Around the Square with Banks Shepherd Vol. IV - Sept 2021

Dear Friends of LOFC,

The LOFC Board is pleased to announce that Jonathan Barrett, son of Pat Barrett, Jr., has agreed to fill his father’s unexpired term on the LOFC Board. Like his father, Jonathan is an attorney, with his practice in Madison, Mississippi. Jonathan continues to have close ties both personally and professionally to Lexington and Holmes County where he grew up and attended school. He and his wife Leigh have two sons Nathan and Anderson. To read more about Jonathan click [here.]({{ site_url }}board-of-directors/jonathan-barrett)

The outpouring of love and admiration for Pat, Jr. has been heart-warming not only for his family but also the LOFC Board. We are most grateful to those of you who have honored the memory of this very special man by sending a memorial in his honor. Pat, Jr. was vital to the formation of LOFC, and his wise stewardship was essential to its success. We can all see Pat, Jr., smiling that wry smile, with sheer delight as our endowment fund continues to grow.

Below is the fourth in the serialization of Dr. Banks Shepherd’s remembrances and recollections of the Lexington Square. I had thought that this would be the final chapter, but after tapping the historical memory of Parham Williams and Phil Cohen, I realized that we had at least two more chapters to tell.

In Part III Banks left you at the Porter Funeral Home on Yazoo Street, better known as “Beale Street.” Phil remembers in the early 1940’s the Creamery was located on the corner of Mulberry and Yazoo. Owned by John N. Hall, it was a one-story building with a six-foot replica of a milk bottle on the roof. Local dairymen would bring their milk to the Creamery to be pasteurized. Mr. Hall would then deliver the bottles of milk to homes in a panel truck. He also made ice cream and other dairy products. Around 1944 wholesale grocery businesses added refrigerated trucks that could deliver milk to local grocery stores, which put Mr. Hall and the Creamery out of business. Mr. Hall had one stepdaughter named Martha. Later “Man” Smith had a grocery store on the northeast corner.

North of the Creamery was Price Cleaners and then the Dodge/Plymouth dealership owned by W. L. Ellis, husband of Katherine Ellis. Emily Povall Lucas was the bookkeeper and always drove a green Dodge. Leland “Sonny” White’s parents had a Plymouth. Following Mr. Ellis, the dealership became Herrin Brothers. Carl Herrin later became part owner and operator of Herrin-Gear in Jackson.


Part IV

By Dr. Banks Shepherd

The large building on the corner of Court Square and Yazoo Street – across from Patterson’s IGA – originally housed the largest Jewish mercantile store in Lexington, the R & B Sontheimer Company. The initials were those of the owners, Rosa and Betty Sontheimer, sisters who inherited the business from their father, Jacob, the first permanent Jewish resident of Lexington and the great great grandfather of Bob, Joan and Brenda Berman. The interesting history of the store and its founder (who began life in this country as a teenage German immigrant peddler in the mid-1800s) is told in Bob Berman’s book, The House of David in the Land of Jesus. Jacob and his brother Solomon Sontheimer were veterans of the Confederate States Army and are buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery. The Kimbrough and Shaddock families acquired the building upon the deaths of the Sontheimer sisters – perhaps in the 1920s – and operated the business for at least the next half century.

Phil recalls that there was always a miniature bale of cotton hanging in front of Shaddock - Kimbrough as a sign that they were cotton brokers. There was a freight entrance that fronted on Yazoo with one of two elevators on Court Square, the other being in the Fincher Company Building. Mr. Kimbrough retired in the mid 1950’s, and the building was sold to Sidney Henley, Jack Farmer and Jack White, who operated The Lexington Hardware.

Next to Shaddock-Kimbrough was Miller’s 5 & 10. Freddie Miller bought the business from his uncle Ephraim Cohen in the late 1930’s. Freddie lived in Drew where he had another store, so Billy Underwood managed the store before Connie McLellan Morehead took over. It became a Ben Franklin franchise in the 1950’s, and Freddie sold it to Virgil King, Sr.

East of Ben Franklin was a grocery store owned by James Moore. He had a daughter named Kitty and one son. Robert Autry purchased the grocery but moved it to another location about a year later. Joe Stern, recently discharged from the U. S. Navy after WWII, opened Liberty Cash Grocery in the space and hired Tom Cothren as a butcher.

Next door and on the corner, was E. Cohen owned and operated by Ephraim and Jocelyn Cohen. Employees included Verna Bailey (who was there on and off for 52 years), Margaret Rathall, Josephine Upchurch, Willie Walton, Charles Lee Truitt and many others. Phil recounts that since most retail business took place on Saturdays Eph and Jocelyn’s children Sylvia Lynn and Phil with at least two other high school students worked there on Saturdays. The Saturday hours were 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Christmas Eve and a few other holidays, the store was open until midnight. Part time help on Saturdays got paid five dollars for the long day. In 1955 the Cohens added 35 feet to the building, which included a doctor’s office in the basement facing Vine Street. Dr. George Lammons first occupied the space, and Dr. Harry Causey was the last. Phil remembers those Saturdays in Lexington being so crowded with people that when his classmate Ned Downer (who worked at Schur’s) and he walked to the Welcome Inn Cafe for a 25-cent hamburger for supper they had to walk in the street because the sidewalks were so crowded. E. Cohen was the last Jewish owned store to close on the Square in 2017.

Across the street from Cohen’s was Ruth’s Dress Shop owned by Ruth Flower. The entrance to the store was on Court Square. There was another entrance on China Street, but it was only used to store the popcorn machine for the Strand Theater. Ruth’s husband, “Pinkie” owned the theater. Continuing along China Street was the Strand Theater. Tickets were 10 cents. When the price increased to 12 cents, I exclaimed, “We are being robbed!” If you went to the picture show on Friday night, you could go free on Saturday afternoon. There was always a western movie on the weekend with a cartoon and serial.

Parham remembers that Pinkie and Ruth Flower conceived the idea of opening a Mexican restaurant. “To house this notable establishment, they built a small concrete block building – vaguely resembling a Mexican taqueria - on the east side of the Strand Theater. An announcement was printed in The Lexington Advertiser that the two entrepreneurs were journeying to ‘the Mexican border’ to obtain recipes and that, upon their return, the new restaurant would have ‘a grand opening – reservations required.’ The name of the establishment was designed to titillate the gourmet aspirations of even the most unimaginative among us: Casa Manána (House of Tomorrow)!” Parham adds: “I was fortunate (?) at age seven to be included in the second seating on that unforgettable day, and to taste the first hot tamale I had ever seen!

Pinkie, Ruth and their daughter Emilie lived in the house next door. There was a garage apartment in the back. When Patti Ann Adams moved to Lexington, she and her family lived there. They later moved to a house on South Vine Street. Next to the Flower house was The Moore Hotel. I remember eating there once when Jewel and Allan Ramsey lived in the hotel with Adelaide. This was before Bubber was born. When he was born, they lived in the Presbyterian Manse next door to us on Carrollton Street. I went to the hospital with Adelaide and Allen to see the new baby brother, but since I was not family, I had to stay in the car. When the hotel was torn down, an ice cream store was there, run by Mrs. Clint Andrews.

Parham adds: “The Moore Hotel was a Lexington landmark that vied with the Lexington Hotel (owned by the Huffstatler family on Yazoo) for a five-star (?) rating. The Moore Hotel probably attracted more Sunday dinner guests due to its overflowing platters of hot, crispy fried chicken and its unforgettable lemon rub pie. The two porters who served the guests were indeed memorable characters: Charley Fox (whose homemade hot tamales put those of Casa Manána in the shade) and George Washington.”

Ruth acquired the Flower building through a divorce settlement with Pinkie. She later sold the building to Robert Autry and Pepper Tidwell, who opened A & T Grocery. After a year, Pep’s brother bought out Robert Autry and the store changed to T & T Grocery.

At the east end of China Street on the north corner was Simpson, Stepp and Lott Lumber Company managed by Tandy Stepp.

West of the building was an open area where in the early 40’s Pepper Tidwell’s father would set up a hamburger stand on Saturdays. I recall that it served a meat patty, chopped onions and mustard on a bun. It was not much more than a trailer where you were served at the window with no inside seating. I think you ate the hamburger as you walked back across the street to the picture show.

In the corner of China Street and Court Square, across from the Flower Building, were two gas pumps but no building, owned by Wet Thurmond and run by Bill McLellan. There was a Dutch door on the side of the building abutting this lot where you paid for your gas. This building housed Western Auto, also owned by Wet Thurmond and later Allan Ramsey. I think if you bought a tire at Western Auto, it could be installed on your car in that makeshift station by the side.

Later the property with the two gas pumps was bought by A. I. Jenkins who built a building for two businesses. The one on the corner was rented to the government for the ASCS office run by Will McWilliams. The other business was Jenkins Butcher Shop. A few years later Mike Lammons moved his jewelry store into the premises.

Mike Lammons and Helen Lupo Lammons owned and operated Lammons Jewelry. They later moved the store just off the square on Depot Street going toward Durant. In 1952, I graduated from high school on a Friday night and the following Monday, I enrolled in college at Ole Miss. Somewhere during that time I was in Lammons, and Mike looked at my wrist and asked me where my watch was. I told him that I did not have a watch, and he said, “Well, you need a watch.” I told him that I could not afford a watch. Mike said, “I’ll tell you what I will do. Go over to the showcase and pick out a watch. When you graduate from college, you can pay for it.” I realized that he was serious, so I went over to the showcase and selected an Elgin that cost $67.50. Mike made the entry in his account book.

In 1956, I graduated from college and went to Lammon’s to take care of my part of the bargain. I told Mike that I wanted to pay for my watch. He asked, “What watch?” I reminded him of our bargain, so he looked in his ledger and there it was. I owed him $67.50. Mike then said, “Well, it is an old watch now. You need a new one now. Go over to the case and pick out a new one, pay for the old one and you can have the new one.” I can remember that I did not want to pick out an expensive one, so I selected a Bulova, which was cheaper than the original Elgin that I had worn for four years. I paid Mike the $67.50 for the original watch and left with another brand-new watch. Mike was special. They do not make them like Mike now. Mike and Helen had three children: Karen, Richard and Nancy. Nancy and her husband Allen King operate Lammon's Jewelry in Oxford, Mississippi, so the name carries on.

North of Western Auto was Blaylock’s Cleaners. Phil reminded us that both this building and the Western Auto building originally belonged to the Applebaum family. The Applebaum brothers, Nathan and Sol, were tailors and had quite a reputation. It was said that people in Greenwood would go to the train station and ask for a ticket to Applebaum’s. When the store closed in 1940, a tailor-made suit sold for $12.50.

On the north end of this block was Flowers Brothers. Abram and Sam emigrated from Poland to Lexington in 1905 and opened a bakery. [Editor’s Note: Is it possible that they took their new name Flowers because of their trade?] The Flowers brothers married two Cohen sisters, so in 1922 Sam Cohen helped his sons-in-law open a clothing store. After Abram’s son Herman graduated from Tulane University, he returned to Lexington and operated the store for the next forty years. Herman and his wife Elvera had two daughters, Beth and Ann. I remember it as having nice clothes and sold Arrow shirts. I think Neva Johnson, Wallace Johnson’s mother, worked there. Later Josephine Upchurch, and the sisters Fran Wynne and Alice Byrd also worked there. Inez Hoff was the bookkeeper.

To be continued . . ..

As summer ends, to be followed by autumn, the Board joins me in sending best wishes for your safety and well-being. If you have not already received your COVID vaccine, please do. Only by being a part of this civic duty and responsibility can we come through these dark and perilous days. And if, like I, you are feeling that so much in your life has been cancelled, I leave you with these encouraging and poignant words that a friend recently sent me.

Not everything is cancelled...

Sun is not cancelled

Rain is not cancelled

Relationships are not cancelled

Love is not cancelled

Reading is not cancelled

Music is not cancelled

Imagination is not cancelled

Conversations are not cancelled

Hope is not cancelled

With a hopeful heart, I remain,

Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor

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