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Some changes on the Square, 1945


Several changes on the Square in 1945 began in a blaze (so to speak) in the closing days of 1944.

In the pre-dawn hours of Christmas morning 1944, fire roared though both the Creel Building on the exit corner of Campbellsville Road and the adjoining structure to the east. The corner building housed Fannie Fields' beauty salon and a drugstore, the latter freshly restocked by new owner Martin Rowe, while the latter housed Roberts 5-10-25c Store. The combination of smoke, flame, and water ruined nearly all the merchandise in all three operations.

Mrs. Elma Page Frazer, owner of both buildings and a partner in the Roberts' business, estimated the combined losses at $50,000, which would be nearly three-quarters of a million dollars today (2020).

A few weeks later, a brief legal notice announced the dissolution of the Roberts and Page partnership as well as that of the business itself. Apparently, the building suffered little (if any) structural damage, as mid-March 1945 found J.C. Marshall announcing he intended to open a new furniture store and gift shop in the space previously occupied by Roberts.

He had, in fact, already "purchased a large stock of attractive and up-to-date merchandise," and on April 5, the Marshall Furniture Store & Gift Shop welcomed its first customers with a "full new line of furniture," cooking stoves that didn't require ration stamps, "a complete art department," and an array of wallpaper. Mrs. Arbie Sparks also held employment there.

This proved to be a quite temporary location, however. In July, Mr. Marshall bought from J.C. Rowntree a property "on the Public Square" and moved there in September 1945 after significantly increasing the floor space by putting an addition on the rear of his new building. (By early October, Marshall had sold the building to Alton Lacy, with the furniture store to remain in situ. Mr. Lacy, owner / proprietor of the local Western Auto, had started expanding his own business house in July.)

Less than a month after Marshall Furniture moved, J.C.'s brother Paul moved his Variety Store into the Fraser Building and opened there a few days before autumn 1945 commenced. Brother J.C. originally had moved his business out in anticipation of opening a movie theater there.

However, when the Bradshaw Block (from the entrance corner of Greensburg Street to beyond the west corner of the Square toward West Fortune Street) came up for sale, he purchased that and immediately announced plans to build a "large and modern theater" just off the west corner, adjoining the Dillon Building. Excavation for the new theater began in late February or early March 1946 and the first movie showed in February 1947.

Paul Young, dealer for Frigidaire and Maytag, almost immediately announced plans to move his appliance business to the building just vacated by the Variety Store. By this time, most if not all cooking stoves could be purchased without restrictions, and while refrigerator manufacture had resumed after a wartime hiatus, those units were temporarily stockpiled by the War Production Board.

J.C. Marshall had bought the variety store, once known as Royse & Royse Variety, from Ores Royse in January 1943. In turn, Paul bought it from his brother in the opening days of 1945. Royce & Royce first appeared in The News in July 1928. An ad in mid-December 1932 described their wares as "the most wonderful selection of gifts and toys that we have ever shown before."

The Variety Store stayed there until another fire occurred in June 1950. In August, Paul Marshall held a literal fire sale and in January 1951, he moved the business to the northwest side of the Square. Kroger, the Variety Store's immediate neighbor for several years, immediately leased the vacant building and in short order, Emanuel Judd was busy making the two store houses into one, thus allowing Kroger to double its retail space and earn the designation of a "Super Market." An article in mid-August 1951 referred to the newly expanded space as "one of the most modern and imposing buildings erected in the business section of Columbia in recent years."

Kroger held its grand opening on November 14, 1951. Among the up-to-date features were self-service dairy and frozen food sections, three conveyor-belt type checkout lanes, and the ultimate in customer convenience, a "Magic Carpet" (auto-open) exit door.

This story was posted on 2020-10-16 05:43:05
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Big changes on the Square, 1945

2020-10-16 - Columbia, KY - Photo courtesy JIM.
Big changes happened on the Square in 1945. An ad from April 11, 1945, at right, announced the opening of J.C. Marshall's Furniture Store. An ad from October 17, 1945, announced the opening of his brother Paul Marshall's Variety Store.

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