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Early Columbia, back when we were boys. Part I

Part I - Around the Square, counter clockwise, starting at the Corner of Campbellsville Street and the Public Square, the era would be the early 1950s and a couple of years, maybe, into the 1960s.

By Ralph Roy Waggener, with help from Delmar Jr. Jessie

The merchants and characters of Columbia as I remember may be correct or not, but what we have in our memories we are asking for old Columbians like us to add to or correct what I have started as a list of memorial business owners.

Collins Drugs Store and Dorothy and Luther Collins, who had a lunch counter where many young ladies got their start at the Kroger store next door where a lot of Columbia business owners got their start J D Harper later had a IGA store there and then Dr M C Loy put in a Ben Franklin Store run by Nathan Hale.


Then C R Hutchison & Sons, who had the John Deere Tractor dealership. They had a free movie every year for us school kids.

Then Paul and Mable Jones' Style Shop, where Paul always sat in the front corner keeping a sharp eye on business while the women kept the business going.

The Basement Pool Room was run by Marshall Roy and Henry Lane. Both ran it at various times; the tables were larger and came from some big hotel in Louisville, I was told as a young boy but can't remember which one.

I remember Dentist Dr. Webb in the last building on the walk but not other businesses in that building, except for Mr. Royse, who had a surplus army goods store. He also brought the first Dairy Queen to Columbia, The W R Wootens moved their men and women's clothing store from, I think, the corner next to the old Adair Co. News and The Dollar Store owned by Delmer Upchurch moved to that building by Delmer's son Donald from the basement of the Russell and Co. building, at the corner of Burkesville Street, and the Public Square.

Coomer's Cafe, run by Myrtle Coomer and her daughter Bea and was helped by her hard working husband Haskin; who was one of Columbia's best pranksters.

Lany Bray & Co., was where you bought the finest of wedding or other gifts and was run by Margaret and her husband George Jr. Staples, and last in this corner was Lerman Brothers clothing store run by Hugh Abell and one of Columbia's most remembered citizens, Joe Taylor.

Haskin Coomer and George Jr. like to play pranks on each other. Haskin put a closed sign on the door on Lany Bray's front door and in return George Jr. put a sign for free water on Coomer's Restaurant on one special event day.

On another occasion George Jr. had bought a new suit and had gone over around the Court house lawn when someone said, "That's a nice suit; what would you take for it?" George told him $25.00 or some amount like that and the fellow said, "I'll take it." George Jr. said, "Fine. Follow me to the store and I'll take it off," and got a reply, "No, I want it right here." So George Jr. took off the suit, collected his money and walked back to the store in his boxer shorts. That's the way I've always heard it. Something like this was always happening on the Square back then.

Davis Hardware (later reverted to Jeffries Hardware when Lynn Jeffries bought it from the Davises and remained Jeffries after Rollin Pyles bought the business) was operated by Shreve Davis. Dr. H.C. Randall, a local dentist and flying machine specialist. who liked to buzz Columbia in his airplane, had his office upstairs over Jeffries Hardware. There were other offices, as well which I don't remember. The Columbia Masonic Lodge was on the top floor. If anyone can fill in names left out we would be more than happy to correct or add to.

Mister Bruce (as he was known) Montgomery and his son James, ran The First National Bank where I would be told by Dorothy Shelley that I needed to put some money in my account whenever I ran out. We just used counter checks in those days. Personalized checks were unheard of back then. Oh, and no overdrawn fees back then.

The Adair Co. News was in the corner Mr. Louis DeRossett was the editor and Bill Downs was the one who set the type on a old Linotype machine, a mechanical wonder, because it had so many moving parts to it.

Nell's Variety Store was a very famous place to buy candy when you only had pennies. It was owned and operated by by Willie and wife Irene Nell.

The White Cash Market owned and operated by two of Columbia's finest, Pete Walker of Democratic Party fame and "Dagwood "Gore, who later bought and ran the Columbia Candy Company that covered all the counties surrounding Adair and then some.

Owens Men's Wear was later in that building, (where Harvest Cafe) is now, was owned by Roy Owen, who I understand liked to play pranks, as well as Haskin Coomer.

Then there was The Men's Shop run by Herb Taylor and long time employee Reed Stone. The door next to it was The Women's Shop ran by Hattie Lee Willis.

Where the Harris Law Office, today, was Brown's Drug Store, operated by the Tom Brown family. In the morning all the society ladies gathered for coffee and smoking, caught up on the news, and planned bridge parties. At noon it was a favorite place to get lunch. And after school, Mr. Brown put up with all the Columbia Graded & High school kids and Lindsey Wilson College students.

The last store in this section was the Columbia Firestone Store, run by Howard Cheatham and later later ran by a Mr. Lamberth., who later moved to a new building built on Burkesville Street. Russell and Company on the next corner of Burkesville St. was run by Mable and Delmer Upchurch. Upstairs, the Adair County Board of Education had its headquarters. Uncle Harbert Walker was Superintendent when the Adair County High School and Col. Wm Casey was built, later there was John Dunbar, L.W. Cole, and maybe Mr. Wallace Coomer. Minnie Rubarts was one of the secretaries for the board.

(Note from Marsha Walker, July 20, 2014: "When Ralph got to Russell and Co., I began thinking of the Rialto Theater. I think it was owned by F.X. Merkely. We could attend the movie, buy a coke and popcorn, all for a quarter, as I remember it. Was it located where Columbia General Appliance was later? I remember seeing "Old Yeller" there. I also remember seeing Sat. afternoon cowboy movies at the Columbian. There was a period of time when Daniel Boone caps were given away by drawing names, and I never won one. --Marsha Walker) Then Columbia General Appliance, run by Gaspard and Evelyn Brockman. They had the Philco Appliance Dealership and the Lawnboy lawn mower franchise. They had a repair which made house calls to service Tv antennas, and they had a busy workshop repairing radios and Tvs in the back.

The Bank of Columbia, was next. Mr. John Flowers and Fred Hill were the people in charge. I do remember a close friend, Glenn Keen, worked there, plus a lot of people I delivered the Courier Journal and Louisville Times to because I had to get in line 5 or 6 times to collect their paper bill.

Next was the Modern Barber Shop( between Bank of Columbia before remodeling in 1967, and Ed's Kentucky Auto; it's now part of Bank of Columbia) where quiet Hugh Thomas and quite loud Berley Young (See Dave Rosenbaum, Mr. Berley Young. perhaps Adair County's foremost sports authority), were the barbers I most remember, but I know there where others from time to time. I believe Jimmy Maupin or his mother, Mattie Maupin, owned this shop (not sure maybe someone can help with this.).

Ed's Kentucky Auto Store where Ed Williams and his son Sonny had the best prices and best selection of toys anywhere, and probably packed a bigger selection, in a smaller space, than any store I can remember. For one thing, many items were only displayed in season. It made the store an exciting place to shop.

Next was the G & M Grill. G & M for Gilpin & Monroe - Grover Gilpin and his brother in law, Irvin Monroe. The food was great. There was a virtual amusement center there with Tim's latest pinball machines, It was packed for breakfast, lunch and dinners. The latter were quite elegant by Columbia standards. They served steaks, affordable by their wealthier customers, and, for the rest, Meat & 2 or 3 for the rest. The G & M location is now where Hunter Durham and J.D. Zornes have their law practice.

In the same building, where Ed's Kentucky Auto Store had been, there later was Reed Brothers Insurance owned by Jimmy Vaughn and later by his son Sonny Vaughn both were well liked by ever one. I forgot the Rialto Theater owned by "Francis Xavier "X" Merkely Judy Rowe ran it later and this was one of 2 theaters here; at a time when most towns only had one. There was a great rivalry between them and the Columbian Theater built by Clyde Marshall and later run by Charles and Yvonne Marshall for many years and where Robert Flowers got to run the projectors.

The Columbian Theater was the next business going up the corner walk way. Next was a bakery ran by a Mr. Butler, I think. My oldest brother Author Lee ran a Bowling Alley (duck pens) as was it was called back then, and had much smaller balls, later he joined The Air Force for the rest of his life, later it was M&W Auto Parts run by my brother-in-law L G "Peanut" McKinley and owned by him and my father E P Waggener, also, Joe Johnson ran a radio repair shop out of this business. I remember many of sharply contested checker games played by two and critiqued by many on every move made. The City of Columbia Gas Department was in this building for several years. After they left, I opened the House of Billiards with all new Steepleton Tables and paneled walls with tiled floors very modern at the time. Earl Huddleston Law Office where Earl became known as one of the best trial lawyers in Kentucky. Ambly "Shot" Royse was the town's shoe repairman.

Back then you had heels and new soles put on your shoes and wore them for a long time. Mr. John Shelley ran the Farm Home Administration office. John was best known as the Big Horse Shows at the Adair Co. Fair Where he was the announcer and my old friend Grover Cleveland Gilpin was the ring master for years. John was well known for his antics and his expertise in handling this show.

Sylvester Cole and Ellis Pickett had a barber shop, Cole & Pickett that was between the shoe shop and J C Marshall's Shoe store; you could learn a lot of wisdom by just listening to some of the conversations. One local young man came in with a picture of several bass laying on a Courier Journal page that he claimed where all 18''to 20'', but Sylvester went over and measured a newspaper that was on 14'' wide and the 18'' fish would not reach across and after being confronted with the measurement, the young feller just picked up his photos and headed for the door!

Marshalls Shoe Store owned and operated by J C Marshall. He was quite the character. One time I went to buy shoes and the style had changed to square toed rather than the round toe style, and while I pondered if I would like the new style, J C told be to just wait a year and come back, that I would be about a year behind everyone else. He was right.

Paul Marshall's Variety Store, where by Aunt Stella Cooley worked for years. It is where Charles Grimsley has his jewelry shop now, and at one time a Mr. Slinkier had his jewelry shop located in this building according to Charles, and later moved it to Glasgow.

Clyde Young came to town and built his brother Garnett Young a new modern building to house his Young's Rexall Drug store on the corner and Dr. Richard Paull Hill had is dentistry office above. Lewis Coffey had a tax service up stairs as well.

The old Miller Hotel was on the next corner and housed not only the hotel, but the Columbia Post Office, and later a Western Auto Store owned and operated by a Mr. Lay.

A barber shop known as the Hotel Barber Shop was in the corner of Greensburg Street and the Square, Barber Johnny Fudge, who was as a prankster of the highest caliber and one of the best liked people in Columbia kept a lot of loafers there. There were 2 other barbers I need the names of. (Jamey Hayes note: July 20, 2014: "I believe Johnny Fudge's brother Gilliam Fudge worked in the Hotel Barber Shop." and from CM, Everett Smith)

Grimsleys Jewelry owned by Pleas Grimsley was first started here, but you needed to go through the barber shop to get in. The Hotel Coffee Shop was run by several different people over the years, one I remember was Dolphus Dowell and his wife, Helen. I can remember getting a very good breakfast there for a whopping thirty five cents and we did not have a sales tax!

Another Barber Shop was in this corner of the square, where Travis Scott and Roland Coomer and at some time Mr. Ted Harper barbered there; at a later date Wid Harris barbered there as well. Ples Grimsley moved his Jewelry shop next door to this barber shop later. Travis and Rolland really liked to get someone going on a big story, and were good at adlibbing and helping the story grow! On this corner of Campbellsville Street was Casey Jones Jewelry Store; Casey was a big tall man with very big hands but could work on the most delicate of small watches with ease says long time friend of his Dr. Roger D Smith. He was one of the worlds most famous and talented fiddle players as well. Later David Wells Insurance Agency occupied this building for many years by David and his wife Ruth Hill Wells. - RALPH WAGGENER with DELMER JESSEE, JR. Next: Early Columbia when we were boys, Part II, going out Greensburg Street


This story was posted on 2014-07-20 19:00:37
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