South Main Street was once major hub

Published 5:49 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This week, we are featuring those memorable merchants, businessmen and women and professional people from the 40s, 50s and 60s.

In fact, for those of you who did not live here back in those days, you will find today’s column giving you a better understanding of how things were back then.

Take, for instance, Saturday strolls on South Main Street in the 40s and 50s. Of course the Strand was the main attraction with folks of all ages heading to this popular theater where movies were shown all day long and into the night. Along the way you would find Cliff Frazier standing outside Stallworths Clothing Store inviting customers in for some great bargains, and Gale Smith would throw open his Western Auto store where you could find everything from bicycles to refrigerators.

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Lukie Anderson posted himself at the main door to his “Anderson Department Store,” inviting customers to a full line of family clothing. On down the street at The Sweet Shop, delicious food cooking in the kitchen emitted an aroma that was just too difficult to pass by. Fred George at Atmore hardware kept his store filled with not just hardware items but toys and appliances as well. I have never forgotten my very first “Red Rider” air rifle my Dad bought for me there.

And, on that same street prior to Agnes Smith‘s founding The Greater Fair, Nalls Family Grocery and The A&P flourished with weekly food bargains. Just across the street was Piggy Wiggly, where more grocery bargains flourished.

Customers often shopped Nalls to get a 10-cent pint of chocolate milk, which was displayed in an ice filled cooler near the front door. The location of the cooler made it easy for walk-in traffic to get in and out.

A trip to the movies also included a trip to Escambia Drugs for a dime milkshake. Many high school boys and girls had part time jobs here but the store was generally noted for those pretty women who worked behind the counters. My sister-in-law Margaret Lockwood was one of them.

On the other side of South Main Street, Escambia Hardware offered a wonderful selection of hardware items and household furnishings as well. Mr. Lumpkin graciously fronted that store with his invitation to customers. Dr. Peavey maintained his medical practice on that same side of the street for several years.

One of the big problems on those busy Saturdays was finding a parking place. It would be difficult to imagine, unless you were there, the number of cars in town that day. Folks came from communities 25 to 30 miles away. There were so many cars in town on those days that city policemen had to show them parking places on Atmore’s side streets. Many folks came to town early just to find a cherished parking space on South and North Main streets.

Particularly in the 40s and 50s, the Strand offered prizes from contests held on Saturday nights.
One contest was called “Hot Seat”. Those patrons found seated in those designated “Hot Seats” when the numbers were called were awarded an assortment of prizes, such as free movie tickets, milkshakes and sandwiches from Escambia Drug Store, Reid Rexall Drug Store and Bristows Drug Store; free dry cleaning from Bill O’Neal at John’s Dry Cleaners; oil changes at Bricken Motors and R. Leon Jones Motor Company; a free bag of parched peanuts from Bristow Drug Store; a pair of baby shoes from the Cinderella Shop; a free haircut from Elite Barber Shop; and a free perm from Helen’s Beauty Shop. A grand prize on occasions was a $25 grocery shopping coupon at a local grocery store of your choosing. You must realize that a prize of this amount back then was almost like a few hundred dollars today.

For the next few weeks I will be writing about how it was on all the streets in Atmore, not just South Main as I featured today. Also, you may want to “hold on” to this column and my upcoming columns on Atmore “as it were then.” You know it is becoming more difficult to find those “old heads,” or people who can remember from those days gone by.

Fortunately, now at my age I consider myself an “old head” and can still jot down these nostalgic events from those bygone days. That’s why I want to relay these past accounts to Atmore folks who were not here in those days. Through my writing I want them to relive with us what we enjoyed back then.

In closing, that BIG ballgame coming up in Tuscaloosa this weekend is talk of all the TV sports shows. Some analysts are saying Auburn will “refind” itself and tumble the Tide from its top national ranking. Others are saying it will be a “boiling-over party” with the Tide filled with determination to overcome a very embarrassing loss in last year’s Iron Bowl Game. Even the movie theatres in Tuscaloosa are leading into the movies with that clip of the Auburn football player returning that failed goal attempt down the sidelines with fans pouring onto field on the way to a big Tiger victory.

Just remember, folks, it is only a ball game. Let’s all keep our cool and remain friends no matter comes out on top.

More news next week on “how it was in Atmore back then.”

You can email Lowell McGill at