City memorabilia, photos in downtown display

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The people are gone and the landscape is changing, but thespirit of historic Brookhaven is still visible in one downtownstorefront.

The old glass windows of Lofton’s department store on WhitworthAvenue contain a sprawling display of artifacts from the city’spast, including items from its mercantile beginnings and picturesof the top hat-clad men and long dressed women who once roamed itsdirt streets. As downtown Brookhaven is redressed and refreshed,local renovator Terry Pappas and memorabilia dealers Harold andCarroll Montgomery are working to remind the city where it camefrom.

“It’s pretty neat for these Brookhavenites to see all thesememories,” Pappas said. “It’s fun to go back in time and bring backthat flood of good memories of the people who aren’t hereanymore.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The storefront display at Lofton’s is stocked primarily withBrookhaven artifacts from the Montgomerys’ extensive collection andtopped off by an electronic display Pappas put together.

The window contains pristine examples of glass bottles and oldcans manufactured at Brookhaven Coca-Cola Bottling, a picture reelfrom the old Highway 51 drive-in and the original cash registerused at the Inez in the early 1900s. Other artifacts, ranging fromfine China to tin plate advertisements for local businesses, datefrom the late 1800s to today.

Crowning the storefront is Pappas’ electronic display, acollection of more than 100 old photos and authentic postcardsscrolling across a flat-screen television. The video presentationincludes iconic shots of the city Brookhavenites have come to know,such as the westward-facing photo of Cherokee Street on a busybusiness day, as well as lesser-known shots like the old Masonicarchway.

Many of the rare photos and postcards, as well as a smallportion of the display items placed by Pappas, were discovered overthe last two years during his crusade to renovate downtownbuildings into residential spaces. The landlord has restored Dr.H.H. Simmons’ dental office and Shirley’s Slipper Shop on CherokeeStreet, the 1905 Hartman Brothers’ warehouse between Cherokee andChickasaw streets and is currently working on the Storm buildingabove Janie’s Pastry Shop and Bakery on Whitworth Avenue.

Pappas’ and a handful of other downtown renovations of loftspaces that in some instances have gone untouched for decades haveyielded finds of antiquity, often in strange places.

“The best collectors were the rats,” he said. “Some of the bestitems we’ve found were stuffed in the walls in big rats’nests.”

From the bed of rats to the eyes of the people, the Lofton’sdisplay has been a hit among passersby, said Carroll Montgomery.The display was originally pieced together for the 35th annual OleBrook Festival two weeks ago, and the attraction proved so popularthat it was decided to leave it in place for a period ofmonths.

“Friday night (during Ole Brook), there were so many people upthere you couldn’t get close enough to look at it,” he said. “Onewoman came by to see it twice, and she broke down crying. I’ve hadseveral people calling me wanting to buy items out of there.They’re not for sale. Actually, I’m interested in acquiring somemore Brookhaven memorabilia.”

Since the display has proved popular and the Montgomery brothershave such a large collection of Brookhaven artifacts, they andPappas plan to open up a handful of additional displays arounddowntown. They’re still working it out with storeowners, buttentative plans call for further memorabilia displays to be erectedin the storefront of Pappas’ Simmons building and possibly at theHaven.

“Wherever we can stick it where people can see it,” Pappas said.”We just want to share it with the people.”