Recreation Close-To-Home

At a time when more of us are spending more time closer to home, it seems appropriate to remind everyone of all the ways local residents have found fun in the sun over the past several decades. Staying close to home was never a problem for folks who were busy taking in plenty of leisure time pursuits right here in Sanford. Our first photo is of Temple Park. Sanford’s ballpark, at McIver and Seventh Streets, was one of several projects undertaken in Sanford by the Works Projects Administration (WPA) in the 1930s. Temple Park was named for Will Temple, a local ballplayer who enjoyed success in the New York Giants’ organization. The Sanford Spinners played here in 1941-42 and again after the war, from 1946-50.

Up next in our lineup is a ballplayer who may look vaguely familiar. If your travels take you through downtown Sanford on a regular basis, you’ve no doubt seen the likeness of Howard Aumann in the mural commemorating the Spinners’ championship teams. Howard was a star pitcher for the Spinners and lived in Sanford for many years after his baseball career ended. The stadium grandstand was torn down in the 1960s, but the field is still in use to this day.

Next, let’s make a nostalgic splash at the Park Avenue Pool in 1941. The pool was another WPA project, built in 1935. For roughly 4 decades, this community pool was the home of summers filled with fun. The pool was demolished in the late 1970s, but a visit to this destination can still be enjoyable today. It’s the present-day home of the Kiwanis Children’s Park.

Today of course, the Temple Theatre is known for its exceptional theatrical productions and live entertainment. But this community landmark also entertained thousands of people over several decades in its original role as a popular movie theater. Here’s a look at the Temple marquee in the 1940s, when Sanford residents had a chance to enjoy a Laurel & Hardy comedy.

For a time, our community had multiple downtown movie-going options for its patrons. Jonesboro was home to the Center Theater for several years, where movies and special events were presented. And for years, the Temple’s “direct” competition was practically right across the street. The SanLee, at 212 Carthage Street, was founded in 1920 as the L-Ma Theater and was operated for a long time by local businessperson R.P. Rosser. Here we see the SanLee in all its glory in 1933. Sadly, the theater caught fire on September 19, 1954. When Hurricane Hazel raced through our region a month later, it sealed SanLee’s fate. This space is now a parking lot, right next to the First Citizens Bank location.

Let’s stick with our motion picture theme and wrap up on a brighter note by getting in motion and travelling down NC Highway 87, for a stop at the Lee Drive-In Theater. As more households became car owners, and eventually two-car owners, drive-in theaters became a very popular pastime. The 1950s and 1960s were the heyday for drive-ins and the Lee was part of that boom. It opened on March 2, 1951 and was a popular source of entertainment for many years.

Editorial content, pictures and research background, compliments of Jimmy Haire and Images of America: Sanford and Lee County, by Jimmy Haire & W.W. Seymour, Jr, available here for purchase. All proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to Sanford’s Railroad House Historical Association, Inc.

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