Main Street once city’s medical hub

Published 2:58pm Wednesday, August 21, 2013

If you lived in Atmore or the general area back in the 1940s and early 1950s, you, or perhaps your parents, were brought into this world by one of four highly regarded medical doctors — Lisenby, McKinley, Peavy and Salley.

Doctor Lisenby, the lone surgeon of the group, was most identifiable with our local hospital, while the other three were quite well known for their office practices and house calls. Yes, house calls were common back then and, as Doctor McKinley once said, he would accept a good home-cooked meal or a bag of fresh vegetables any day in exchange for a home medical visit.

The frame, dwelling-like office of Doctor Peavy was located on South Main Street, directly across the street from the Strand Theater. It had a big front porch, where patients would sit and wait their turn to see the doctor. If I remember correctly, the offices of Doctor McKinley and Salley were situated on North Main Street.

Our three drug stores back then, Escambia, Reid and Bristow, were located near the offices of these doctors. In addition to filling prescriptions, these drug stores were well known for serving mouth-watering milk shakes. And you could buy one for 5 or 10 cents. Escambia Drugs was near the theatre, providing easy access to movie patrons who exited the building. That drug store was also known for its “pretty” ladies who worked there, including Margaret Troutman (who would later become my sister-in-law). In addition to Claude Bristow’s dairy bar, his drug store was a popular stopover for a bag of freshly roasted peanuts. His parching machine, situated in the main doorway, emitted a tempting, succulent aroma of fresh parched peanuts that could be sensed up and down North Main Street.

Finding a parking spot was most difficult in those days, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. But, when you did park, you found these doctors’ offices, drug stores and many other businesses easily accessible.

In some news from 1954, folks flocked to town from near and far to see Alabama gubernatorial candidate “Big Jim” Folsom. The towering politician made a campaign stop here and brought with him “The Strawberry Pickers,” a good-sounding country band. The band provided a few tunes prior to Folsom’s arrival and when the big guy came, he perched himself down on the sidewalk in front of Wheeler Crooks’ café, leaned back and removed one of his shiny boots. Spectators climbed on parked cars and pick-up trucks to get a glimpse of him. One very loud stout lady appeared overjoyed at his appearance and tried to get on a pick-up where he was standing, but she would have had better luck auditioning for a “DealDash” TV commercial. Actually, Folsom did not give a speech that day; he just exclaimed to the crowd, “Y’all come,” an identifiable slogan that helped propel him to earlier campaign victories. He shook hands with many of those supporters and probably garnered several hundred votes that day.

Atmore First Baptist Church staged a gala Sweetheart Banquet that year. Singing duets by Robert Maxwell and Virginia Keller and quartets of Glenn Jernigan, Alan Davis, Maxwell and Tommy Forte highlighted the event.

Ouida and I eat out on weekends, but I have often wondered why I never see some of my friends and associates doing the same. They seem to hibernate on these occasions. I can think of at least several couples who are never seen eating out. I have no real reason for mentioning this; it’s just curious, I suppose. We find it very refreshing to enjoy a meal away from home, yet many others apparently do not.

I must say this, and I have heard others who eat out frequently also say, “I wish that restaurant would turn their TV to a news station while I am eating.” Some local restaurants, while serving excellent food, spoil the occasion by tuning their TVs to loud, non-news programs. I cannot complain about the food, however, as our restaurants are the very best, not only in food, but friendliness as well.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be helping promote that big 1953 Escambia County High School class reunion, which will take place in mid-September. James Norris, Suzie Newman and Edgar Norris are working hard to make that get-together a huge success.

On the local and area oil drilling front, more and more drilling firms are setting up drilling sites in and around us in anticipation of a drop in U.S. oil imports, due to the current Egyptian uprising. Our favorite and partial drilling company, Venture Oil and Gas Drilling, is down near a 13,500-foot permit depth in its well adjacent to Fountain Prison. This lucrative organization hopes to add to its three producing wells in that general area: The two DOC units on Wayside Road and the Rue Mason, well-located on Butler Street, just south of Wayside. Presently, Escambia and Conecuh counties are two of the leading oil producing counties in the state.

How about that golf couple that won that big North Carolina golf match this past weekend? The national media picked up almost immediately after Patrick Reed and his pretty young wife-caddy cashed in on that championship. Internet news services, as well at the TV and newspaper medias, made this couple an overnight success. I am sure this Augusta, Ga. collegian will now be accepted by a national sponsor and will be participating in many more national golf tournaments. And, you can look for endorsements galore for the duet. A very deserving couple — you can look for them more and more in upcoming tournaments.

Our Pink Lady this week is Pat James Hall. This lovely lady has three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Her daughter, Cheryl, has been one of my favorites for several years. Having worked with me at the Atmore News Journal in 1984, she is one of the most talented newspaper workers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. And, Cheryl’s daughter, Ashley Sharp, is regarded as one of the most efficient nurses at ACH. Adept in grief support activities, Pat originated Widowed Support Services locally following the death of Clifton James, her first husband. She has been a Pink Lady for seven years.

She is one of several ladies who serve our community as a Pink lady.

We will have more news of Atmore’s people, places and events next week.

You can email Lowell McGill at

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