Savoring a slice of local history

Published 4:01 pm Friday, July 10, 2009

It was the year when Don Kirksey owned the Ford place, when there was Bobby Evans at the Diary Queen, Henry Bellflower at the Dairy King and Jack Conger at Dairyo, when Belk-Simpson was downtown on Broad Street, when S. Willard Cox was school superintendent and when Shorty was sheriff.

The year was 1972, some 37 years ago. Recently, I came across a 1972 City Directory, and had a few fun hours browsing through our city’s past.

As we all know, Kirksey’s place is now Riverbend Ford. Dean Chrysler Dodge was once the location of White Motors, and Bob Rich Chevrolet was on corner of Clay and Planter streets, the Dairy Queen is almost in the same spot, just moved over a lot, Belk is now at the mall, Dairy King is now Betty’s Cafeteria, and Dairyo is now Carter’s Fried Chicken.

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In 1972, according to the directory, Bainbridge was home to 13 barber shops, 14 beauty shops, 43 churches and 35 preachers, four dentists, (Jack Leverette still practicing), eight drug stores, four florists, 34 gas stations, 33 grocers including Kwik-Check and Piggly Wiggly, seven jewelers (Godwin and Kres still here) 10 lawyers, eight motels, (the Holiday Inn, which is now The Charter House), nine doctors (none of whom remain), 27 restaurants, and six schools within the city limits: Bainbridge High School, (Carroll Miller, principal); Hutto Junior High School, (W.D. Mann, principal); Central Elementary, (Potter Street—Chester Lee, principal); Elcan-King Elementary, (Lee Powell, principal); John-Johnson Elementary, (Y.W. Tomlin Jr., principal); Jones-Wheat Elementary, (James Penny, principal).

By explanation, a City Directory is an annual publication produced by the R.L. Polk company, offering a book for nearly every city in the country. It lists all the businesses, their ownership and top employees, addresses of citizens their spouses and places of employment, a listing of streets and what business or residence is at each number, numerical listings of telephone numbers and who has them. It also includes local advertising.

Browsing through this older edition was like holding a small golden slice of local history in your hand.

Identifying the business locations, it is clear that the downtown was the hub of the retail activity in Bainbridge. No Bainbridge Mall, no Home Depot, no Wal-Mart or Kmart, no fast food alley going east on Shotwell Street.

Life in Bainbridge in 1972 must have been gastronomically wanting without McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Hardee’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell. West Plaza was one of the first strip commercial centers, and it probably could still be considered a downtown location.

John Lane was in his pharmacy at the corner of Scott and College, and future owner Richard Smith was assistant manager at Bennett and Nix Drug Store in the West Shopping Plaza, now anchored by the Post Office.

Tommy Wester had his American service station across the street from Lanes Pharmacy at 816 S. Scott St., while Jim Donalson advertised his service station “downtown” at the corner of Broughton and West streets, now the location of Edward Jones investments.

When Raymond Miles was not vice chairing County Commission meetings, he was conducting insurance and real estate business at 502 W. Shotwell, awfully close to the Dairy Queen, and not too far from Otto Walker, manager at Chandler’s Hamburgers where American General holds offices today.

Across from the rear courthouse parking lot, you could by goods from Alfred Rogers offering lines made by Broyhill, Zenith, General Electric, Simmons and Singer Sewing Machines at Turner’s Furniture, now completely gone from the Bainbridge retail scene, and almost gone everywhere else.

Rowland and Haidee Bolton could be found at Callahan Insurance on Broad Street along with Gloria Coppinger, secretary-treasurer. Across the street was Belk, now a parking lot for The Money Tree, and next to Hart Rollins Furniture, now Jacobik Antique Gallery.

At City Hall, Charles Martin was city manager and Walter Cox was mayor. Council consisted of Hubert Dollar, E.B. Kelley, Harvin Black, John Dowdy, Bill Reynolds and Alfred Rogers.

Clifford Dollar chaired the County Commissioner with Raymond Miles, vice chairman, and W.B. Miller Jr., Everett Murray, (a fifth member was not listed).

The school board consisted of Byron Johnson, Robert T. Parker III, D. Ramsay Simmons, Roland O. Wheeler and Ed Mitchell.

Every household, every business and every community needs cash flow.

At the banks were chairman emeritus H.H. Nussbaum, and Bill Jones, president, with D.R. Simmons, Donald Rickett, Edward Wilson, R. Johnson Parker and Joyce Shealy at First State Bank (now Park Avenue Bank). At Citizen’s Bank, 103 E. West St., board members were President R.M. Reynolds, Chairman R.L. Horn, R.L. Rich Jr., R.T. Willis and Leon Culverson. We know this bank today as Regions Bank.

At First Federal Savings and Loan, H.H. Nussbaum, was president; D.R. Simmons, senior vice president, J. Wandell Shiver, executive vice president, and secretary, Mrs. Ida L. Ingle. First Federal is no longer in business, now home of Godwin Jewelers.

Charles Smith and Robert Coleman had the Men’s Shop at 114 S. Broad selling sports wear, van Heusen shirts, slacks, and according to their ad, Regal Tires.

The community was kept informed by the weekly Post-Searchlight, Marvin Griffin, publisher; Sam Griffin, editor; and Mary Ann Griffin, secretary.

At the Chamber of Commerce, Wandell Shiver was president, and Bill Jones was president elect.

George Robert Alford offered personal service at his grocery store at 101 E. Louise, Cheney Griffin’s motto was “Check With Cheney,” Betty Ann Shop was at the corner of West and College showing famous brands ladies apparel and lingerie, Willis Lumber Company had a complete line of treated yellow pine. Travelers were treated to wall-to-wall carpeting and color TV at Bainbridge Motel, triple A rated.

Many of these folks are either retired or gone, but they and many like them contributed toward making a community function, and all gave of their time to make Bainbridge a better place, just as their replacements are contributing today.