages provided by the mill were lined up at central locations in town. When they went somewhere, people would park their cars in the garages and walk back home. Most of Erwin's employees walked to work.
Cooleemee even had its own hotel back then. The Riverside Hotel was owned by Erwin so that company employees had a place to stay when they came in from headquarters in Durham.
The town also had its own Minor League baseball team, sponsored at times by the St. Louis Cardinals. The ball field was located across from Sell's house where Cooleemee Elementary School now stands, and boys from town would climb the huge walnut tree behind his house to watch the games.
When Erwin Mills, which eventually became Burlington Mills, closed down, Sell says, "it was like the town´s heart stopped beating." (Salisbury Post, June 12, 2001)