Films About Local People

In 1937 a man and his camera came to Rock Hill to film the daily lives of the average denizen. As a way to supplement his income during (& after) the Great Depression, H. Lee Waters, a photographer living in Lexington, NC, traveled throughout North & South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. In a time where one of the few indulgences taken by many people was purchasing a movie ticket, Waters filmed daily lives of local communities and gave them an opportunity to "see yourself in the movies." Waters filmed the daily life of Rock Hill's citizens, including shots at the high school and downtown street scenes as well as shots of Winthrop and the Bleachery. He also sold  advertising for local businesses to show during the public viewings.

A still from “Clayton (N.C.), circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1),” one of the films in H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

After retiring, H. Lee Waters sold the original reels back to the cities he had once visited. After being stored for years, Historic Rock Hill (or the Midtown Preservation Society as we were known at the time) was able to show the silent film in November 1987.  While it had been available to the local schools, the film was largely forgotten after the showing.

Historic Rock Hill & the City of Rock Hill have fortunately recovered the original film reel! We hope to be able to digitize the film and show it to the public in the coming year! If you would like more information about supporting the project, please email our Program Director at