by Harry Coker
In my time Lou (Mrs. Ben) Gregory taught dancing in the old Braswell Theater. We ALL hated it. The dentist above Rutledge Drugs was Dr. Sparks. I believe Simmons-Hopson Drug Store preceded Rutledge at that location. I often marvel at the number of drug, grocery, and department stores supported in downtown Demopolis, while I was young. My most vivid memories related to Meyer Brothers Department Store. Particularly the fine glass display cases and over-head pneumatic devices for transporting money and receipts, I believe. I wish someone had photographs of the local livery stables, and of the many "characters" we knew growing up. Seems I remember for sure two, and maybe three livery stables. Back in the 40's VERY few blacks had automobiles. Ed Weiss, Floyd Jackson, and probably Professor Rowser, are ones I can recall. The rural blacks all rode mules, and mule-drawn wagons to town on Saturday for the purpose of shopping and visitation. Their mules were left at the livery stables during these activities. One had to be careful where he stepped on those days.
Old characters, which I remember are. · Armistead King, aka Old Black Bonomo, who carried a whip. King wore an overcoat all summer and a tee shirt all winter. He would stand on his head for hours in my grandfather's store. On a regular basis he walked to and from Linden. He could balance TWO watermelons on his head and walk around while doing so. My grandfather fleeced many traveling salesmen, who would bet King could NOT accomplish this feat. · "Top" at the barbershop. Remember tip Top? · John Thomas "Lip" who had the three inch lower lip and shined shoes, · "Greensboro" who carried a bass drum at all times, and would beat on it for a dime. He told me he was from Lownesboro, when I inquired about his name of Greensboro. · "Crazy John", who was said to have syphilis of the brain, and who would walk two steps forward then on backward. It would take "Crazy John" half a day to walk to town. · "The Okra Man" had a donkey with a cloth sack slung across it's back holding the okra. He walked around town crying "Old man on the job today. Selling Okra. Five cents one quart, ten cents two quarts." · "The Goat Wagon Man" had several goats pulling a wagon. He collected scraps. More entrepreneurial, but none less characters were Floyd Jackson (musician & dry cleaners), Charlie Brasfield of hamburger fame, and J. T. Inge owner, operator of the Silver Moon Cafe.
I know this has rambled, but want to share one more memory. As a very young boy in the late 30's I remember OLD men, who would sit on the park benches all day. They wore large gray hats and jackets. I remember asking my father about these old men, and he told me they were Confederate war veterans. I suppose they served as teenagers, and were ninety years old, or older, at that time.