By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone. Hope you’re having a good week. First, I would again like to thank everyone who has e-mailed or phoned me as to my health. Friday I was released from rehab and I hope that Tuesday my Doctor will do the same. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to attend the ceremonies Saturday but since Lupe and Elizabeth will be out of town and I still can’t drive long distances, it won’t be possible.
Since I didn’t complete my walk down Main street as it was prior to World War II, I’d like to continue. As I reported, I failed to mention Paul Parker’s store through an oversight, I also failed to mention the Wagner company. It was located next to Claude Terry’s barber shop and when Mr. George Wagner retired Jake Gregory bought the business and operated it until he retired. Jake had originally come to the Valley as manager of the Simmons store. He and Mrs. Gregory operated as a team at Simmons and later at the Wagner store.
Last week I left off at the Throop Gulf station and this building has probably been the longest active service station in town. Cross the bridge and at the corner of Blount street and South Main Fred Carter had a garage and service station for many years. Across the street was the Jimmy Wilbourn Dodge/Plymouth agency. Back across the street Joel Edgar had a Lion Oil distributorship and in front Ed Harris operated a Pan-Am service station.
Back across the street Romie Thweatt had a garage and service station which he later sold to Bill Abernathy who was a well known citizen in the Valley for many years. About where the Ball Park is now, Doyle Sartain operated a night club called Woodlawn Gardens. Across the street was a rough beer joint where a high school senior was fatally shot–more about this in a future column.
Most Main street businesses ended just before the First Baptist church but was continued on North Central street. Just past the old Big Yank plant was the Kraft Cheese plant which provided income for many farmers during the depression on through the war.
Next door was a Blue and White gas station which was owned variously by Mr. Gray, Mr. Sartain, and Mr. McCullar. Across the street was a Sinclair Service station which was owned first by the three Dickey brothers, Roy, Raymon, and Charlie Earl. When Charlie Early joined the Navy at the beginning of the war they sold to Mr. John Peacock. Charlie Earl was lost at sea in the South Pacific.
On up the street about where the Dollar General Store is now, was the Stave Mill whose whistle was a wake-call all over town for many years. Then a group of row houses–I was born in one. Then Mr. Will Crews had a grocery store with a gas pump out front. He was the first store in town to be open on Sunday. Then across the street on the same side Hot Thomas had a one chair barber shop. He had lost a leg in a railroad accident and had a bicycle seat attached so he could cut hair while sitting down. Across the Park was a grocery store on North Main run by a man who called himself Dr. Porter. That just about covers the pre-war businesses although Buddy Kelso reminded me of a coupe I had missed and I honestly didn’t remember them. I hope you younger people will see that at one time Water Valley had a busy downtown section. On Saturdays when country people came to town it was almost impossible to get a parking space on Main street and the stores remained open until about ten O’Clock.
Although this is the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of the town, Ragsdale’s stand operated a stage stop and trading post as early as the eighteen thirties about where the old Busby Chevrolet was and the furniture store was in later years.
The rest of where the downtown area is now was largely a cane brake. Again I’m sorry to miss the celebration but sometimes circumstance make it unavoidable. Let me hear from you. Email address of firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.