Bygone days of a bustling town recalled
Editor’s Note: Vivian J. Sanders of Petersburg writes in the following article her recollections of the Petersburg square in 1954. The second in a three-part series, the memoir was written as part of an almost 200-page book she compiled for her children and grandchildren, a gift she gave them this Christmas. At the age of 89, she said she feels compelled to share her family story.
By Vivian Sanders, Special to The Times
Across the street from Gilbert’s last location was the First National Bank, locally owned. It was staffed by Joe Loyd Scott, Clayton Scott and Mrs. Cecil Ellis. Mrs. Ellis was the secretary and friendly teller who also served the community by playing the piano for the Baptist Church. All of them were very accommodating. We could go out of town and see a car we thought we ought to buy, and we just called them and they would say, “Go ahead, we will do the paperwork when you get back.” Our relationship with the bank was not unique. Others could do that as well. They knew their clientele.
Joe Loyd gave investment advice and helped the elderly with paperwork that was difficult for them to figure out. He was the Sunday School superintendent at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church where his wife, Mildred, played the organ for many years until she approached 90. I will say more about her later. Joe was also the mayor when we moved here and remained in that position until he died suddenly in his sleep.
Next to the bank was our post office. The first postmaster I knew was Holland Whitaker. He, like Mr. Beasley, also liked children and paid attention to them. Carl Ellis’s grocery store was on the same side of the square and later W.C. Boaz’s café was in that building.
All of these buildings were demolished to make way for a new bank. It later became Lincoln County Bank, and years later when that bank moved to the edge of town, they donated the building to house City Hall. Before that, City Hall was housed in the same building with the present fire department.
Next to the present fire department we have had a restaurant, a fabric store, a dry cleaners service and a sock box. The sock box sold socks for 15 cents a pair. They also had more expensive ones. Mrs. Clifford Archer and Mrs. Landess Sanders were running it when we came to town. The dry cleaners set up later and was owned by the Rutledge family. They also did alterations.
Moving on around the square to the north side, there was Scotts’ grocery and hardware store. Mr. Ed Scott owned that. Later, his sons, Sam and Herman, ran it. We kept a running account there, because we went so frequently. We could get food, nails, stove pipes, pots and pans, guns, paint, animal feed or almost anything we needed. They also delivered groceries to those who had no transportation.
At first, after we moved here, one could go in there with a list, and they would gather up the stuff for us. Later, they did as the Gilberts had done and had a checkout counter, and we found most of what we wanted on our own, but help was always readily available.
On the corner where the post office is now, there was a hardware store originally run by Warren Gill. It closed soon after we came.
Off the square and behind the city fire hall was Mr. Clifford Archer’s Sinclair Filling Station. Some mechanic work was done there as well by Johnny Johnson. Also, there was a scale. If one had a load of corn or something else of big bulk that was bought or sold by the pound, he was welcome to come there to get it weighed in a truck or wagon. Coal could be purchased there as well, whether by truck load or by burlap bag full.
Behind the present City Hall and across what is now Railroad Street, we had a flour mill operated by Dennis Eakin. It was a sad day when in burned. Mr. Eakin did not rebuild. He and his wife, Margie, were members of the First Presbyterian Church. She was the organist there and played for area horse shows and most particularly for the Petersburg Horse Show. She always had the right rhythm to match the required gait.
Railroad Street is called that, because the train tracks used to be there and the train was still coming to Petersburg in 1954. There was a depot there, too, because passengers could board the train.
We had a telephone office in the hotel. The hotel itself was a gathering place at noon for a good many of the business people for lunch. The building still stands on Russell Street and is used as a residence. Mrs. Easter Scott was the manager of the local telephone office. Of course, there wasn’t room around the square for all of these. The square was full, but there were businesses scattered around the town.
Our electrician, Fischback Hathaway, did not have a building downtown but was on call for work. Then there was Mose Buchanon who helped out at Scotts’ Store and did odd jobs for people in the community. He was a real fixture and when not busy often sat on a feeding bag in front of Scott’s Store.
Paul and Bill Hawkins lived out in the country but walked in every day and did odd jobs. Bill fished frequently at the creek downtown and sold his catch door to door. Landess Small lived about two miles from town and came to town frequently on his wagon. He often gave rides to children and promised housewives he’d be by soon to plow their garden plots. He couldn’t say “no” to anyone so he often promised more than he had time to fulfill.
Mr. Willie Crabtree lived a mile out from town and did some farming, but later moved into town and used his plant expertise to do landscaping work around town. When he could no longer do that work, he could be seen sitting on his front porch on Church Street, watching everyone go by and giving a wave or a nod.
Russell Pitts was a person of great physical strength and ability who did many jobs around Petersburg. He lived in a little house behind the present Co-op. The house is not longer there.
Dr. Joplin was the local doctor at the time we moved here. His office building, now a private dwelling, still stands on Russell Street at the Southeast corner of the square. Several people around town today were named for him because he helped in their delivery.