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Posted on October 21, 2021 at 9:23 AM by Ken Kocher
In our earlier blog, Fill ‘er Up, we followed the evolution of gasoline sales in Madison from the turn-of-the-20th century to the 1920s. Curbside pumps were certainly an improvement over the early days practice of dipping gas from an open barrel. Nonetheless, gassing-up autos parked at the side of the street could be at best a nuisance and at worst a hazard. The 1920s would change all that with a transition to drive-in stations generally dedicated to a specific oil company.
Madison’s early forays into drive-in station maintained a traditional view of where business should occur – downtown. Corner properties on Main Street drew the most interest due to their dual access and high traffic. Of course, these properties were already built out, so to accommodate pumps and auto lanes, some demolition would need to occur. Madison’s first drive-thru gas station would be on the corner of Main and Washington, the location of the Broughton Building, which was a two-story building. Although later on Americans were willing to sacrifice substantial buildings to the automobile, the owner of this property, who was leasing the property for a gas station, was not willing to entertain complete demolition. The solution? Remove most of the first floor.
The June 29, 1923, issue of the Madisonian reported that W.D. Cavin had secured the contract to tear away the lower floor of the corner store recently vacated by W.E. Shepherd. W.A. Perkins (Ab), who ran a tire and battery business in the adjoining building, was having the work done. The result, which included a ladies’ restroom on the second floor (the plumbing done by Charles Cavin), was “a modern and up to date station in every respect.” He named it Perkins Place and sold “that Good Gulf Gas.” Perkins painted the first floor yellow, and it was referred to in ads and articles as “the Yellow Front” or “the Yellow Corner.” This color choice may seem odd to those of us who remember the primarily orange Gulf Logo, however the 1920s logo, while still orange, was much lighter and would have worked well with a yellow.
Ab and his wife took an apartment over the filling station in January of 1924 putting him “in a position to provide quick, efficient, and continual service.” The station became “one of the most popular resorts in town for the radio fans” when Perkins purchased a $300 radio through an Atlanta concern, supposedly the first to be shipped to that city. It was fully described in the Madisonian, “A loop antenna takes the place of the aerial, and the instrument is a six-tube supper-heterodyne, made by the Radio Corporation of America. It is equipped with a second harmonic and radiola loud speaker. Such distant points as Portland, San Francisco, points in Canada and Cuba, can be heard distinctly.”
Ab Perkins appeared to thrive on the extremely competitive nature of the gasoline business. He placed a newspaper ad in September 1924 to correct the report that he was interested in the Texas Filling Station. “I am running my own business and am not trying to buy any place that will cut competition.” The Madisonian noted, “Ab’s the cat’s derby when it comes to telling the public what’s what and why.” Perkin’s called out the newspaper in 1926 for “giving him a black eye” by incorrectly reporting that no local dealer had met the last cut in gas made by Pan-Am Oil Co. The paper admitted that it had failed by being misinformed by a presumed reliable source.
Pan-American Oil Co. and Perkins Place were again mentioned in the same article six months later when Pan-Am purchased the lease of the building from Ab. Consequently, the this came to be known as the Pan-Am corner in the ensuing years. W. A. Perkins was not out of the gas game though. He had already built a new station at the intersection of Augusta and Athens roads (441 & 278) where he continued to sell Gulf gasoline. Those locating gas stations had already begun to think outside the downtown box.
We’ll continue with the history of the Pan-Am corner in a future blog.
Posted on October 1, 2021 at 1:09 PM by Ken Kocher
In April of 1920, M.A. Richardson announced that his Grocery Business would be moving from E. Washington to W. Washington. The reason: “The building I now occupy will be torn down and rebuilt.” The term “rebuilt” was an understatement. The current building was wood framed, albeit with a brick front and a brick nogged back (look that one up!), one-story, and 20’ wide. The 16’ wide, one-story, brick building next door was to go as well. As a replacement, Messrs. T.M. Wood, Q.L. Williford, and K.S. Anderson planned to build a two-story, brick building with offices above and a moving picture theatre below. The American Architect had reported in January of that year that William Irwin of Savannah had completed plans for the moving picture house which was to cost $10,000.
While Madison had had picture shows prior to this, set in existing buildings or sometimes out-of-doors, this enterprise was a step up. As noted in the newspaper, “There are few theatres in the entire South in towns even twice the size of Madison that can boast of a complete and attractive theatre as this one.” By November the building was well underway. The Madisonian gave this description of the “handsome new brick building”: “The first floor – one large room – has been rented to Mr. Lightman for a moving picture theatre. This will be nicely fitted and a great pleasure to all. The second story will have office suites,” two with three rooms and three with two rooms. Unmentioned in the news article was the balcony which had its own entrance and ticket booth. This was the segregated South where African American patrons were relegated to a separate space. A half century would pass before patrons of both races would share the main floor.
Even before the theater opened the Madisonian issued a plea. Well, more of a warning. Lamenting “the extent to which the latter day movies have become a menace to clean thinking and good morals,” the paper pledged to support the enterprise “provided the pictures are clean and wholesome.” Otherwise, the owners could expect to hear more from the Madisonian. They stated, “So many of the movie films are keyed to impurity, so much sex stuff, jazz music, jazz decorations, jazz pictures – so much jazz until the patrons think in jazz and act in jazz.”
The Strand Theatre opened Thursday, May 26, 1920, managed by Messrs. Nisbett and Lightman who had several theaters in other parts of the country. At opening they had contracts with Goldwyn, Realart, and Selert studios and were negotiating with Paramount and First National. Showings included short subjects and news reels rounding out the entertainment to about two hours. All for 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children – which included the war tax. The initial showing was Basil King’s Earthbound directed by T. Hays Hunter.
The first couple of years appeared to go well for The Strand aside from a small fire, always a danger with the cellulose nitrate film of the era. Fortunately, the operating booth was a fire-proof structure and disaster was averted. Manager S.T. Nisbet left for Little Rock and C.J. Ross took his place. Even the newspaper seemed pleased with the movie selections declaring them clean and wholesome. However, by 1922 the success of the operation was unsure. The Madisonian noted, “The Strand deserves better support than it is now receiving. Let’s patronize it better until conditions improve when its future will be assured.” That future did not come and the theater was closed by year end.
Six months later Gilbert Genesta reopened the moving picture house, but this is a gentleman whose story deserves a blog of its own.
Posted on August 5, 2021 at 4:36 PM by Ken Kocher
In February 1949, Cecil White moved to Madison to open Modern Shoe Rebuilders. Mr. White had spent the previous six years with the Davis-Paxton shop in Atlanta. Prior to that he served seven years as a Vocational Instructor in the shoe repairing department of the Georgia School for the Deaf from which he had graduated. Cecil opened his shop in what is now 125 W. Washington Street. He soon changed the name to the Modern Shoe Shop and was joined in January 1950 by Rogers-Attaway Company, a variety store. Rogers-Attaway occupied the front of the building and the shoe shop the rear.
August 1951 saw the shoe shop move two doors east to the small building at 121 W. Washington Street. This would be the home of Cecil White’s Modern Shoe Shop for nearly forty years except for four years at the beginning of the 1960s. From 1960 to 1964, Mr. White plied his trade at 137 W. Washington Street before returning to his old stand. Cecil’s son Alvin purchased the building from Asbury Baldwin in 1979. Word is that he gave Cecil a pretty good deal on rent.Cecil White was beloved by Madisonians. Jean Buchanan, relating a story about bringing one of the residents of the Hospitality Care Center Nursing Home for some shoe repair and laces, jokingly worried that her “zany behavior” may have gotten her banned from the shop. The behavior: she had plopped a kiss on Cecil's cheek when (not for the first time with a nursing home resident) he refused payment. Mrs. Otis Brewer, in her Tri-Bee column of the Madisonian, told how during the time of downtown parking meters Cecil would pop out of the shop to put a nickel or dime to add time to her meter so she would not get a ticket. Of course, he refused to be repaid. When the business closed in 1987 following Mr. White suffering a stroke, Joe Laseter spoke for many saying, “A wonderful man and a fine business sadly missed.”
However, Madison did not have to suffer worn soles for any period of time. The White family sold the shoe repair equipment to Albert Goudelock who soon opened Step Above Shoe Service in the same location. Like Cecil White, Mr. Goudelock entered the shoe repair profession as a teenager, his first job being in South Carolina. Step Above Shoe Service is the first shop of his own. Albert served the community from this location for ten years providing shoe repairing, dying, cleaning, leather and zipper repair and more. Step Above Shoe Service moved to the Madison Plaza shopping center on Eatonton Road in 1999. Mr. Goudelock has since returned to downtown saving folk’s soles from his shop beside the Variety Works event center (which once sat behind the old telephone exchange). Stop in sometime, smell the leather, and listen to the whir of machines that have been in service for more than half a century.