Brothers put artifacts collection on display

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

Brookhavenites have been busy celebrating the city’ssesquicentennial anniversary all year long. Now a pair of LincolnCounty twin brothers is getting in on the history-loving action bydisplaying their own collection of local artifacts.

Carroll and Harrell Montgomery will have some of the rarer itemsfrom their collection of city and county memorabilia on displaySaturday at the Inez’s community room from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Most ofthe pieces on display will document the city’s industrial andretail past from as far back as the late 1800s, with items fromlarge companies and little stores that once made up the localeconomy.

Carroll Montgomery revealed a few of the items pegged fordisplay Thursday. The brothers plan to showcase a wooden ice boxfrom the Southern United Ice Company that dates back to the early1800s, a cash register from the Inez Restaurant that dates back tothe early 1900s and the store front window from downtown’s NormanDrug Store – complete with vintage Coca-Cola decal – from the WorldWar II era.

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“We go back to the 1800s and through the present,” CarrollMontgomery said. “Anything that pertains to Brookhaven and LincolnCounty.”

The brothers’ passion for collecting historical artifacts hastaken many turns over the years. The lifelong fever started whenthe pair began collecting glass bottles, a collection that theyclaimed eventually led to what was likely the second-largestcollection of Orange Crush advertising memorabilia in the countrybefore they sold most of it to another collector.

When they noticed several of the bottles originated inBrookhaven, they slowly began shifting toward an all-Brookhaven,all-Lincoln County collection that took on more of an old countrystore flavor. Approximately 10 years ago, the brothers Montgomerygot into the local history preservation business for good.

The process of amassing such a collection requires lots of time,money and travel. The brothers rely on the help of several localresidents who keep an eye out for interesting artifacts; pay visitsto old buildings that are being torn down, sold or renovated toscavenge and purchase; and travel far and wide to attend antiqueshows and estate sales. They also depend on the kindness of others,who often wish to donate their old items to abler hands, and oftenvisit eBay online.

“Once you get hooked, it’s hard to get stopped,” HarrellMontgomery said.

The constant search for artifacts has taken the Montgomerybrothers far and wide, and Brookhaven usually precedes them totheir destinations. During a past trip to an antiques show inHouston, Texas, the brother stumbled upon – and purchased – tworolls of film from Brookhaven’s C.E. Grafton Drug Store that datedback to the early 1900s.

They have also had the chance to tour the inside of CrackerBarrel’s antique warehouse in Lebanon, Tenn. They often have tocompete with the company’s bidding agents at antique shows.

Even if an out-of-state trip yields no Brookhaven artifacts, thebrothers can often capitalize by gathering memorabiliarepresentative of other Southwest Mississippi cities. Thefraternity of antique collectors is takes care of itself, theysaid.

“There’s a lot of trading that goes on,” Carroll Montgomerysaid. “If I get something from Natchez or Crystal Springs, I’lltrade it for something from Brookhaven. That’s really the best wayto get stuff.”

Local movements are another good way to “get stuff,” and themany renovations that have gone on in downtown Brookhaventhroughout the last year or so have provided manyopportunities.

“A lot of the upstairs in downtown are being renovated, andwe’re finding a lot of good stuff from there,” Carroll Montgomerysaid. “That’s helped a lot, with downtown booming now. There’speople out there we’ve never met before saying, ‘I’ve gotsuch-and-such and I’ll give it to you.'”

Despite years of searching high and low, there are a fewBrookhaven artifacts that have eluded the Montgomery brothers.

“Old soda fountains that came out of the old drug stores,”Harrell Montgomery said with a look of longing. “At one time,Brookhaven had about six soda fountains, and at one time there weresome beautiful dispensers. But, nobody knows what happened tothem.”

The Montgomery brothers said their long-term goal for thehistorical collection is to display it in a museum – hopefully, onebelonging to the Lincoln County Historical and GenealogicalSociety. Both are members of the young organization, and acquiringa building to serve as a local museum is one of the primarygoals.