Remember when: V.J. Elmore opened in ‘37

Published 1:46 am Saturday, April 29, 2017

1937 was the year my father was graduated from Tech High School in Atlanta, Georgia so thinking of that year, I was keenly interested to look back at what was going on in Andalusia in that same year eighty years ago. I remember it being said that Daddy would ride around Peachtree Street on Sunday afternoons with his friends in his 1937 jalopy that had a rumble seat with the radio turned up loud playing the hit songs of the day like this one made popular by the Tommy Dorsey orchestra featuring the young vocalist Frank Sinatra.

Once In a While will you try to give one little thought to me, Though someone else may be nearer your heart? Once in a while will you dream of the moments I shared with you, Moments before we two drifted apart?…I know that I’ll be contented with yesterday’s memory, Knowing you think of me once in a while.”

So off to the library I headed to pull up The Andalusia Star, April 1937 editions, on microfilm. I found stories of business, social, sports, religion, editorials, advertisements – much like today, Andalusia was an industrious place full of steady-working and ambitious citizens with an obvious enjoyment of small town life. It was close to the end of the Depression but no mention of it except one particular editorial by Editor Oscar M. Duggar.

Preparedness and PatriotismThe Andalusia Star observes the 20th anniversary of our entry into the World War. The Star grants that there is honest difference of opinion as to whether we made a mistake in entering the World War. Even so, there is no mistake in the minds of the informed people of the nation that we were woefully unprepared for the conflict when our boys were called to the colors. That was a mistake that we should not will to make twice.”

A small article almost lost in the body of the 1937 newspaper featured this headline, “Honouluans Fear Air Raid.”

“Country Club to hold 10th annual golf tournament.”

“The newest civic organization for Andalusia is the new Junior Chamber of Commerce (the Jaycees) which completed the organization last Monday evening when they elected officers and directors for the coming year and adopted a constitution and by-laws. The officers chosen were James Prestwood, president; R. P. Taylor, vice-president; Earl E. King, secretary-treasurer. The board of directors included the officers and Robert Albritton, Joe Ford, and Charlie Plummer. The officers and members are enthusiastic and are working to enlist the interest of all the citizens in this live-wire organization. The meeting will be held each Monday evening at the Court House and plans will be made to have committees appointed to function in the interest of all citizens of the community.”

“The new building of the V. J. Elmore Store is practically completed and by Saturday will be open to the public. The new store will have their formal opening Saturday with a new display of merchandise in new and modern fixtures. The opening day approximately 35 girls will be at the service of those visiting the place. Assisting Mr. Hester, manager, is Mr. Harvey who came to Andalusia from Clanton.”

BASEBALL – Come out and see your club in action. Andalusia Baseball Club, Fair Ground Park, Regular Admission Charges of 40 cents, 25 cents, and 15 cents.”

LOCAL BUSINESS MEN CLOSE FOR ANDALUSIA GAME – The regular official baseball season of 130 games scheduled will open Tuesday, April 20th. Andalusia will play Panama City. Ozark will play Dothan. Union Springs will play Troy. The biggest day in Andalusia’s baseball history will be at Fair Grounds Park. The grandstand and bleachers and the park is completed and arrangements are being made for extra seats. The Boy Scouts and the State Highway Patrol will be in full charge of all parking and traffic and taking care of the overflow crowd. They most earnestly ask the cooperation of the public.”

Andalusia has never been known to do anything in a half-handed way. Make your arrangements to go to the game and help your local club win the prize for the largest opening day attendance of any club in the league. Arrangements have been made for those who do not have transportation and who buy tickets to ride a free bus to the ballpark. The bus will leave from the front of the courthouse at 2:35 and 2:50 making two trips and returning after the game. The game is called at three o’clock and playing will start promptly.” (By the way, Andalusia won their game!)

“If you like Cola, you’ll love RC (Royal Crown Cola) 12 ounces, five cents, Nehi Bottling Co.”

Chairman J. F. Davis of the Covington Court of County Commission announces that he has had approval of the plans to build 25 miles of paved roads in Covington County.”

“The annual sacred harp singing will be held at Carolina Church the first Sunday in May. In the past these occasions have been well-attended by singers from this and adjoining counties.”

“Men of responsibility always distinguish themselves by what they wear. Straw hats – $1.65. Covington Stores Co. Inc. Quality Merchandise.”

“Select your Mother’s Day candy from our large assortment. M. H. O’Neal Drug Co. Phone 53.”

Mildred Barnes at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Barnes, delightfully entertained the boys and girls in “her crowd” with a waffle supper on Friday evening. Later the young people danced.”

“Turner’s Dairy – For health’s sake, serve plenty of rich pure milk at meal time. Our milk is always pure tested and fresh. Phone 236 – J.”

Brunson’s Better Bread – Blue Bird. Oven Fresh Goods Daily. Assorted Layer Cakes – Pineapple, Cocoanut, Caramel, Devil Food, Angel Food, Pound. Andalusia Bakery.”

Brooks Hardware – 3 kitchen-proved reasons why you get ice cubes faster…easier – Westinghouse Refrigerator.”

The Andalusia Rotary Club meets at the club room in the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. building each Tuesday at 12:15.”

The Paramount & Fox Theatres – Weekly movies.”

Flower Show at the O’Neal Building. Flowers and shrubs native to this area.”

“Bring your chickens to Blocker’s Feed Store. We will pay you cash.”

“The L & N is your home sweet home on rails. We deliver groceries, too, neighbor.”

National Music Week to be observed by local clubs. Mrs. R. L. Kearley, director and sponsor of the Philharmonic Club will present a costume recital in “Music of the Nations” to which the public is cordially invited.”

“The PTA of Andalusia will hold a meeting in the grammar school auditorium at which time officers will be elected for the coming (school) year. A May Day program will be planned. Mrs. W. L. Miller will preside.”

The Star Editor Oscar M. Duggar offered this thought in April 1937, “Burning issues of today are forgotten tomorrow.”

All of you readers are familiar with the historic colonial home located at the end of Sanford Road, the home of the late Mr. and Mrs. Laurin Avant. Prior to her marriage, Mrs. Avant was Olive Elizabeth Crittenden from Oakey Streak. A square of farmland (600 acres) and the resources to build this landmark home was presented to the couple as a wedding gift by her father, R. G. Crittenden, around 1914. I came across the following story in the April 29, 1937 edition which was reprinted by The Star from The Greenville Advocate. (Please note that this microfilm was very hard to read.)

“The handsome old Crittenden home at Oakey Streak burned to the ground last Friday afternoon. This was one of the landmarks of Butler County (just across the Covington County line) and was one of the most beautiful country homes in the county. It was constructed over 50 years ago and was occupied for many years by the late Mr. and Mrs. Robert Crittenden.”

“The home and the Crittenden store just across the road was the center of the Oakey Streak community. The post office is in the store which is situated in the forks of the roads, one of which leads into Crenshaw County, the other into Covington. This old Colonial home was built in 1856 for the late John Crittenden. The architect and builder was a man by the name of Ochterdeloney, and it required almost a year to build. The sills were hand hewn, and the walls were plaster.”

“This was the birthplace of the late Robert Crittenden and his daughter Mrs. Laurin Avant, also Mrs. Avant’s three older children (There were five in all.). Since the death of her father, it has been the property of Mrs. Laurin Avant. She recently completed plans to remove and restore the old home on the coast to be used as a summer home when it burned.”

Note – In 1984, one of the Avant’s daughters, Celeste Avant Carlton, built a home there on Sanford Road reminiscent of the Crittenden home place. It sits one house down from the Avant home and adjacent to the Randolph and Mary Kyzar residence. An oil painting of the Oakey Streak plantation home once hung in the Carlton home. The picturesque Avant home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to the efforts of one of the Avant sons and his wife, Bill and Teresa Avant, who at their retirement moved back home to restore and update the grand residence. Jackie Covington now resides in the Carlton home, and the Avant grandchildren now maintain and occupy the Avant home. It is one of Andalusia’s historic homes still occupied by the family of original ownership.

Also from The Andalusia Star in April 1937, I found this short admonition, “When the Bible says ‘Go unto Dothan,’ it does not mean to do all your trading over there!” Is this not the same ongoing campaign that the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce promotes today reminding citizens to “Shop Local?”

Lastly, I Remember When one of Andalusia’s businessmen, the late Augustus Reid Merrill, presented a program to the historical society on the history of the Andalusia Manufacturing Co. As Merrill referred to a business person friend of his whom he admired greatly, he quoted from the Bible, too, and included in his remarks King Solomon’s words in the book of Proverbs (22:29), “Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings.”

Once in a while” we should look back and Remember When our town was overcoming the depression in 1937 and growing so we can express appreciation in some way to those who came before to establish business in the community and life as we know it today. This also inspires our local citizens to continue on into the future with that same zest for creating the many opportunities of earning a living and for realizing the blessings we share in living today in the “heart of South Alabama.”