Reflections

Valley Businessmen Provided Solid Foundation

By Charles Cooper


Hello everyone, I hope you are having a good week. As I’ve said many times, if I’m in error on something, some of you will call my attention to it.  
Robert Montgomery called me the other day and we had a long talk about people and things we both remembered. He reminded me that in my column about George Miles’ bakery that it was R. L. Williams that helped him during holidays and not Charles Lee Gordon.  This is not to take anything away from Mr. Gordon as I knew him and he was a really nice guy.  
Robert and I have been telephone buddies for some time and although I knew his mother and father, we have never met.  
I promised him that on my next trip to the Valley we would remedy that.  We hear all the time how the small businessman is the back bone of our economy and the biggest employer and Water Valley has had many examples.
Valley Businessmen
Paul Parker came to Water Valley during the depression as a teenager just starting. He built a thriving business and became one of most successful  businessman in town.  
Incidentally my belated congratulations to Mr. Parker and Miss Charlotte on their 69th wedding anniversary. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing them  for many years, and they epitomize the American success story.  
Lloyd Sherwin came to the Valley in the thirties from St. Louis and opened a Double Cola bottling plant next door to the Coca Cola plant.  
He also had a thriving business and even though he had a near fatal car wreck that cost him a leg, he continued for several years.  
I knew Mr. Sherwin and I’ve seen him riding with his driver and he would get out at every stop on his crutches and take the orders and have his driver make the delivery.  
Will Gardner lost his business during the depression and though he was in his sixties he became a success in the new concept of burial insurance.  He told me that he traded in farm produce if the prospect had no money and built a thriving agency.  
Until the years prior to World War I a customer in a grocery store was assigned a clerk who took the items off the shelf and wrote  the price on the bag.      
Claude Wood saw the success that Clarence Saunders had with self-service and opened a Jitney Jungle store and meat market and even had a turnstile like the  Piggly Wiggly stores.  
Hamric Henry bought a run down funeral home and built it into an up to date modern business.  
Jim Peacock’s grandfather started making ax handles by hand during the winter when he couldn’t farm and with the help of Jim’s dad, Cleve, built a business with a quality product known over the mid-south and even had a government contract during World War II.
James Larson, who farmed and worked the extra board for the railroad, saw an opportunity to buy a small grocery store for his teenage sons to have an after school and summer job – as they say the rest is history.  
Brandon Jones had been a Manager for an insurance company, but was downsized during the depression. He bought a small store and had his son, Jimmy, deliver to the homes on a bicycle. Their business grew into a large super market.  
Prentiss Hendricks turned a family machine shop into a Ford agency during the depression and operated for many years.          
Papa Badley got tired of lowcotton prices and, since he had a small  herd of cows, bought a registered Hereford herd and built a herd of beef cattle.  He once said that he could sell a couple of cows and get more money than a cotton crop.  
Water Valley can be proud of the enterprising businesses that I’ve mentioned. There were many more that I’ll include in a future column.  Let me hear from you as I always appreciate and use your input.     
My email address is charlescooper3616@sbcglobal.net or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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