Remembering

Remembering Demopolis
by Willie L. Wright '58

It's a breezy day on the links.  I just hit my best Sunday drive and marveled at the accuracy and better than expected distance achieved using the latest golf Club technology.  We've come a long way.  Yeah!  A long way, as my thoughts return to that country golf course that once existed on the north east side of Demopolis.

Not everyone knew about this old golf course. It wasn't like everyone in Demopolis played golf in 1953, just a few business men around town, and a few kids who would show up to Caddy.  I remember my first time to Caddy.  I carried the bag for Henry Webb.  Henry rewarded me with a free pass to the Marengo theater, a bag of popcorn and a coke plus fifteen cents cash.  Not bad in 1953.  

Of course, Henry had strong ties there at the old Marengo Theater.  You could find him around there pretty regularly and he might just be the one to catch you if you tried sneaking in the back door.  they always had a good selection of Westerns for Saturday.  And, I think every kid around town would show up to see Gene and Roy and Johnny Mac Brown and a host of other Super-Hero's of the day.

And, then, there was Tuesday night.  Jackpot Night!  A tall dark haired lady named Joyce would draw a name from the basket after the show and, if present, the winner would receive significant amount of cash.  This helped the Cash flow situation at the Theater and got folks out of the house during the week.  

Just east of the Old Theater, I mean like next door, there was a "Hot Spot" in 1953, the Ice Cream Parlor.  It even doubled as a Bus Station.  You could get a Soda and best of all, they had Pin Ball Machines!  You had to hurry to get one after school, though.  Some of the Kids had mastered those flippers, and as long as you kept winning, you kept playing.

Across the street was the Chevrolet Place and just south, on the other side was the Plymouth Dealership, and across from there was the Ice House.

On a hot summers day, many a kid has gone by the old Ice House to get a free Icy.  Well, I'm not sure what we called it in those days but, it was some treat!  The men working there would bring a large block of ice outside and place it in a fixture where it passed through several saw blades which cut the block into smaller blocks.  The rendering from the blades was shot against a metal wall and provided a large collection of mushy ice that we could scoop away.  Never found anything more refreshing since.

With a hand full of dripping slush, a Kid might just take the walking tour of Downtown Demopolis.  What a place to grow up!  two Banks, two Jewelry stores, three Drug Stores (all with fountains), two Hardware Stores and a Western Auto where you could look at the new Bikes and buy parts to fix up the old one.

There was the A&P store where the freshly ground coffee always provided a pungent odor and Elmore's 5 & 10 cent store where you could get a pretty big bag of peanuts for a nickel and Traeger's Bread, Wow!!  The smell of that bread as they pulled it from the oven and sliced it was enough to make anyone hungry.  

It was always nice to pass by Braswell's Hardware store, especially just before Christmas.  Boys could develop a wish list through the window.  If you kept going west, then just around the corner from Robertson's Bank and across the street, behind the Drug Store, you might find a Roller Rink in a tent.  This was a traveling Roller rink that would set up for a few months.  When the business began to fall off they would pull up and move on to another town.

And, there was always the city park for a Kid to play in.  Pretty often you could find a baseball game going on.  Anyone could join in.  And, of course, there were the swings and slides and the Merry-Go-Round and the swing chains.  The neat Fountain/Pool always had plenty of gold fish and in those days you might even find a good marble game off to the side of the walkway that ran "Kitty Cornered" across the block sized park.

I remember the old Hospital that once stood across the street from the park at the north west end (close to the Robert E. Lee Statue).  I had a broken arm set there.  And, back south along that same block, you would find Malone's Gulf Station and across the street was Howard Parr's Standard Station.  Everyone had to gas up from time to time.  

From Howard Parr's, if you went west a block, you would find Hinson's Blacksmith Shop and Neilson's Warehouse.  Go north from there a few blocks and the Webb Mansion gains your attention with a beautifully sculptured Lawn and Garden with a fountain and the always attractive driveway covered with vegetation.

A little further down and there stands Bluff Hall.  Although in those days the old Hall didn't demand much attention.  It was little more than rental property.  The Hall divided up into several apartment sized living quarters and made available for a modest rent.

Further north was the Community House.  This was a wooden structure, dear to many generations.  A down hill path ran from the old House to the Demopolis Public Swimming pool.  Every kid in town spent a big part of their summer in that water hole.

Continuing on north you would come across a tiny brick building which was the Demopolis Jail.  Off to the left you get a good view of the Tombigbee river where a Ferry used to run, or take a right there, go one block an turn left and you run right into the city dump.  I think that place smoldered year round.

A little east of there and you come to Highway 43.  There was a sizable bridge just as you go out of Demopolis.  Only a very few people would know about it, but there was a tunnel that went all the way under that bridge.  It was cut through solid Lime Stone.

Now and again people of Demopolis would go out to the Dam on an outing, which in those days was north of town.  Some of the town folks have even been known to jump it in their boat.

It's hard to cruise around Old Demopolis without thinking about the Grammar School.  I remember those wooden floored halls with the steam heaters and assembly once a week where we would sing songs and from time to time have a class play.  I was in the first class who had to go to the seventh grade there.  Previously, you moved up to the big time (Demopolis High) to attend seventh.  Remember Mr. Knight?  Great Guy!  And, Mr. Hitchcock?  Man, he was an Icon.  Every Kid knew him for one reason or another.  He was the Principal, you know.  

Over past the High School there was Willingham's convenience store, Coker's Junk yard and further out was the National Guard Armory where we always had Halloween Carnivals.  And just out of the Highway, for those who remember, there was a Nash Automobile Dealership and, of course, WXAL "Voice of the Black Belt".

A million memories pass though my mind when I think about Demopolis in the 50's.  Black Telephones where the operator said, "number please", The old Drive Inn Theater out on Hwy 80, The Old Train Station with the Olive trees near by, Short Leaf, Canal Heights, Lily White Cleaners, Charlie's Hamburgers and a walk home at night under the dim streetlights after watching a Frankenstein Movie.

OOPS!!  I think the Golf Marshal is about to visit with me.  I guess I've been reminiscing too long.  It's sure been nice remembering Demopolis!!