Atmore native pens new book, ‘Memories of Main Street’

Published 11:47 am Wednesday, October 4, 2023

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Nancy Karrick’s idea in the fall of 1986 will soon be in the hands of many in the form of her book, “Memories of Main Street: Atmore, Alabama – A Special Place Remembered in Words and Pictures.”

Karrick, an Atmore native, began working on the book in 1986. She said the idea came while her late husband, Charles, and herself were heading on a long weekend in England for Armistice Day (Veterans Day). Charles served in the military in Europe at the time.

“Charles asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, ‘Let’s go to England,’” Karrick recalled. “We go there quite often, and had friends there. We took the late night hovercraft after he got off work, which put us in England in a couple hours. We got a place to stay. On the way, I said, ‘I’ve got an idea.’ I was teaching at the American International School, and was doing a unit with the kindergarteners on ‘Mother Goose.’ I told him ‘I want to go to Banbury and see if there’s a cross there.’”

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In search of a map, Karrick happened upon an English bookstore.

“My purpose was to find map of town to see where the cross was,” she said. “There was a woman sitting up front, autographing books. I got a good look of the book. It was an oversize length-wise book. I picked it up and the title was ‘Memories of Banbury.’ The first page I saw was a map, and it was hand drawn. There were numbers on the map, and when I turned the page, it had (corresponding) numbers. I kept looking and looking and found the cross. We knew where it was. When I looked through the book, I said, ‘I’ve got to have it.’”

Karrick said from the book, she felt she could present a neat story about Atmore.

Karrick said when she came back to the states in 1990, she started talking with her family as her grandfather owned a store downtown until 1961.

“I spent a lot of time there; summers and holidays,” Karrick said about her grandfather’s store. “It’s just one of those neat things. The more I heard, I felt like we have a family history here, but the town also has a history.”

Karrick said she began studying the architectural features of the downtown buildings, but transitioned to interviewing people who were around back in the day. The book spans from 1900 to present day.

“The older I found the better,” she said. “Over the course of my research, I had a lady whom was 104 and another 103. They were sharp as a tack. Their minds were there. I got a lot of really good information from them.”

Karrick said she interviewed between 40-50 people, and got a good mix, adding that Gloria Jones helped her with interviews of the black population.

“I appreciated Gloria doing that for me,” she said. “From there, it was just getting more and more interviews together. My daddy died and then Charles died on top of that. My daughter married, and the book got pushed aside. It literally stayed there until when COVID hit. I was a at home, had nothing to do, and had a whole stack of interview notes.”

Karrick said she then got to work writing during the pandemic.

“I started during COVID, and I finished before COVID was over,” she said. “I’d say six months at the most. It took a lot longer than that to organize my notes. I tore out and copied a lot, and I would put them out in piles on the table, not necessarily in order.”

Karrick said she learned many interesting things about downtown, but one stood out among the rest.

“One of the interesting things I learned was from one of the interviews,” she said. “There was a Jewish family that lived in Atmore back in the 1930s and 1940s. They just so happened they had a daughter my mother’s age she was in school. She came down to visit in 2005, but she came as early as 1985. She was telling stories that they went to their store that was right across the street from the post office. When they got ready to release prisoners from the prison, they would go down and bring two guards with the prisoners who had been released. The prisoners would take some money they had and buy some civilian clothes (from the Jewish owner’s clothing store). Then, when they got on the train, they’d blend in. That was a tid-bit of history that would’ve been lost.”

Karrick said her vision for the book was to help people see what Atmore used to be like.

“It’s not the same now,” she said. “Back then, in the late 1920s, 30s, 40s and early 50s, downtown was booming. You could not find an empty parking space. My granddaddy would stay open until 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, and on Christmas Eve he’d stay open as late as he needed to. People would buy what they’d eat and Christmas presents.

“The second and more important reason was for preservation,” she said. “We need to preserve what’s there, and not tear it down.”

Karrick will be holding a book signing on Tues., Oct. 17, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. at The Encore at The Strand.

The book was published by NewSouth Inc. of Montgomery, and is available from NewSouth Bookstore, The Philanthropic Seed and Atmore News and online retailers.