Sunday’s fire stirred memories of downtown

Published 4:15 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2014

News of the fire at the old Sweet Shop and Tot Shop stirred memories for many of us that lived here in the 1940s and 50s.

Snookey (Bowab) Anderson and her husband (Carl Anderson’s parents) maintained and sold top line children’s clothing back then. Even today Carl continues in that Tot Shop tradition.

Next door at the restaurant, folks flocked there from daylight to dark to enjoy breakfast, noon lunches and evening meals. But a few of us found work there in the early 1950s.

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Tom and Ernestine Miniard moved here from Covington County, and with the assistance of her uncle Grady Ingram, they established WATM, Atmore’s first radio station. It was located upstairs over the restaurant and it beamed a signal that could be heard 25-35 miles away. They placed a speaker in one corner of the restaurant so patrons could listen to the broadcasts.

Weird as it may have been, one of those broadcasts originated from the local cattle and hog sales pen, but buyers and sellers who came in for lunch hunkered down near the speaker to get the latest and updated prices on these animals. Some came in for a quiet evening meal and listened to the soothing sounds of Guy Lombardo and his orchestra.

Several years after the station was moved to East Craig Street, I remember Mayor Oris Davis speaking to a group and jesting to Mrs. Sharpless to “bring back that WATM speaker, I could always enjoy my meal better when that speaker was on.”

Rotary Clubs, Jaycees and several other civic organizations found the Sweet Shop to be the ideal location for their meetings and luncheons. On occasions, the high school football team would come here for their pregame meal.

We all enjoyed the table services of those nice ladies — Mrs. Delacio, Georgia Barbarow, Mrs. Freeman and Wilma Cooper. And, Mrs. Sharpless always knew the exact menu for each day. She knew exactly what her customers liked to eat.

In later years, Tommy Gerlach and Jack and Clayde Dew continued that tradition. Tommy, especially, because of his New Orleans background, cooked up those tasty Cajun dishes.
Hopefully the restaurant and clothing store can be rebuilt and put back into service again.

A touching story came on the scene this weekend. Denver Shuttlesworth, a 15-year-old J.U. Blacksher student returned home from St. Jude Hospital, just in time for his school’s homecoming festivities. But how he got home is one of the highlights of the story. This fine young man has been undergoing cancer treatments at this renowned hospital for a few months.

And, thanks to Pilots For Christ, his return home was made possible. This Monroeville-based firm dedicates their services to patients and family members needing transportation to and from hospitals anywhere in the U.S. Known as “Our Lord’s Air Force,” this nonprofit group is a member of the national Pilots For Christ organization. Receiving no government or insurance funding, they rely on financial support from the public.

If you want to donate to this Christian organization you can do by sending your donations to “Pilots For Christ, Inc., P.O. Box 707, Monroeville, AL 36461.”

Billy Gates is getting his booth ready for our upcoming Williams Station Day celebrations. It’s just one of the duties in his repertoire of services for this community-minded individual. Since his return home from service in Iraq a few years ago he has become Atmore’s visible symbol of patriotic activities.

That booth, and the other booths at Pow Wow and Mayfest, are VFW-sponsored and all profits go to this and other military-like organizations. He and his dedicated corps of men and women work diligently throughout the entire year for recognition and betterment of our former servicemen. He recently had input in the Veteran Cemetery in Baldwin County. And his efforts toward that “buy a brick” program has brought recognition to our fallen servicemen.

So, we say thanks, Billy for all you have done in this regard and for your continuing efforts. I, personally, can hardly wait for one of your group’s sausage dogs next week at Williams Station Day. Remember now, I like that extra hot mustard on mine.

Finally, Tommy Lewis died this week. Who is Tommy Lewis? Well, he is the former Crimson Tide football player who jumped up off the bench and tackled Dickey Moegel who was racing for a touchdown in the 1954 Cotton Bowl game. The Greenville native was sitting on the bench when the mishap occurred. He and Alabama quarterback Bart Starr served as co-captains in that bowl game.

His antics brought him both fame and shame, including an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show at that time. A season prior to this, he and his teammates smashed Syracuse 61-6 in the Orange Bowl.
I was a student at the Capstone when this happened and we delighted hearing Starr’s hilarious account of the event. Tommy, after a short span in Canadian football and coaching, became a very successful businessman in Huntsville.

More next week from years gone by.

You can email Lowell McGill at