North Main merchants a plenty in 40s, 60s

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The North and South Main Street businesses numbered in the dozens during Atmore’s 1940’s-1960’s heydays.

One of the thriving North Main firms was Jitney Jungle. Initiated by its owner, Mr. Buxton, the store was eventually moved into a new and larger building on Church Street, near John’s Cleaners.

Several other smaller grocery stores dotted these Main Street locations. At one time, Mr. Simpson operated his store on North Main. Other smaller grocery stores on that street during this era were Rhodes Grocery and Bradley Grocery. Of course, in the later 60s, The Yellow Front Grocery set up operations on North Main.

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Atmore Advance publisher Bob Morressette and his wife had some influence on this store coming to Atmore. His wife, who was from Tuscaloosa, had family interest in this West Alabama business.

Clothing stores, better known as Dry Good stores, captured the attention of most shoppers. I remember when working at WATM, all of us announcers-Jimmy Cruise, Sam Ford, Popping Off Paul and a few more would have to hustle to read these store commercials inside an allotted time. There were occasions when Ernestine Miniard would load as many as 30 commercials inside 30 minutes. Those Main Street merchants really believed in radio and newspaper, too. Moreover, Morresette said he would often call in extra help to make up Main Street merchants newspaper ads for The Advance.

R. Leon Jones moved its Ford Dealership to North Main Street contributing to even more hustle and bustle traffic in this section of town.

The Bank of Atmore experienced so much overcrowding of vehicle parking that it eventually moved its operation to near its present location.

The Carter business was also a long time successful plank amidst those North Main firms.

As I stated, there were literally dozens of successful merchants on these two streets. But it would take space in several columns to cover them all.

Some of us watched our very first TV as we sat in our cars or perched along the sidewalk in front of Watson Hardware Company. Back then, WALA TV was the first station to come on the air. And, that station did not sign on until the afternoons. WKRG came on the scene in the mid-1950s.

I will never forget the first time I saw the Rev. Dewitt Allen. He was an announcer then on WALA. I also remember those other great sounding announcers on that station. There was Ross Smitherman, Jim McNamara (McNamara Band TV show), Vern Benson, Al Holman and Artie File. There was something about that staff of announcers. Each one of them articulated with deep and sometimes mellow resonated voices. Each was adept in the English language with the ability to self-express. By the way, that is something you do not hear today. Instead you hear very little voice quality and sometimes very poor speech habits.

Yes, it is an era now passed from us and will probably never be duplicated again. As I look around, I find I have few peer representatives from this era. Those who influenced me are no longer here. Very few writers, radio and TV reporters reflect styles like these professionals did. I suppose that is why I am supposed to get old and soon must get out of the way, leaving only a handful to offer reflections from those memorable days.

It only seems like yesterday that I was in the middle of these North and South Main Street merchants’ progress. But as long as I can, I will continue to report on this era.

Some had asked that I list those Main Street merchants. Forgive me if I miss some. But, here goes. Style Shoppe, Vinnie’s, Cinderella Shop, Watson Hardware, Rex Sporting Goods, Reid Drug Store, Maxwell Insurance, Economy Shop, Bowab’s, and Olin’s, Bedsoles, Ben Franklin. The Dime Store, Carter’s, Bank of Atmore, Jitney Jungle, Simpson Grocery, Bradley Grocery, Rhodes Grocery, Nichols, Yellow Front Grocery, Strand Theatre, Stallworths Dry Goods, Elmores, Andersons, Western Auto, Atmore Hardware, Greater Fair, McNeeleys Jewelers, First National Bank, Dr. Peeveys Office, Snider Furniture, Escambia Hardware, Escambia Drugs, One lane Bowling, Singer Store, The Elect Shop, Atmore Office and School Supply, Sweet Shop Café, The Tot Shop, Shoe Repair Shop, The City Café, Bristow Drugs, Western Auto, Grimsleys , A &P Grocery Store, Nalls Grocery Store, Earls Jewelry and Greater Fair, which moved from East Nashville Avenue.

There were several other successful thriving business dotting locations other than North and South Main Streets. But I will hold off reporting on these firms in another upcoming column.

Even though presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently spewed some unkind remarks about Airbus, it should be noted that this Mobile Airplane manufacturing firm could lead to an Alabama aerospace boom. It seems each day this French based dynamic firm announces new orders for commercial airplanes. And many of these orders are being sent to Mobile. A news release from our French friends indicates more of these orders will be coming our way. Jobs of all descriptions will be reaching over a thousand this year officials relate. And what about those supply houses? Perhaps Atmore can cash in on one of these when production is in full force in Mobile.

“……Yes, it always whispers to me…those days of long ago…..”