Loss of downtown buildings like losing old friend

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Watching the flames engulf the buildings on the corner of SouthWhitworth and Monticello Street Thursday morning I felt like an oldfriend had passed away, for those building housed memories of atime long since passed.

While the buildings date to the mid-1800s, my memories only goback to the 1960s when East Pharmacy occupied the building wherethe Posey Place currently sits. The Firestone Tire and Auto storesat on the corner. Farther down the street sat PerkinsHardware.

Oh, what delightful places for a youth to waste away a summerafternoon. Everything a 10-year old could want or desire lay insidethose three retail establishments.

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East Pharmacy was the center of everything. A forerunner oftoday’s mega chains – although technically a drug store – it hadeverything one could need, from groceries to school supplies.

It had a toy department that was every kid’s dream. It hadphonograph records (as they called them in those days). I rememberthe rows of magazines that held the secrets to the world. As kidswe spent hours reading though the latest editions of MAD Magazineor other such illuminating educational volumes – catching up onwhat was going on.

The store had a special drink vending machine you no longer seethese days – no bottles or cans, but a machine that mixed thesyrup, water and ice into a paper cup while you watched. Drop in 10cents and you received the best Coke or Dr. Pepper that money couldbuy!

It was at East Pharmacy that I learned about credit, or”charging” as we called it. One day thirsty and penniless, Iwatched Don Perkins walk up to the counter and say, “Can I charge aCoke?”

The clerk pulled out a pad wrote something down and handed him adime to put into the vending machine. We both grinned as a wholenew world had just been opened to us – our parents’ chargeaccounts!

Next door at the Firestone Store, where Mr. and Mrs. Carter kepta close eye, we would look over the bicycles and other marvels ofmodern engineering that caught our attention. But it was outsideFirestone on the Monticello Street side of the building that wasthe most intriguing. That is where they changed tires and worked onthe cars – not a shop area mind you, but right there on the streetas traffic passed by!

I have long since forgotten his name but there was fellow whoworked there for years. He kept us in line and sometimes would letus tighten up a lug nut or hold a hub cap if we were good!

One door down was Bowman’s Barbershop – the fastest and cheapesthaircut in down. Mr. Bowman had a vacuum cleaner hooked to hisclippers that sucked the hair right up; nary a hair would evertouch the floor.

It was a very efficient hair-cutting operation, for Mr. Bowmanonly gave crew cuts! Up one side and down the other and flat ontop! He had one chair and a sink and I believe charged 50 cents. Mybrother Don once carried the nickname “Bowman” after he innocentlyfound out about the shop’s efficient hair operation.

It was sad to look at the remains of the buildings Thursdayafternoon – for so many memories for not only me, but also othergenerations who grew up in and around Brookhaven.

A wake of sorts was held Thursday evening as folks milled aroundthe area, telling stories as if to remember a fallen friend. About6:30, a rain shower poured over the downtown area as a fittingtribute to a sad day.

You know, the downtown area of a community is where the itsarchitectural character is held. Time had worn on those150-year-old buildings and some may have considered them aneyesore, but they had a certain simple beauty and a history that isnot easily replaced. Let’s hope someone tries.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to bjacobs@dailyleader.com.