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Jim: The sign in the window

"The sign in the window": the genesis, evolution, and demise of a Columbia eatery, 1916-1942. (L.M. Young's Cafe > Royal Cafe > Taylor's Confectionery > Moss - Taylor Confectionery (aka Moss - Taylor Cafe) > Royal Cafe (redux) > White Castle Inn > Cardinal Grill)
Revelation, this article: The year and the man who brought the first "electric frigid ice cream cabinet" to Adair County. "It could even make a small amount of ice!" You may have known when 'lectric came to the ridge. Janice Holt Giles told you that. But this technological red letter day is probably as new to you as it was to us.
Great family names in this article: Bishopp, Bolin, Bradshaw, Butler, Caldwell, Callison, Conover, Coffey, Epperson, Grissom, Harper, Harris, Henry, Huddle, Hurt, Hutchison, Gowen, Marshall, Maupin, Merkley, Moore, Moss, Neat, Nordine, Phelps, Randall, Reed, Rosenbaum, Strange, Stults, Vaughn, Walker, Young. If we left any out, call 270-250-2730 and tell us the name and paragraph
Click on headline for complete story

By Jim

In the late spring of 1916, Columbia businessman Lawrence Marvin (L.M.) Young opened "a first-class soda fountain and an ice cream the same building that Mr. J.F. Patteson conducts a general store." (The building was owned by J.N. Coffey, Mr. Patteson's father-in-law. At almost the same time Mr. Young started his business, the Parlor Circle Theater moved from its original location to the second floor of the Coffey Building and manager G.R. Reed changed the name to the Paramount Theater.)

An ad in the August 9, 1916 News read thus: "For Cool Drinks go to L.M. Young's Cafe. Electric Fans Running Day and Night. Quick service to waiting crowds. While at the fair visit Young's stand for Orange Ade and Ice Cream." At about the same time, said the News, "The front of Mr. J.N. Coffey's business house. . .has been repainted in very attractive colors" and went on to editorialize that other buildings on the Square could benefit from the same treatment.

By the summer of 1917, the cafe seemed to have gained considerable popularity. In August, the Misses Eva and Mildred Walker, reported the paper, treated a group of ten to a theater party in honor of an out of town guest. After the movie, "refreshments were served at the Royal Cafe. . ."

Although no formal name change was found in the News, a full page patriotic ad for Liberty Bonds in early April 1918 was sponsored in part by "L.M. Young, Royal Cafe." The first mention the business under that name had appeared almost a year earlier when the premiums offered in the Lindsey Wilson's upcoming end of school year Field Day included a dollar's worth of fountain products from the Royal Cafe as first prize in the half-mile race. For the record, Oliver Popplewell won the contest with a time of two minutes, thirty-two-point-two seconds, one of several races that day in which the young Casey Countian broke the tape.

Little mention occurred over the next few years either of Mr. Young or his shop other than a brief August 1918 article which stated that the old soldiers who recently had gathered at Weed had bought no less than ninety-five gallons of ice cream from Mr. Young.

An ad appearing late in 1921 gave the location as "south side of the Public Square" and noted the offerings included "candy and grapes, the finest on the market" as well as refreshing beverages, along with a piano player to provide entertainment. No proprietor was named. In the spring of 1922, Mr. Young had surgery and was down for several weeks. By mid-July, he was the Adair County agent for 7th Street Garage, a large used car operation headquartered in Louisville and headed by Adair native C. T. Stults.

By late 1922, R.P. (Richard Paul) Marshall, a World War I veteran then in charge of the Royal Cafe -- Phone No. 56 -- advised readers via a front page "card" (classified ad) that he held "the agency for Adair and adjoining counties for the Bottle Coca Cola." Come May 1923, he and Mrs. Marshall entertained the entire Columbia High senior class at the cafe, to-wit: Misses Mabel Rosenbaum, Rachel Coffey, Carrie Grissom, and Lula Phelps, and Messrs. Morris Epperson, Frank Callison, Nicholas Hurt, and Robert Neat.

The News stated that those gathered for this fete "were delightfully entertained" by the Marshalls, and that "A large box of candy was presented to the class and drinks and music added much to the charm of the entertainment."

Three months later, in August 1923, Mr. Marshall sold his "soft drink stand and fixtures" to Mr. Lewis E. Young and Mr. Herschel Taylor, who planned to "continue the business over the firm name of Young & Taylor," with the latter-named gentleman in charge of operations. Added the News, "It is a paying business and we trust that the new firm will enjoy the same trade that the stand has at all times commanded."

Despite the announced name change, the enterprise continued under the name Royal Cafe. It isn't known with certainty how long Mr. Young was associated but later that year (1923) an ad mentioned only "Herschel Taylor, Mgr."

Come early 1925, the owner(s) sold the stand to Mr. W.R. (Wyatt) Conover. An article in June of that year referred to Mr. Conover as "the soft drink man" and another, about a year later, specifically stated he was the cafe's proprietor.

This wasn't Mr. Conover's first such venture. About six years earlier, in the spring of 1919, Ernest Harris (son of former News editor C.S. Harris), as part of his making preparation to move to Mississippi, "sold his soft drink stand and equipment. . . to Stanley Epperson and Wyatt Conover, and the latter took possession Thursday morning [March 29]. It is a good business, especially eight months in the year." Six months later, Epperson sold his interest to Conover, and the News promptly announced, "From now on Mr. Conover will issue drinks and [ice] cream for the cash, strictly." The following October (1920), when Mollie Epperson married R.P. Marshall, the wedding announcement mentioned the new Mrs. Marshall "for more than a year has been connected with her brother-in-law, Mr. Wyatt Conover, in conducting a soft drink stand in this place."

It was Mr. Conover who introduced a technological marvel to Adair County. Said the News in mid-February 1927,

"Mr. Wyatt Conover has installed an electric frigid ice cream cabinet in the Royal Cafe. This cabinet has eight compartments for ice cream and besides keeping the cream in perfect condition he can make a small amount of ice. This is the first frigid air cabinet to be brought into Adair County."

Less than three months later, in late April or early May 1927, Dallas Stotts and former owner/manager Herschel Taylor bought the establishment from Mr Conover. (After divesting himself of the Royal the first time, Mr. Taylor had worked for two wholesale houses, first the Durham Fraser Co. and considerably more recently, the Buchanan Lyon Co.) Mr. Stotts, however, intended to be more or less a silent partner and retained his position with Mr. H. (Herb) Taylor at the Mens' Shop. A few weeks later, a front page blurb in the newspaper remarked, "The south side of the Court House is well lighted by the new electrical signs of the Royal Cafe and Young-Moore Co."

The Royal remained in operation through the rest of the Roaring Twenties and into the 1930s with occasional ads and tidbits making the pages of the paper. In the spring of 1928, Mr. Taylor entertained the senior class of CHS (seventeen were present) at the cafe, and all enjoyed "the delicious sundaes and cakes that the hospitable proprietor served them." (Afterwards, "the members of the class went to the home of Miss Effie Sandusky, on Campbellsville Street, to spend the remainder of the evening.")

Among other news items in March 1929 was the ever so brief announcement that Miss Thelma Harper had been hired to replace Miss Cecil Caldwell who recently had tendered her resignation. The latter worked there again some years later. Miss Julia Moore, another former Royal Cafe employee from earlier years, in 1929 bought out Mr. L.E. Young's interest in the Young-Moore Co. to became a partner in the firm with her brother Henry Moore.

During most of the 1930s, business for the cafe hummed along, perhaps smoother some years than others, under the ownership of the Messrs. Taylor & Stotts and in late spring of 1934, it has just been newly "attractively decorated," said the newspaper. However, changes loomed large on the event horizon as the decade drew to a close and segued into the 1940s.

The first change came around the time of the autumnal equinox of 1938 when Mr. Taylor announced he would temporarily close up shop in order to move the cafe from its long term location on the south side of the Square to the space in the Russell Building, the adjoined "twin" of the Russell & Co. edifice, recently evacuated by the I.G.A. store. (An I.G.A., originally operated by J.F. Neat & Son, had opened in the east corner of the square in early 1930. Almost exactly eight years later, in February 1938, the News readers learned via paid advertising that the "entire stock of merchandise and fixtures of Columbia Cash Grocery (IGA) must be moved immediately. /s I.G. Vaughn, Trustee.")

The article about the impending move of the Royal cafe farther stated Mr. Taylor expected "to operate an-up-to-date confectionery and short order restaurant" and that "he has ordered much new equipment, which is now being installed." Hardly had he closed and locked the door at the old location when news broke that Ralph Bolin, proprietor of the Bolin Radio and Electric Shop, and Earl Conover, who "specializes in jewelry and watch repairing," were renovating the interior and expected to open for business there in the immediate future.

The September 28, 1938 edition of the paper carried an announcement of the just-reopened eatery -- under a new name. The ad proudly proclaimed, "Taylor's Confectionery now open for business next door to Lerman Bros. Ice Cream--Fountain Service--Short Orders & Sandwiches. H.B. Taylor, Proprietor."

With December 1938 came word that Mr. Taylor had sold his interest in the business to Billy Burdette, then a couple of months short of his 20th birthday, who expected to take over management on December 12th.

If, however, that transaction went through it soon was reversed. When James Moss bought out long-time partner Dallas Stotts in the spring of 1939, H.B. Taylor was listed as the only other owner. An ad in April that year stated Mr. Moss was "actively engaged in the business" and in July and thereafter, the News variously referred to Moss & Taylor's operation as a restaurant, confectionery, and cafe. When Gene Kenneth Shipp and Carrie Walker were married on Christmas Day 1939, the groom was employed both at Taylor & Moss and a few doors away at the Kroger store.

When the federal census was taken in 1940, James Moss, 27, and his family lived on Tutt Street, just a few doors removed from the Herschel B. Taylor family. The occupation given for each man was "Cafe Proprietor."

The following summer brought an exciting development. The August 28, 1940 edition of the paper reported that the Moss & Taylor Cafe had on the previous Saturday "opened for business in their new location in the recently completed Bradshaw Building" and offered "meals, short orders, sandwiches, and fountain service in their attractive and comfortable new quarters." (Black Construction of Louisville had commenced work on the building, located "on the [entry] corner of Greensburg Street and the Public Square," in early May 1940 for Mr. W.E. Bradshaw. The property come to Mr. Bradshaw's wife, Grace Butler Bradshaw, by way of her adoptive parents, Judge J.W. and Bettie Walker Butler.)

September of that year found the establishment's owners name changing the name back to Royal Cafe, "which was the original name of the firm when Mr. Taylor was the sole proprietor and it was located where the Bolin Electric Shop is now located." The News farther commented that to many people, it had always been the Royal, and "the sign in the window has a very familiar appearance."

By July 1941, however, Mr. Herschel Taylor was on the stump for sheriff, and he and Mr. Moss sold the concern to Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Bishopp (nee Miss Mary Frances Strange), the latter being a native of Adair County and the former having had lived in there for a few years in the 1920s while serving as county extension agent. The new owners, stated the News, were set to take over management on August 1. The article announcing the sale also mentioned the business was "the first confectionery ever started in Columbia" and that "It has always been a popular place with old and young alike and is known for its good food and good service." (Mr. Taylor went on to win the general election in November and served one term as sheriff, followed by four terms as County Court Clerk.)

A new name for the place wasn't announced per se but a mid-August ad for the upcoming fair listed White Castle Inn, "formerly Royal Cafe," as one of the sponsors. Toward the end of the month came the report that "The White Castle Inn. . .has been closed for three days while much new equipment is being installed. . .They expect to be open for business again tomorrow," Thursday, August 28th.

That name, however, was short lived, as the October 22nd edition of the News noted that

"Mr. and Mrs. D.S. Bishopp, who bought the Royal Cafe several months ago and named it the White Castle Inn, have changed the name to The Cardinal Grill. It was necessary to make the change because they had inadvertently chosen the name of a chain of eating places. A prize of a $5 merchandise coupon was offered the person submitting the best name and Mrs. O.E. Huddle was the winner...A total of 260 names were offered. The judges were Mesdames Edwin Hutchison, Louis Merkley, Dr. H.C. Randall and Garnett Young."

Sadly, the Cardinal Grill itself was short lived as well. Only three and a half months after it (re)opened in late August 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the United States found itself embroiled in World War II, sugar rationing went into effect in the spring of 1942, young men (and women) began enlisting in the armed service and leaving Adair County, and others began looking for employment in the emerging "war machine" economies up north. (Marion Paul Nordine was employed at the Grill when he and Miss Frances Maupin were wed in August 1942. He enlisted in the Army a year later and became the only Adair County resident to die during the D-Day invasion.) The Bishopps closed the Grill in November 1942 when he accepted a position with the USDA and they moved to Washington D.C.

One of the last large gatherings held at the establishment occurred on the evening of October 27th when the Youth Fellowship of the Columbia Methodist enjoyed a Hallowe'en social in the church basement with refreshment served at the Cardinal Grill. According to the printed account of the soiree, a total of 40 people, including number of guests from Lindsey Wilson, were in attendance: 21 young women, 13 young men, and six "other than the young people." Some of the more familiar names were those of Martha Henry, Yvonne Marshall, Chan Taylor, Bobby Marshall, Edward Henry, Ores Gowen, and Mrs. Clyde Marshall.

Shortly after the Grill closed, Mrs. Bradshaw put the property up for rent and the following June, all the equipment the Bishopps had installed -- the News called it "one of the best equipped kitchens in this section of Kentucky" -- sold at public outcry. (The paper failed to report any particulars of the auction.) A year later, in June 1944, Mrs. Bradshaw found a tenant in Bingham Moore, who on June 10, 1944, opened the eighth branch of the Motor & Electric Supply Company in the now-iconic building. By then, the Royal Cafe and its several alias names had already started the long drift into fading memory.

This story was posted on 2018-07-29 05:33:52
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Jim: The Earliest 'Block Ad' for the Royal Cafe, 1921

2018-07-29 - South Side of the Square, Columbia, KY - Photo by Jim .
An ad appearing late in 1921 gave the location of the Royal Cafe as "south side of the Public Square" and noted the offerings included "candy and grapes, the finest on the market" as well as refreshing beverages, along with a piano player to provide entertainment. No proprietor was named. In the spring of 1922, Mr. Young had surgery and was down for several weeks. By mid-July, he was the Adair County agent for 7th Street Garage, a large used car operation headquartered in Louisville and headed by Adair native C. T. Stults. - Jim

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