Feb - Around the Square with Banks Shepherd, Vol. 2

Dear Friends of LOFC,

As many of us uncover from a blanket of ice and snow that has fallen over much of the south, we eagerly look forward to the arrival of spring. Daffodils that had tentatively begun to bloom in my garden have reemerged in the snowfall and will once again herald a new beginning.

And speaking of new beginnings, LOFC began a new year with its annual board meeting on February 8. Members of the Board nominated and reelected the same slate of officers that served during 2020. They are as follows: Ed Thurmond, President; Chris Hammett, Vice-President; Betsy Padgett, Secretary; and Amanda Tailyour, Treasurer. Julian Watson continues to serve as Chairman of the Board and Pat Barrett, Jr, Phil Cohen, and Harold Hammett, Jr. as Members of the Board. The mission of LOFC as stated on the website remains the same – to preserve and maintain the historic Odd Fellows Cemetery. With your generous help and support, we have come a long way since we began this journey in June 2018.

In last month’s newsletter, we shared the first installment of remembrances of the Lexington Square by Dr. Banks Shepherd. Many of you responded with delight and eagerness to hear more. Some even shared their own recollections. For example, Pat Barrett, Jr. remembered his beautiful mother asking Dora Pearl Tidwell, who managed the telephone exchange, to please connect her with Orchid Beauty Number 44, and his father saying that Sara and her friends went there to “be renewed.”

My sister Patty Lewis remembered that from an early age The Orchid Beauty Shop was a place that she wanted to be. “It was a narrow building with lots of black, lavender and lime green fixtures. It was where many of the ladies in town got a shampoo/set, a perm, and a manicure. Throughout my youth, I experienced all of them. Claudie and Scott were the owner/operators and spent their lives making their customers look beautiful. I often stopped at the front window to watch Claudie giving Elvera Flowers or Irma Paris a manicure, carefully applying Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow! Claudie had a special way of finishing off each nail. She applied the polish, and then running her thumb along the tip of the nail, created a bevel to prevent any chipping. It is a technique I have yet to see again. I think Scott gave me my first perm when I was six and Claudie gave me a manicure when I was seven. I did not even make it to the corner before I had smudged a nail and had to return for a quick repair! The shop had a row of stalls along one wall and opposite the stalls stood a lot of hair dryers. There was also a scary looking machine with large clips dangling from electrical cords that looked like something from a torture chamber. I think it was used for hot waves! Scott would shampoo you at a large basin in the rear of the shop and then you would go forward to the stall of the hair stylist or to his stall up front for the perm. He had a small white cabinet with sterilized instruments that also looked scary, and I never figured out what he did with them. Maybe it was related to dermatology. It was a happy place though, filled with lots of movie magazines--a place that provided some of the fondest memories I have of Lexington. The Orchid was also Lexington’s finest forum for the gossip of the day. If you went to see Scott and Claudie, you heard it all. There were no secrets hidden in the Orchid. It all came out: the lurid, the salacious, and the complimentary.”

Like the above, if any of Dr. Shepherd’s remembrances jog your own memory with recollections of the Square that you would like to share, please, and I will try to include them in an upcoming newsletter.

In Part I of the tour, we left you at the Coca-Cola plant on Spring Street. That building elicited comments from several people who remembered standing at the large window watching the green bottles move along the conveyor belt under the watchful eye of Roy Gelston, the “Inspector General.” Periodically, he would pull one from the ranks for reasons unknown to the spectators. A “Co-Cola” was a real treat in those days, especially with an Ezell’s hamburger! Phil Cohen recalls that a Coke cost a nickel if purchased at a store, but Mr. Lundy, who owned the bottling company, would sell you a six-pack at a wholesale price of 24 cents. Sonny Russell would organize a “syndicate” of Phil, David Richards, and three other young boys to buy a six-pack, each then enjoying a Coke with a 1 cent savings that they were able to spend on another treat. The only downside was that Mr. Lundy required the boys to drink the Coke on the premises because they did not have the money for a bottle deposit, so they had to immediately return the bottle once they had finished the Coke.


Part II

By Dr. Banks Shepherd

14. Back on the Square, the next business was a grocery store owned by Virgil Ingold. His two boys, Virgil, Jr. and Ernest Lee were contemporaries of my sister, Penelope and me. They lived in the back of the store. This had to be 1940 or 1941 as I can remember going there with Ernest Lee and his mother giving us a pack of gum or a Hershey bar or a piece of bubble gum. That was a real treat as those things were scarce during the war.

The building that housed the Ingold grocery store later became Ramsey-Thurmond Company, owned by Allen Ramsey and “Wet” Thurmond. Ed Thurmond confirmed that on September 3, 1950, there was a fire that destroyed Williams Outlet Store, the third building on that block and caused lots of water damage to Western Auto, the second building on the block, which was owned by Wet Thurmond. Shortly after the fire there was a deal struck whereby Allen Ramsey became the owner of the Western Auto and moved the business across the Square. Wet Thurmond formed Thurmond’s, Inc., a hardware, furniture and appliance store which occupied both buildings. Several years later the third building on the block, formerly Williams Outlet Store, was included in the operation.

In approximately 1962 Henry Herbert “Happy” Johnson, Wet’s father-in-law, moved his law office, formerly Johnson and White, across the Square and above Henrich Drug Store, to a space on Spring Street in the rear of Thurmond’s, Inc. Happy was married to Mary Dalton “Mittie” McBee, and they had three daughters Alice Dalton, Ada Herbert, and Mittie McBee “Bee.” Alice Dalton married Wet Thurmond and their children are Ed and Mary.

Behind the building was a vacant lot and on occasion a small carnival would arrive to set up its rides and games of chance.

15. Continuing along the west side of the Square, as mentioned above, was Williams Outlet Store. As I remember, you could have shoes repaired there. It was owned by Mr. Josh “Shoe” Williams. I knew him as Mr. Williams, but most people called him “Shoe,” and his son was also called “Shoe.” Mr. Williams was a great uncle of Sonny Russell, and a good friend of Vernon Rhyne, my mother’s first cousin.

16. Moving along, Volunteer Grocery was the next business, owned by Vernon King. Vernon was married to Louise and they had three sons: Bill, Kenny and Andy. A. J. Davis worked there and later took ownership of the business. A. J. and his wife Johnnie had three children – Bonnie, Glenda and Bill. That was the last building in the block and was known as the Masonic Building.

17. Around the corner of the Masonic Building was a long, narrow, dusty stairway leading to the second-floor office of longtime physician, Dr. Paul Brumby. Linda was his wife, and Bing and Pat were their children. His nurse was Lockwood Thompson, (Al Povall remembers) who was a terror to children. Known, not affectionately, by children as “the shot lady,” Lockwood was tall and thin with an angular face, and when she gave a shot, it was an unforgettable experience, unfortunately. She did not know – or did not care – to slip gently the long, horrible needle in under the skin. Instead, it was as though she were popping a balloon, which is what your arm was getting ready to feel like: POP! The savage suddenness of the injection produced a blinding flash of terrible pain. Walking up those stairs to Dr. Brumby’s office always engendered unbridled terror, as you knew what awaited you in Lockwood’s long-fingered hand, if Dr. Brumby so ordered. Dr. Brumby took one afternoon off a week and with his wife Linda drove to Greenwood to rest at the old hotel there. He and Linda would have dinner at Lusco’s and then return the next morning. Being the sole practitioner in Lexington left him exhausted. It was a 24/7 practice and included house calls. The other “shot lady” was Mrs. Gilliam, who worked at the County Health Department. We went there for our annual typhoid shots as swimming season approached. While not in the same class as Lockwood Thompson, Mrs. Gilliam could still make you wonder if swimming was worth the pain.

Also on the second floor of the Masonic Building was Dr. Vernon (Doc) Richards’ dental office. His wife was Sadie, and their children were David, Vernon and Susan. He later moved his dental practice to Greenwood, and Gordon Russell took his place. Gordon and his wife, Martha, had three children, Roberta, Dale and Randy. Roberta was one of the finest athletes Lexington ever produced. She won two state championships in the 50- and 75-yard dashes – women did not run the 100 in those days -- and set records in both that stood for many years. Tragically, Roberta died in a car wreck near Atlanta when she was in her twenties.

At some point the Holmes County Welfare Department run by Lawrence Rabb was also on the second floor. As mentioned in Part I, Mr. Rabb’s daughter Bettye was helpful with her remembrances of the Square.

18. The third floor was home to the Masonic Temple. That was a mysterious place, and it still is for me as I am not a Mason and do not understand their rituals. Phil Cohen adds that the Masonic Lodge Temple was comprised of a large meeting hall that could seat 100 people as well as a kitchen and dining hall.

19. This brings us back to the corner of West China Street between the Volunteer and the south side of the Square. On that southwest corner was Swinney’s Hardware. Alex Swinney was my great uncle. Gordon Ashley, my first cousin, and the family genealogist/historian has a glass (like the coke glass) with Swinney Drugstore on it. He also has a Rx bottle with Swinney Drugs. The Era Druggist directory in 1910 listed a druggist in Lexington as Swinney and Stigler, and the Western Digest lists an A. E. Swinney as having met the examination requirements for druggists in 1901.

In the 1940’s the Swinney Building rented space to George Povall who operated The Lexington Hardware there. They say that he went out of business because he was too kind-hearted to collect on his accounts. George and his wife Ruth later owned and operated the Povall Printing Company. Sadly, George died at the young age of 43, leaving Ruth to manage the printing company and provide for their children, Roy Elmore and Gretchen.

The Lexington Hardware was sold to Sidney Henley, Jack Farmer and Jack White. The business later moved from the Swinney Building to another building on the Square. Subsequently, Tom Riley had a furniture/interior decorator business in the Swinney Building. Tom and Adelaide Ramsey Riley had three sons, Mark, Matt and Chris.

20. Going west from this corner along West China Street, the next business I remember was City Barber Shop. The barbers as I recall were Mr. Tru or True (I think), Clay Herring, and Otto Morris. I remember Otto with a cigar stub in his mouth, but what I most remember was that if you did not want a close-cropped haircut, you did not get in his chair! Al Povall remembers: A haircut cost 75 cents and a shoeshine a dime. I can still smell the numerous emollients on the shelf behind the chairs at “the barber shop.” They must have had fifty different kinds of hair tonic – the ones I remember are Vitalis, Vaseline Hair Oil and Wild Root Cream Oil -- and a few bottles of after-shave lotion in there. I can still hear the sounds of the place: the slapping sound of the straight razor against the leather strap when one of the barbers sharpened his razor; the crack of the shine cloth popping when the “shoeshine boy” burnished shoes; and the soft voices of the old men who lined the west wall of the shop, talking about the weather, about hunting “buhds” (birds), about fishing in the old oxbow lakes of the Delta. Some of them were World War One veterans. I also remember the sound of little boys crying as they received their first haircuts. Heck, I felt like crying after some of the cuts I got at the City Barber Shop.

21. The next building during that time was a large two-story house known as the Huffstatler Hotel. Originally built by C. C. Pahlen as a family home, he later complained that it was too noisy living by the Square, so moved his family to the wonderful brick home, appropriately known as the “Pahlen Home,” on North Vine Street. C. C. Pahlen was the grandfather of Ann Fant and Lillian Davis.

I vaguely recall the Huffstatler family living there. Patty Lewis remembers: Rooms were rented short term but most of the house was divided into apartments and rented long term. My aunts, Emily Lucas and Sidney Rhyne lived there for a while before moving to a house off the Square. Patty also recalls having Sunday lunch in the dining room with her aunts. Al Povall remembers: There is a famous story about the Episcopal Bishop, Duncan Gray, then the minister in Canton, staying there on the Saturday nights before he would conduct early morning services at St. Mary’s. He would play bridge, which he loved, with a local group, but his rule was that he would not play bridge on Sundays. Therefore, when the hands on the big grandfather clock reached midnight, Bishop Gray would go to the clock and move the hands back to eleven.

According to Phil Cohen the former Huffstatler Hotel was torn down in the 1980’s and the antique brick sold. There are Huffstatlers buried in LOFC.

22. Now I may be getting off, but I think there was a house next to the hotel where the Marion Pettys lived. “Putsey” Petty was the fire chief. His son was one of the soda jerks at Beall’s Drugstore noted earlier in Part I.

23. At the end of West China Street in the turn was the jail. Not much that I can remember about it, but at that time executions were done by electrocution, as hanging was no longer allowed. I think that the electric chair was brought in for the electrocutions. My daddy, as a newspaper person, attended those; I was too little for such a sight. They say that when the switch was thrown, lights all over town blinked.

24. Back to the corner of Riley’s Furniture store, and we are on Wall Street. The back of The Lexington Advertiser was along this street.

25. Hooker Insurance Agency was next. Wilburn and then Ed Wilburn Hooker owned it. Elma Hefner worked there forever. The Hooker family included Wilburn, Mary Elizabeth (Honey), Ed Wilburn, Otha Hilliard (Bootsy) and Wyche. Wilburn served in the Mississippi Legislature for many years.

26. Across the street from the insurance company was a dentist’s office. I think Gordon Russell was there at one point, but we are getting into the 50’s, and I am now gone. Down at the end of West China, near the corner of Wall Street and Mulberry Street was a cotton gin, owned by Mr. Duke, whose daughter was Sadie Ella Duke Parrish.

27. At Christmas, Mr. Boatwright would paint the store windows on the Square with Christmas and winter scenes: a snowy field with a cottage set off in the distance, smoke curling out of its chimney. A father and his children dragging a Christmas tree toward their house. Santa and his elves and twelve reindeer. At the Strand Theater the merchants would all run Christmas-themed ads on a film that ran before the feature. Those simple ads would start in mid-December and would cause children’s stomachs to tingle in anticipation of Christmas.

To be continued . . ..

Shortly we will announce winners of the Photography Contest, which is being judged by the renowned and celebrated photographer, Bill Eggleston. The photographs will be downloaded to our website for viewing. Stay posted.

Toddrick Brooks and his “crew” continue to maintain the grounds of LOFC, and during this off-season of grass cutting, they have been busy reinstalling cornerstones that have moved from their original settings. If you would like to have the cornerstones reinstalled around your family plots, please let the Board know so that we can arrange with Toddrick. Most families have generously agreed to cover the minimal cost of the resetting. Toddrick and his crew, which are comprised of his wife and fifteen-year-old son, have also cleaned the fence line on the south side and will shortly clear the line on the north and east sides. We are fortunate to have Toddrick and his family maintaining and beautifying LOFC.

Stay safe and be well,

Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor