Remember when: Streets of Andalusia as they were

Published 1:32 am Saturday, July 9, 2016

“Standin’ on the corner, watchin’ all the girls go by…” That was a popular hit parade song from the 1950s. Not too long after televisions came out, “The Hit Parade” was a Saturday night tv show that my family just didn’t miss.

sue_bass_wilsonBack to the song, in downtown Andalusia, there always seemed to be someone standing on the corner of South Three Notch and Pear Street at the entrance to the City Drug Store. Occasionally, a man would be playing a guitar with a cup attached for passers-by to drop in a coin or two! My friends and I would go there for cherry cokes after school. This was in the early 1960s when we would always want to browse and buy the new movie star magazines that had just arrived – also MAD magazine was a favorite! The 8 by 10 photos of the stars, we would cut out and decorate the walls of our rooms at home, plastering pictures of movie greats like Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor. When I left for college, my sister Julie took over my bedroom, and my movie star pictures disappeared! I even had some autographed pictures that I sent off to Hollywood for!

Across the street, a shoe shining contraption was a permanent fixture out on the sidewalk in front of Brooks Shoe Shop. Someone was always sitting in the high seat getting their shoes shined, especially business men who worked in and around downtown.

Next door on the corner of South Three Notch and Pear Street, the Brunson Bakery smell permeated the town with the aroma of freshly baked bread and cinnamon rolls that were the favorite. Before the days of air conditioning, if you were downtown going to the dime store, the grocery store, or the drug store, you might just drop in to buy some of the delicious treats made by the Charlie Brunson family and employees – doughnuts, sand tarts, pies, and cakes. If you ordered a birthday cake, daughter Caroline Brunson Caton, would decorate any design like a circus tent cake that we viewed recently on our home movies! When Mother picked us up from school each afternoon in the 1950s, we would head to the bakery to see my grandparents. “Dad” Brunson would offer us a fresh hot doughnut. My youngest sister Julie called our grandfather “Dut,” short for doughnut!

A dime store was across the street from the bakery, L. M. West Variety Store. They used to have all kinds of cute, inexpensive toys, mostly items made in China, but I guess we kept them in business buying frivolities! Down the street back towards the square was V. J. Elmore Variety Store on the corner of South Three Notch and Coffee Street. That’s where they sold the “half-heart” necklaces. Nobody ever gave me one! Christo’s Five and Ten Cent Store on the square always had popcorn popping and hot dogs cooking for the Saturday shoppers in downtown Andalusia.

On Saturdays in downtown Andalusia, “country came to town” and business in and around the square was bustling and booming! The courthouse offices were open, too, until noon. My friends and I got our first business and selling experience having “rummage sales” on the seat walls in front of the courthouse. This was way before the days of yard sales and garage sales. Many people would frequent the courthouse on Saturdays back then so there were a lot of “customers” for us. After we made enough change selling our fathers’ shirts and mothers’ dresses, we would head to Woolworth’s on Three Notch to shop for Tangee lipstick and refreshments at the snack bar. Next door at J. C. Penney’s, my girlfriends and I bought our first “tight (straight)” skirts that were stylish at the time!

Across from Penney’s and Woolworth’s was the Count Darling car dealership. They had a huge glass picture window where the new automobiles were always on display. The showroom was lit up at night. Now some of you may remember my stating that the home place was sold to Count Darling by Mrs. “Pinkie” Benson who had a well in her back yard behind her house there on the corner of Central Street. She required Mr. Darling to promise that if she sold the property to him, he would never cover up her well, because it had such cold clean water. So even today, the well is still there, according to the Taylors, who now own the building.

Moving into the 1960s, heading back towards the square, The Record Shop was THE PLACE to go after school. Owner Don Parsons would play all of the new hit records, the 45s, as we shopped, and we would flip through the 33 albums in the racks to decide which one to purchase and take home to play on our stereos – Johnny Mathis, Elvis, Fabian, Ricky Nelson, The Supremes, James Brown, and Brenda Lee. It was always a hard decision. That row of buildings that housed the Star Dry Cleaners, the Jitney Jungle (at one time), and The Record Shop is now a parking lot that was desperately needed to revitalize the occupancy of the row of buildings leading to the square. The Western Auto which was right across the street is where all of the Schwinn bicycles were purchased. It was fun to drop in that store to look and dream. I remember purchasing a wire basket and a bell for my bicycle.

There was a popular song played on the radio, WCTA, of course, that went like this. “The whole town’s talkin’ about the Jones boys, the Jones boys, the Jones boys…” Well, my mother got this idea that a musical radio ad could be made for one of the local stores, and she passed along this idea to the owner who jumped at the chance to promote his clothing store, “The whole town’s talkin’ about the James Store, the James Store, the James Store…” So that became a reality! The James Store was located “down the hill from high prices” on South Cotton Street. That store sold a whole lot of jeans and overalls primarily, but a lot of men’s wear appropriate for the farming community.

Well, this plethora of memories could not be complete without talking about the “picture show,” the Martin Theatre on the square. We all went to the movie on Saturday afternoons. Some parents sent their children for the entire day. There were serial movies, cowboy movies, cartoons, and movies that I see today on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) like “The Blob” and “The Incredible Shrinking Man.” One very memorable film flick was highly advertised in advance. Everyone poured in that day to see the new 3-D horror movie, “The House of Wax” starring Vincent Price. The ushers gave out these paper eyeglasses with tinted lens to be able to watch the movie in 3-D. Everyone screamed and hollered. We probably ate the most popcorn ever, drank the most sodas, and consumed a record number of red hot candies that day than ever before. Those ushers were run ragged, coming around with those flashlights!

Back in the early 1960s before the Andalusia High School auditorium was built and completed in December 1963, the “Miss Andalusia” beauty contest was held at the downtown Martin Theatre on stage. Contestants would line up in the building behind the O’Neal building, the “canteen.” This was on the south side of the building that used to be the Consumers Ice House and Cold Storage. The canteen is where the teenagers used to go after Friday night football games. There was a juke box, and there would be dancing to songs like “Dream, Dream, Dream.” Two really crazy acting teens were often seen walking on wooden chairs backwards on those Friday nights getting everyone present to laugh at their antics. How could we not notice Billy Catrett and Jimmy Wilson? Anyway, the beauty contestants would walk from the canteen and enter in a back door of the theatre then parade across the stage to a full house. I am not sure exactly when the contest became known as “Miss Memolusia,” but it was probably when the contest moved to the new AHS auditorium in 1964.

The ice house on Troy Street (established in 1923) was the place where my daddy bought ice to freeze our homemade ice cream when we were having a back yard cookout. The workers would grind the large blocks of ice and then give you your crushed ice in a tall brown heavy duty sort of bag. The strong smell of that ice house is memorable. Its pungent odor was just like ammonia. It was operated during that time in the 1950s by Curtis “Red” Turner.

Old photos at the Three Notch Museum show evidence that the ice house was also the Coke plant first established by Mr. John S. Burnett and his wife Mary Elizabeth “Mamie” Bellingrath Burnett who owned the Coca-Cola franchise in South Alabama. Originally located in the Fletcher building on Church Street, a new building to house the Coke business along with an ice and coal business was constructed on Troy Street. The Burnetts were great benefactors to education in Andalusia hosting luncheons for new teachers in town and conducting tours of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and ice plant to school groups. As business, civic, social, and cultural leaders, the Burnetts became spirited citizens of Andalusia encouraging new companies to the area and even financing businesses among which was a grocery store, an insurance agency, and a textile manufacturer. The Burnetts who had no children were also very generous to the First Methodist Church when the congregation moved in 1925 from the white frame church, a block west of the square to the new brick sanctuary standing on East Three Notch at Sixth Avenue.

According to the Elizabeth “Twinkle” and Ed Dannelly history of Methodism in Andalusia, “Mrs. Burnett was one of the strong advocates of ‘the best organ money can buy.’ Once the Methodist ladies had paid for the organ, it was dedicated to Mrs. Burnett. There is a dedicatory marker on the console as a memorial to her.” The Burnetts are both buried in the old city cemetery, Magnolia Cemetery. When the Burnett estate was settled in 1940, it was among the largest estates ever settled in Covington County at the time.

Much more could be said about the illustrious Coca-Cola family dynasty of Andalusia and of other Coca-Cola franchises in Alabama owned by other Bellingrath family members, but that’s another story. An Andalusia Star News ad from the 1920s reads, “4 o’clock in the Afternoon, Pause, Refresh Yourself, Drink Bottled Coca-Cola, 5 cents.”

Oh, look, my grandfather clock is bonging, says it’s four o’clock and time for me to pause, refresh myself, drink a Coke, and Remember When!