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1966 brought businesses to Atmore; hurricanes

1966 was an eventful year as Atmore welcomed several new businesses. One of those firms was West Brothers. Located at the corner of Presley and Church Street, the store offered a wide assortment of clothing items as well as some household items.

Store Manager Frank Bankston kicked off the grand opening with bargain after bargain. One of those bargains was a free pair of shoes for a grammar school student who had an older brother or sister in school if you bought a pair of shoes for the older student. Another special were free diapers for babies if you bought a particular “swinging baby cradle.”

With bargains like this, it did not take long for this department store to become the main destination for many shoppers. Stores like Olens and TG&Y also flourished here for several years, but as the years passed, new firms like Walmart and Target came on the scene and caused these firms to go out of business.

There was some more news of interest that year. Liberty National Insurance Company handed out national sales awards to three agents — Murray Johnson, Burl Phillips and John Phillips.

Johnson, who has been instrumental as leader of our city youth baseball and football programs for many years, is still active in his own insurance business. His son, Carl, is a successful out-of-state attorney.

The Atmore Progressive Recreation Club also completed a successful baseball season. Players on the team included David Bishop Jr., J Johnson, James Collins, Barry Autry, Edward Lambert, T White, Chester Johnson, W Johnson, Hal Mason, Chubby Longmire, Thomas McNeal, Larry Clark, Orlando McCorvey and Johnny Ray Brooks. The team was managed by W.T. Johnson. Wilbert Walker served as club chairman.

1966 was the last year folks over in England, or any location, could claim Royal Blood in their families. Not sure how many people rose up to make this claim but one writer told of one man who proved he should be included in the Royal line.

When I write about people and events of the past, I really feel this is what a nostalgia column is all about. I also try to let you know more about these folks and things they did back then.

For instance, I wrote about the days of the parking meters and our two policemen, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Phillips somewhat showing reluctance handing out tickets. If they knew you were in a nearby store and your parking meter red tag was just about ready to pop up, they would come and let you know. And when I described the aroma of coffee being ground at Atmore Coffee Company or at A&P, I tried to describe that aroma’s wonderful “smell” all over town.

The nostalgia of the Strand’s huge colorful marquee is still captured today. The bright sign was symbolic back then as it is today even though the theatre is no longer in operation. Nostalgically, the sign reminds us of those movies we watched back then and the manner in which we spent our weekend afternoons watching the cowboy shows, the serials and the second features.

Those passenger trains, pulled by steaming locomotives and spewing cinders and heavy black smoke, stopped here to pick up and let off passengers, is another nostalgic reminder of those early days.

One sad item of nostalgia is the missing signs of the gas and oil companies. I am sure you remember Gulf’s big and round orange sign and Pure Oil’s WOCO PEP big lettered sign. Then there was the friendly green and white sign featuring the dinosaur. Now most of these firms and their signs are gone forever, only to be recaptured in nostalgic columns like this.

In some current news, I read about election news but I do not feel it is appropriate for me to expound my personal choices. I am sure all our readers have their own opinion about these candidates. The only thing I will say is “look out.” The path to the fall election is going to be filled with mud-on both sides. The election will become so heated that some family members will fall out with each other over their political choices. Not only will this happen in families, but it will also happen in churches, too. I am now hearing sermons where pastors are having difficulty holding back on their favorite candidates. One good thing about all this is the fact there are only seven more months to go until we see a new face leading our nation.

El Niño is fast fading leaving the Gulf and Caribbean wide open for full hurricane development this fall. No more tops of storms will be blown off allowing them to fully develop and travel more westerly like that storm that came through here in 2004 and Katrina in 2005. I am not saying this will be the case, but forecasters are now saying hurricanes will have a much easier time of development. I hope not, anyway.

More news next week.

Contact Lowell at exam@frontiernet.net.