Dear Friends of LOFC,
Now that I have reached the great age of 75 – a quarter of a century – loss seems to happen with greater frequency. It has been particularly so this past month, first with the untimely loss of George Ellison, and then, the tragic death of Sandra Hammett Brett, sister of Harold, Jr., one of LOFC’s founding board members.
George was an early and vital member of our LOFC team, setting up an excel spreadsheet from the antiquated card files that we inherited from the City of Lexington and assisting Chris Hammett in the office not only with record keeping but also correspondence. George possessed a wealth of information when it came to connecting ancestors, a skill that was invaluable as we computerized – and continue to do so -- more than 3,000 records of gravesites.
Sandra would have reached her 75th birthday this month, so I have known her all my life -- at least all that I can remember. Looking through old photographs, whether a birthday party or our graduation in white caps and gowns from Jean Porter’s kindergarten, Sandra was easily recognizable with her bright brown eyes. Like her mother Gwendolyn, those eyes were a signature of her beauty and the windows to an equally beautiful soul. Friends described her as kind, loving and loyal. She was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother and loving sister to her brother Harold, Jr. and sisters Gwenda, Laura, Fran and Sara Lynn. We grieve their deaths.
In response to the last newsletter, Robert Autry, Jr. wrote that he enjoys reading the remembrances of an earlier Lexington and added that his father Robert Autry, Sr. did indeed operate grocery stores in three locations on Court Square. According to Robert, his first grocery store was on the southeast side of the Square. Later, his father sold the grocery to Joe Stern, who operated it as Liberty Cash. The second, on the southeast corner, was a partnership with Robert, Jr.’s uncle, Pepper Tidwell, and operated as A&T Grocery. Robert, Sr. sold his partnership interest to “Pep,” who renamed the store T&T. Although Robert, Jr.’s cousin J. M. Tidwell worked there as the manager of the meat market, Robert does not believe that J. M. had any ownership interest in the business. J. M. eventually left Lexington and moved to Vicksburg to work for and eventually partnered with Kayo Dottley in the grocery business. [Editor’s Note: Kayo Dottley was a fullback at Ole Miss in the late 1940’s and still holds the record for the most rushing yards in a season for Ole Miss.] The third, and last store, was on the northeast corner of Court Square and next door to Fincher Hardware. This store operated under the branding of Jitney Jungle, Piggly Wiggly, and finally as Autry’s Grocery.
In Part IV, I incorrectly stated that the building located on the corner of Yazoo (“Beale Street”) and Court Square that housed Shaddock & Kimbrough had originally housed the R & B Sontheimer Company. Phil Cohen confirmed that the Sontheimer mercantile store was in the building presently known as Thurmond’s.
In last month’s newsletter, Banks left us at Flowers Bros. Department Store. With this edition of the newsletter, we conclude his recollections of the Square. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed sharing them with you.
By Dr. Banks Shepherd
Crossing Depot Street there was a Texaco service station, run by Bob McClellan and owned by Irby Ellington. Thomas Gerald Evans, better known as T. G., worked there and always wore the signature “Texaco” cap. His son is Jerry. Edward is the son of Irby and Elaine, who was the longtime Chancery Clerk following Parham Williams, Sr.
Next to the Texaco station were three stores with identical front facades. The first was B. Schur, owned by Ben Schur and his wife Ida. Some people referred to the store as “Be Show.” When they retired, their son Nathan and his wife Ellen operated the store after changing the name to N. Schur. They had three children Elaine, Morris and Edward Lewis.
The second was O. L. Ellison. While this was primarily a clothing store it also sold paint, cotton sacks, linoleum and children’s board games. John Bell Rosamond and I bought two “Big Apple” hats there and wore them to a basketball game in West one night. Many different people worked there at one time or another -- Kitty Gilliland, Mary Ellison, Annie Phelps, Grace Shepherd, and Dora Swinney. Lots of good stories and tales originated from the counters of that store.
The third of the three identical store fronts was Brown’s Department Store owned and operated by M. B. Brown. This may have been the first chain store in Lexington as Mrs. Brown was a Stubbs whose family owned over twenty Stubbs stores around the state and most of the merchandise came through the Stubbs organization. I remember Brown’s as a favorite haunt for my father on a Saturday night. Even after he began working in Greenwood he would often stop there when he returned to Lexington.
The street next to Brown’s was Oak Street, which ran east one block and dead ended at Andrews Street. Tom Hollinsworth owned and operated Hollinsworth Oldsmobile, one of five automobile agencies in Lexington. Tom and his wife had one daughter named Tommie.
Across Oak Street from Brown’s was the Lewis Building, originally with a large cupola above the corner entrance. Phil recalls that it was a two-story building with the Holmes County Bank occupying the first floor. The second floor contained the office of the Selective Service, managed by Necie Povall, and the law office of Pat Barrett, Sr. It had originally been the law office of Archie Pepper and Edmund Noel, a former governor of Mississippi buried in LOFC.
Reedy Ellis, his son William and Andrew Stephens were officers of the bank, and Will Wilson was the loan officer. Ben Murphy and Katherine Ellis were tellers, and Mrs. Jarrett was the bookkeeper.
Although I remember that Reedy Ellis was the president, my wife’s memory of Mr. Ellis is different and a lot more colorful than mine. In December 1955, Ole Miss went to the Cotton Bowl, and my date, Mary Ann Murphree, now my wife, and I boarded the train in Meridian bound for Dallas. Stopping in Jackson, Wilburn Hooker and Reedy Ellis came on board, and in Vicksburg, a fraternity brother Lee Davis Thames and his date joined the train. Mary Ann remembers that Mr. Ellis wanted to kiss her, so she spent most of the trip with him chasing her as she tried to avoid his amorous intentions.
The next building on Oak Street was Sunshine Cleaners, owned by Bumont Rutledge. Mildred Farmer worked there. Parham remembers that Sunshine Cleaners had a memorable logo painted on the side of its delivery truck: “When Clothes are Dirty, Call Two-Thirty.” Parham adds: “Readers may recall that the original telephone numbers in the Lexington Telephone Exchange consisted of one, two or three digits. For example, our home phone was 309; the First National Bank was 4. The phone number for Sunshine Cleaners was – you guessed it – 230.”
There was also a large house on Oak Street known as the Narramore home. Parham’s parents rented a two-room “apartment” there when they first moved to Lexington in 1925. Banks recalls the Lipsey family living there and later Miss Fannie Eggleston Lumpkin, the longtime organist for St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, lived in the house.
Next to the bank on North Vine Street was Horan’s, the first TV store in Lexington, operated by Paul Horan. Paul and his wife Ruth had two children: Douglas and a younger daughter Pauline.
Crossing North Vine Street and on the corner was Piggy Wiggly, first owned by W. H. Fincher and later Robert Autry. Tom Fisher was the butcher. Jo Cleta was his beautiful wife, and Tommy their only child.
Fincher Hardware Company was next in the Rayner Building. The main entrance was on the Square and a side entrance on Carrollton Street rarely used by customers. W. H. Fincher, Sr. was the owner and the grandfather of Marilyn and Murray Fincher, whose father was W. H., Jr.
People’s Drug Store was on the corner of the Square and Carrollton Street. Reggie Williams and Les Johnson were the pharmacists. Mr. Wells worked there, and Gilbert Bradley was behind the soda fountain. Beyond the soda fountain was a counter where you collected your photographs out of a shoe box. The store was air-conditioned and on the door was a sign that said, “20 degrees cooler inside.” If memory serves me correctly, it was a Carrier air conditioning unit. The corner entrance fronted on both the Square and Carrolton Street. Finishing my milk run one hot afternoon, I went in and got a strawberry milkshake, “threw up” before I got home and have never had one since.
Parham recalls, “In the hot summers, I always found some excuse to spend as much time as possible in Peoples Drug Store when I ventured to the Square. Banks mentioned the proprietors, Reggie Williams and Les Johnson, and Mr. Wells (who sold me my first camera – a Kodak bellows model that would still take decent photos today if the film were available). Another fixture of the store was Jerry Jarrett, a faithful employee for years until his failing eyesight compelled him to retire.”
In the back of Peoples was a doctor’s office that had an entrance on Carrollton Street. First, Dr. Stephenson practiced there, followed by Dr. Lee. Ruth Tidwell was the nurse for both doctors.
Next was the side entrance to Fincher Hardware, used primarily for the removal of large pieces of furniture. Continuing north on Carrollton was the Pettus Shoe Shop, owned by Enos Pettus.
Povall Printing was next, but I do not know what was there earlier. They printed The Beacon when I was in high school. George and Ruth, Sessions and Keturah Povall were the owners. I worked for them as a paper carrier, delivering The Jackson Daily News and The Commercial Appeal by bicycle over town. Hugh Skinner and Donald Boatwright also delivered papers; seniority allowed Donald to deliver on the Square. As a graduation present, Ruth Povall gave Adelaide Ramsey and me a bound copy of The Beacon editions as we had been co-editors during our senior year of high school.
Next to Povall Printing Company was Carter Chevrolet. Parham adds that Mr. Carter’s son Billy was a super snare drummer in the LHS band and later a senior partner in the eminent Jackson law firm, Wise, Carter & Child. Jim Child, also a partner in that firm is the husband of Sybil McRae Child. The building later became Weathersby Chevrolet owned by Norman Weathersby, father of Chick and John.
Howard Terry had an auto mechanic’s shop next door. Once he had to come to our house to grind out the ignition in my father’s pick-up truck, because I had been playing with the key in the ignition and it broke off, despite having been admonished by my father not to play with the key in the ignition.
On the corner was T. M. Williams’ Grist Mill, later William’s Seed and Feed Company. I think Jack Williams worked there until he got the call to preach. You could take your corn there, have it ground, and go home and make corn bread. I remember the grist mill as being very noisy. Mr. Williams served as a senator in the Mississippi Legislature for several terms.
In the next block traveling north was the Lexington Lumber Company, owned and operated by Claude Bailey. Grady Bailey, Gene Ware and a man known as “Century” worked there. Phil remembers that when Claude Bailey and his wife Susie moved to Greenville in the mid-50’s, Tandy Stepp bought the building and moved Stepp & Lott Lumber Company from East China Street to this location. Tandy managed the business and employed Nathan Aldridge, Leo Alderman, and Mrs. Wallace as the bookkeeper.
Abutting the lumber company was the Rosenthal house. After the Rosenthals died in the 1920’s, a relative of theirs named Harriette Riteman moved in. I was frightened of her for I was convinced that she was a witch. I can remember walking by her house, crouching all the way to the corner hugging the concrete retaining wall from the lumber company until I was past her house. I thought that if I reached the corner, I would be safe, but I can still hear her hollering at me, “Boy, whose boy, are you?”
We are now at the corner of Cedar and Carrollton. Between Carrollton and Tchula on Cedar was John Rhyne’s feed and seed store. At Christmas he sold fireworks outside in a stand. The year that the grammar school was under renovation one of the workers came over to Rhyne’s to buy something to eat, went outside, dropped a lighted cigarette in the fireworks and they caught fire and exploded. Miss Harriette, who lived across the street thought that the Japanese had bombed us. This was around 1943 or 1944 when I was in the third grade.
Headed back to the Square on Carrollton, you passed the National Guard Armory, the storage yard for Lexington Lumber Company and the rear of the Star Theater. Crossing Telegraph Street was the rear of the Post Office. Next was the Lewis Grocer Company. In that complex Eugene Herrman had his insurance agency. Eugene married Janet Whitehead from West Point. She had boarded in our home while teaching school and before she married. The Berman, Herrman, Lewis and Paris families are all connected and related. Bobby Berman’s book, “A House of David in the Land of Jesus” will explain their connections.
The Ford dealership was next. Through the years, it was Barr, then Barr-Gwin, then Gwin-Lail and finally Lail. Tommy and Erin Gwin Lail had two sons, Tom and David.
Returning to the Square on the corner of Carrollton was the Gulf Service Station. Parham recalls that Clarence McDaniel owned and operated the station for many years. Roosevelt Rozelle, better known as “Foots,” was his able assistant. The McDaniels had two children, Edith and Paul. Edith was an accomplished organist, and Paul was a star football player at LHS. Inspired by patriotism, Paul enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17. Paul died June 19, 1944, at the age of 18 after sustaining injuries on November 20, 1943, the first day of the Marine’s amphibious assault on Tarawa in the Pacific. [Editor’s Note: Paul is buried in Section 6, Lot 624, Plot 1 in LOFC. If anyone has further information about Paul and his heroic military service, please send to me.] Later Bill McClellan ran this station.
On the corner of Tchula and Boulevard was Crown Service Station run by Gordon Carter. Later Reuben Netherland operated it.
Turning north on Tchula Street you arrived at the rear of the Ford dealership and then the back of the Lewis Grocer Company. Next was the Post Office on the corner of Tchula and Telegraph. I remember Alice Rayner Alexander was post mistress. I delivered “Special Delivery” mail at one time. You could send a letter “Special Delivery” for hand delivery direct to the recipient’s doorstep. Every morning and afternoon, I would go to the post office and pick up any “Special Delivery” mail. The Post Office paid me by the piece, so no mail, no pay. Often approaching the address, I would ask a neighbor if they knew the addressee. “No” was the usual answer, but when I said that I had a Special Delivery letter, the answer would change to “Oh, they live right next door.”
Crossing Telegraph Street and across from First Baptist Church, was the Star Theater, owned by S.B. Ford. He lived in the front room of my uncle and aunt, Pitt and Genevieve Shephard’s home. I remember him as an older man, deaf and wearing a hearing aid. The cost of a ticket to the picture show was 25 cents, certainly higher than the Strand Theater. Aunt Genevieve sold tickets and once in a great while she would let me in free of charge, although she had to buy my ticket. I remember being scared in the movie “Gulliver’s Travels,” and I did not last through “Gone with the Wind.”
Later Paul Myers bought the Star and changed the name to the Center Theater. Phil recalls that the Baptist minister Brother Bragg often preached on the evils of working on a Sunday. Although Paul Myers was not a Baptist, he “got wind” of Brother Bragg’s sermons. Paul, a shrewd businessperson, produced a plan to circumvent the “evils” of selling tickets on a Sunday. Instead, he allowed free admission to the Sunday matinee, but increased the price of popcorn to compensate him for the loss in ticket revenue. [Editor’s Note: I can only surmise that popcorn deemed a “food,” the sale of it on a Sunday did not fall under Brother Bragg’s purview as an “evil.”]
The storage yard for the lumber company was next and then the fire department. The fire chief was “Putsey” Petty, then Billy Rathell and later Ben Rathell. This was a hangout in my high school years in the early ‘50’s. We would sit out front and watch the traffic. Phil recalls that the National Guard Armory not only housed the fire department but also had a room used by the LHS band until it moved to the high school building in the late 1940’s.
The Lexington Grammar School was directly across the street from the fire department. I remember in the second grade when the fire whistle went off, we would rush to the window to sharpen our pencils on the sharpener mounted in the window, so that we could watch the fire engine leave.
Heading back to the Square was First Baptist Church followed by the Methodist Church. As mentioned above, Paul Bragg was the longtime minister. His children were Ann, Paul and Caroline. I also remember Brother Robinson, whose children were Billy and Leslie.
The Methodist ministers, not necessarily in this order, were Harmon Smith, Leslie Nabors, Milton Peden and A. Y. Brown. [Editor’s Note: According to my sister Patty Povall Lewis, Bobby Smith -- one of Harmon’s sons -- taught many of the teenagers in Lexington how to dance the “Memphis Shuffle.” Based on the basic box step or the fox trot, it was set to rock and roll and included the following steps: one, two and rock on the counts of three and four, then repeat the steps one, two and rock back twice, and then repeat one and two, with three rock backs. Later Bobby taught a simplified version of the Shuffle, which is colloquially known as the “Mississippi Bop” -- one, two and rock back. Gradually the Memphis Shuffle faded away to be replaced by the Mississippi Bop. For those of you who are not dancers, this is too much information. Patty also adds that on September 26, 1956, Mrs. Peden drove a carload of girls -- miraculously excused from school -- to Tupelo for the Mississippi Lee County Fair to see Elvis Presley in concert. There is a classic photo available online of Mrs. Peden, and those girls, front and center at the Elvis concert, with Mrs. Peden obviously enjoying the concert as much as the teenagers. I doubt that Brother Bragg would have approved.]
In the center of the Square was the Holmes County Court House. I remember Senator Bilbo speaking there during one of his campaigns. On the southwest corner was a bandstand. Inside the courthouse was a small one room library. Irene Money was the librarian. The Sheriff’s office and the Circuit Clerk’s office were also there. The Chancery Clerk’s office was in a separate building, later added to the Court House on the northeast side of the yard.
My mother Grace was on the election committee so during an election she was present for both the voting and the counting of ballots. I was only sixteen when I began helping with the tally of the votes, often into the wee hours of the morning. Sitting at a large table, along with another person, we each had a big sheet of paper. As each ballot was counted, we would make a mark under the appropriate candidate’s name. When a candidate received the fifth vote, we would draw a diagonal line across the four marks, and say, “Tally.” It was easy to count the votes in totals of five. There was an overseer who walked around watching over us as we counted and tallied the votes.
These are my recollections of the Lexington Square. I have had fun sharing them with you and hope you have enjoyed “walking” with me around the Square and down memory lane.
Banks Shepherd, Guest Editor
It is bittersweet arriving at the end of Banks’ most vivid and engaging remembrances of Lexington and the various business entities that thrived on the Square during his youth. If you have a story that you would like to share with our ever-growing readership, please send to email@example.com
Once again flags are flying on the graves of veterans buried in LOFC in honor of Veterans Day on November 11. Under the supervision of Coach Mitchell Womack, the CHCS varsity football boys placed the flags on the graves. Please join me in recognizing and honoring the many veterans buried in LOFC and listed in the Honor Roll of Veterans on our website. If you find a family member or friend that is unlisted, please let me know so that we can add them. God bless them each and everyone.
Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor
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