Main Street once a hub for out of town shoppers

Published 1:47 pm Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Back in the 1940s and early 1950s Saturday afternoon parking was quite a problem in downtown Atmore.

Parking spaces were few and far between because so many residents from outlying areas came to town to do their weekly shopping. South Main Street was most coveted because the “Picture Show”, the Strand Theatre , was, and still is, located on that street.  But there were more clothing stores and drug stores situated on North Main Street.

Popular stores on North Main  Street included Bowabs, The Economy Shop, The Cinderella Shop, Watson Hardware, Bank of Atmore, Bristow’s Drug Store, Reid Drug Store, Gandy Shoe Shop, Johnson Family Clothing, Gordons Appliances, Forte Furniture and the post office.

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In later years other businesses, including women’s hair salons, The Yellow Front Grocery Store, Hoehn’s Trading Centert, Nichols Department Store and Olins, located on this street. On “side streets” there were barbershops, doctors, lawyers and dentist offices.
It was not uncommon to see those out of town shoppers circling South and North Main Streets waiting for a car to leave its parking space.

As years went by the City of Atmore added parking meters on these streets as out of town shoppers became less visible.

Two Atmore City policemen were assigned “parking meter” duties. Mr. Phillips and Mr. Stewart could be seen patrolling the streets keeping an eye on expired meters. These two men became friends to those who parked by the meters. They seemed to be aware which stores those shoppers were in. And, if they detected a meter “fixing” to expire they would walk into the store and remind the shopper to “feed the meter.”

The two policemen became fixtures as they walked the streets and merchants and shoppers held them in the highest regard.

Some merchants would often leave pennies on the meters for shoppers to use when visiting the stores. There was a short period of time when pennies went missing. In other words they were being stolen. This became apparent to merchants and one merchant came up with a plan to keep his pennies in place on the meter in front of his store. He used a dab of glue to prevent the money from being lifted. Mr. Stewart told some of us men gathered for a coffee session at Bristow’s about it. He said he and Mr. Phillips knew about the money disappearing and often watched the yeggs in action but never tried to arrest them. It took only a few days for word to get around and the “money lifters” soon discontinued their ill habits.

Now lets take a look at some news from 1969.

Former ECHS football standouts William Blackburn and Elijah Ward were nationally recognized for their athletic efforts at Arkansas A&M University.

Ed Ray, owner of Green Lawn Pharmacy, began a series of “catchy ads” in the Advance. With his photo displayed, his ads contained helpful medical advice.

With Robert Hilton directing, the ECHS band drew a large crowd in the December 1968 Christmas concert.

Two Atmore RNs attended a special care program. Jacquelyn Presley and Dorothy Sandra King learned about special cardiac care at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. The two nurses were employed at our local hospital.

A&P Grocery Store advertised free Eight O’clock coffee with a $25 grocery order, angel food cakes 39 cents, large Tide 36 cents and sugar cured bacon 59 cents a pound.

Escambia Drug Store advertised Revlon and Max Factor at half prices during a month long sale.

I received a nice email this week from a man I met during Hurricane Hugo in Charleston, South Carolina in 1989.

I met him at a flood seminar when I was working hurricane flood claims in that city. Having lost his job he was trying to get into the flood adjusting program. But he did not meet the qualifications for NFIP adjusting. I suggested to him to get into the stump grinding business because so many, many trees were blown down by the 110 mpr winds of the hurricane. I explained the high demand for stump grinding. He took my advice and his business is now quite profitable he says. He follows the storms when they occur each year using 24 stump grinding machines and a crew of fifty men. It was satisfying to know my suggestion initiated his unique, successful business.

As of today, Monday, I have not heard any new news from efforts of our county commission and their attorney to “close down” the Wind Creek operation. Of course I am not including our own commissioner Smith because he has already pledged his support to the Creeks and has probably increased his chances for reelection.

More next week.

Lowell McGill can be reached at