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Downtown Had Different Look In Pre-War Years

By Charles Cooper

 (Webmaster’s note: Although the first part appeared last week, both parts are included this week.)

Hello everyone, hope you all had a happy Easter.  I had the pleasure last week of talking on the phone to Geanie Tyler, Tuffy Williamson, Josie Simpson, and Bob Tyler.  It’s been a long time since I had talked to them, and it is always a pleasure to hear from old friends.  Again I want to thank all of you for the  emails and cards that I received, since I won’t be able to thank all of you personally.  

Since Water Valley is coming up on its anniversary I thought I might contribute my part by writing about how Main Street would have looked if you had walked down just prior to World War II. Heading south on the right would have been the Episcopal Church and across the Street was Mrs. Shaw’s boarding house–possibly the best food the town has ever seen.  

The Masonic lodge was two doors down, and across the street was the First Methodist church.  Next door to the church was a two-story apartment. Across the street was the Howard Kelly Gulf station and garage.  Still on that side was the Coca Cola Bottling plant with Mr. Elkin as manager and Henry Baddley assistant manager.  Next door was the Double Cola plant owned by Louis Sherwin.  Contrary to what you might have heard we never had a RC Plant.  Across the street was the impressive Post Office constructed about 1927 and still in use today.  

Back across the street was the fire station with Blu Clark as Fire Marshal. The fire truck was parked in the little alley next door headed out.  Hamner Furniture was next door, the Herald office after that, then Earl Dennis’ bakery.  Back across the street was the Presbyterian Church and next door was Sam Addington’s antique/junk store.  Next door was the Merchant’s wholesale grocery with with T.O. Gore and Ray Sissell owners.  

A door down was Claude Wood’s Jitney Jungle grocery.  It was the first self-service grocery in Water Valley and included a meat counter.  It had a turnstile in front that looked very much like the replica of the first Piggly Wiggly in the Pink Palace in Memphis.  Across she street was the Berry & Walker barber shop, mentioned many times in this column.

Next door was Hobson Lewis’ shoe shop.  He was a deaf-mute who had learned his trade in the special school in Jackson.  Next door was the most prized memory of all of us who grew up in the thirties and forties – The Grand Theatre.  Shin Tyson had remodeled it during the depression so that it would rival any big city theatre.  On Saturday, all tickets were a dime and even in hard times he would fill the theatre four shows on Saturday.  

Across the street was another landmark, the People’s Wholesale Company.  It was organized as a co-op in the twenties and had a dry goods, grocery and furniture and hardware store each operated separately.  Next door was the Greenlee store which had a popcorn machine in the front.  Across the street was the Cox shoe shop and next door was Happy Thompson’s cleaners.  

Next door was the Thompson portrait studio owned by Happy’s son, James.  Back across the street was Charlie Devine’s sandwich shop–he was the western union operator for the city.  Next door was Lowe’s drug store, formerly Atkinson drug store.  Upstairs Dr. Cooper had his office for over fifty years.  

Back across was the Bank of Water Valley.  Dr. Spearman had his dental office upstairs and the Newman-Gardner had the downstairs part behind the bank and the library was upstairs next to the railroad.  Back across the street was Turnage Drug Store, established in 1905.  Then Knox Drug store one of the oldest drug store in town and when Mr. Brick Knox retired he sold the business to long time employee, Martin Boydston.

(Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-week series in which Cooper describes Main Street prior to World War II.)

Across the street the band stand looked much as it does today.  Back across the street was the Simmon’s dry goods store which brought Jake Gregory to town as manager.  

Then McCullar-Suratt  dry goods which had it’s in-house milliner, Mrs. Barnes.  The the Piggly-Wiggly later Kroger then Rusk 5and Ten which was established in 1934 in the heart of the depression.  

Then the Claude Terry barber shop with Lawyer Kimmons office upstairs.  Across Wagner street on the corner was the Western Auto store owned by the Miller family.  Then the Day and Night cafe which had several owners over the years.  Then Frank DeShon’s jewelry shop–he was mayor for many years.  Then Coley Addington’s hat shop.  

Then the rails over Town creek which was a favorite sitting spot for people over the years.  Then the McLarty company with Dr Stacy’s dental office upstairs.  

Then Across Panola street the Trusty drug store which later became French drug store.  This was in the Blackmur hotel building and behind the drug store Dr. Jackson, Dr. Cox and Dr. Franc had their offices.  Nick and John Stamolis had the Blackmur cafe for many years.  Next door was the Hotel lobby and in the rear Mr. Marvin Groves had a one chair barber shop for many years.  Below the hotel was the Volunteer Grocery owned by Vester and Lloyd Davenport and next door Tom Addington’s grocery.  Next door Hessler had a cafe and a photo machine.  Across the street was the railroad park where farmers sold watermelons for many years. 

Across the railroad behind the park was the Gym which had the most beautiful hardwood floors I have ever seen.  Then the depot which originally was two stories and housed the Mississippi division until it was moved to Jackson, Tenn.  Back across the street was the Trusty hotel constructed about 1927.  The Trusty Hardware was next door.  Next door was Crowson Motors – it had originally been Citgo in a shell station across the street. 

Back across the street was the Hendricks Machine shop which also became a Ford dealer during the thirties.  Then back across the street was John Troop’s Gulf Service in the rock faced building that is still standing.  The constraints of space don’t permit me to go any further south but I hope you can get a mental picture of what Main Street Water Valley looked in those days. I welcome your input.  My email  is or write me at P.O Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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