Remember When: North Cotton was home to many businesses

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 27, 2018

The generations are about gone who remember the black-owned businesses in Andalusia that were located on North Cotton Street from the Court Square north to East College Street and a little beyond. Thanks to John Henry Daniels, Comer Daniels, and Hilry Trawick, whose memories are pretty clear, for the information they provided.

Who can ever forget Johnny Crenshaw’s Café that specialized in fried chicken and light bread? It is said that big name entertainers dropped in there from time to time to dine and sing, well before they were big names in the music industry. Since Johnny didn’t go along with much dancing, these entertainers sometimes on their way to New Orleans would show up and sing at the Red Skanes’ “Flamingo Club” on 8th Avenue.

Passing through town were names like Terry and the Fantastic Five, Betty Wright, Tyrone Davis, Mark Four, the early Commodores from Tuskegee, Joe Tex, Michael Davis, and the Drifters. The club, well-known back then, was a good stopping point on the map for these groups. They would often show up at 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning after they had performed a show in another town.

On an occasion or two, some of these upcoming stars would visit the St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church and the William Christian Old Folks Home, like Sam Cook who was possibly singing with the Soul Stirrers at the time. Tina Turner was once spotted at the Wilson’s Grocery and Bus Station on East Three Notch Street. Her limo was headed to Enterprise for a performance. John Henry remembers that well!

Other businesses to note on North Cotton were the C. L. Evers Clothing Store, the Harry Wilson’s Cleaners, Covington Casket, Marshall Funeral Home, the Georgia Marshall Café and Beauty Shop, the Crenshaw Café and Wash-a-teria, the Jimmy “Hopper Grass” Jones Taxi Cabs, Avance Toddie Shoe Shop, the James Berry and J. D. Shakespeare Barber Shop, the “Dr. Drew” Horn’s Snow Cone Shop beside the barbershop, Kirk’s Funeral Home (in the white house now occupied by the Sims family), the Kirkpatrick or Shakespeare Café, now razed, and the pool hall.

The Daniels brothers remember “Dr. Drew” who hustled cookies and cakes out of the back seat of his big black car when he would deliver goodies out to the Elmore and the Cliff Maddox cotton fields on Hwy. 55 South at lunch time. Horn had “come from up north.” He assisted Emmitt Nix in getting uniforms for the baseball teams who practiced and played on the Will Coleman property, the baseball field near the present Coleman Center.

The Jackie Kirkpatrick Café had a jukebox. John D. Shakespeare later sold barbeque at that place. It was torn down a few years ago right there on the corner of North Cotton and what has been called the “white folks graveyard street,” or Marvin Avenue. That café was a popular gathering place.

Speaking of famous singers, Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” I recently read the report in the newspaper and heard through the grapevine that the pool hall building was being torn down there on the corner of Cotton and College. I decided to ride by this week and check it out.

There it was right next door to Miss Shirley Trawick’s Kindercare – the bulldozer or heavy equipment on site clearing the lot. Sitting on the sidewalk was an old Coke drink box that caught my attention. It looked as if it had seen its day. Some parts were missing but to me, it told a story. Apparently it had been taken out of the building for some purpose. The Fats Domino song “Ain’t That a Shame” came to mind. So I got to work calling the city workers to find out what the fate of the drink box would be – “headed to the scrap metal place” was the answer! Oh, no – “Please, please, please” as James Brown falling on his knees sang on stage in the 1960s.

I could just envision that vintage drink box on display in the H. B. Little Country Store down at the Three Notch Museum.

“Call the owner,” said the city worker. “You need permission to get it donated to the museum!” Guess they got permission to tear the building down!

So one call after another finally got me in touch with young Grady Smith, Jr., 1990 AHS graduate and former Bulldog football star. He couldn’t have been any nicer! He not only gave the historical society permission to donate the item to the museum but also told me a little history of the building and then referred me to his mother, Mary Smith, here in Andalusia. She was a treasure trove of information about the building and her husband Grady Smith, Sr. who owned the pool hall building. Mary, the daughter of Johnny Crenshaw, stated that she used to help her mother, Lula Belle Crenshaw, quite a bit at their café.

The pool hall building used to be known as the Fred Guard Grocery Store. Hilry Trawick said that it was the only blackowned grocery store in town at the time. Fred Guard next rented the store to J. D. Shakespeare according to one source. It was eventually sold to Grady with his intentions to “fix it up” for a place for the college students to hang out about the time that LBW Jr. College was established. There was an apartment in the lower level where his brother J. C. Smith lived for a time. The upstairs was converted into a pool hall where candy, crackers, and soft drinks were sold.

Now it seems that Grady loved to cook in the downstairs area. “Soul food” was his specialty. His menu often included chicken, chicken wings, pork chops, collards and other greens, cracklin’ bread, corn bread, pies, and cobblers (peach and blackberry). Betty Trawick remembers that Grady would hang out a flag on the outside of the building when he was cooking so the regulars would show up and partake of the feast of food which might begin as early as breakfast. Coach Ricky Knight and some of his basketball players would stop by as well as friends in the neighborhood.

The Robert O’Neal family claimed Grady as “one of their family” according to Bob O’Neal. Grady, a great carpenter as well as a cook, kept a key to the back door of the O’Neal Building and on Saturday mornings, friends and family including hunters and business people would meet up there where he would have breakfast ready when everyone arrived!

The children of Grady and Mary Smith, four girls and one boy, were Sharon, Shalita, Maria, Beverly, and Grady, Jr. Mary once told her children who especially loved to eat Grady’s chicken wings, “Ya’ll are going to sprout wings and turn green!”

Maria is the only one who still lives in Andalusia. She works at CCB Community Bank. Sharon lives in Auburn and works at a bank; Shalita is a human resources officer in Virginia; Grady is an Auburn grad and a store manager for Lowe’s in Huntsville. Both Grady, Sr. and daughter Beverly passed away in 1999.

For about the past 19 years, the pool hall building has been used like a storage building for the family. Johnny’s Café building was sold to Elmore Lewis then to Hilry Trawick and later to Covington Casket Company. The Wilson’s Cleaners building is no longer there. Some of you like myself may remember the manikins and the yellow or gold heavy plastic hanging in front of the men’s suits in the show windows that shaded the afternoon sun. The Berry-Shakespeare Barbershop was torn down a couple of years ago. Kirk’s Funeral Home has relocated to the North By-pass. Toddie’s Shoe Shop moved to “the bottom” on South Cotton. The Marshall’s Funeral Home 2-story building is now occupied as a single-family residence. Georgia Marshall’s Café and Beauty Shop was razed not too long ago.

In perusing the newspaper archives at the Andalusia Public Library, I remember seeing mention of the opening of a hotel on North Cotton Street maybe back in the 1920s. If anyone reading this column recalls the name of that hotel, its location, or its owner, please pass that information along to me so that history can be preserved.

If any of you readers have any corrections or additions to this story, please let me know. I interviewed several people with their own versions of old times to be a part of REMEMBER WHEN. There are many more citizens that could contribute to making this more complete. I look forward to some future interviews. Black history is very important to our town. We need more of it at the museum. As far as the Coke drink box from the pool hall is concerned, it is safe at the Three Notch Museum on Historic Central Street, thanks to city employees, Glynn Ralls, Whit Carroll, and, not forgetting, some strong backs!

So in conclusion, as Stevie Wonder sang, “Uptight, Everything’s Alright!”


Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at