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By Bob Sandidge


Dr. Bass   Premier Theater       Last Picture Show      Eleven Stores
China Trees           John Appman         Grayville '61       Last Day Of School

Grayville’s Eleven Grocery Stores

By William Werzner

Back in the 1950’s and up until the early 1960’s, Grayville had eleven grocery stores. Per capita, that would figure out to be about one store per 220 people back then. One certainly didn’t have to go too far to buy a quart of milk! Four were downtown and the remaining seven neighborhood stores, all except two, were located on the north side. For some of you old timers who were living in Grayville about forty years ago, pause here for a moment and try to name them before moving on to the next paragraph. Well, if time has dulled your memory, or perhaps you’re a newcomer, I will endeavor to acquaint or reacquaint you with the way it used to be when I was a kid. 

 Whenever I recall the neighborhood stores, Lloyd Williams’ store always pops into my mind first because it was closest to our home. His store was a long white frame building that used to stand on the northeast corner of West spring St. and the Old State Highway (Ill Route 130). I often stopped off there for an afternoon snack and soda pop when I used to mow lawns and enjoyed listening to his war stories from WW I. About a block further north and on the west side of the old highway was Mr. Bump’s Grocery. It was located, in what I recall, as a two-story house that was converted into a store. Several blocks further north and across from Oak Grove Cemetery, was Pete Coe’s Grocery. Pete’s store resembled as small town general store and you could buy everything there from gas to minnows. Pete’s was also a favorite hang out for some of the town philosophers and if you wanted to know what was going on around town, or get advice on just about any subject, there was usually someone there to fill you in. Taking a right turn down the hill on West Martin St., past the old North Side School, and across North Second St. was Bill Bunting’s Grocery. It was located on the north side of the street. I’m sure all of you former students of the old North Side Elementary School remember well his small concrete block store where we used to buy penny candy and bubble gum. At night, his bright light in front of the store seemed to light up the whole neighborhood. Further down Martin St. and then toward town on State Highway 1, was Elliott’s Market located on the East Side. It was a one-story building with a red brick front that faced the highway and was owned and operated by the late Dennis Elliott Sr. and his family. I remember it as probably the only place in town that sold pickled pigs feet in addition to a wide selection of produce and general merchandise. 

 The two neighborhood stores that were located on the south side of town were Houck’s Riverside Market and Dorris’s Grocery. Houck’s market was somewhat of a landmark located just northeast of the North St. and Water St. intersection. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Houck, supplied many a weekend riverside party with their convenient location near the boat ramp. Of course, that was back when the river ran where it should still be today,“ and Illinois was Illinois and Indiana was Indiana.”  Mr. Houck was also the local pecan broker for a candy company during the fall and we sold quite a few pounds there over the years. Further south on Water St., then right on Walnut St., and over the hill to the South Main St. intersection; was the Dorris Grocery. Mr. Dorris’s store was a white frame building that stood on a high brick foundation on the northeast corner above the ravine. We used to stop there for cold drinks on our summertime treks to and from the swimming pool or park.

 Traveling down North St. from the four way stop was Bowman’s Market across from the Wabash Theater. It was probably the earliest downtown business to open every morning. George Bowman Jr. and Sr. ran the store for many years. While working at the Wabash Theater back in the early 1960’s, we used to buy ham sandwiches there for ten cents each and take them over to share with weekend crew. A few doors down and on the northwest corner of North and Middle St. was Lowell Jordan’s Red and White Market. Jordan’s was the largest of all the Grayville stores. There always seemed to be shopping carts on the front sidewalk where an overhead speaker was mounted to play music and advertise daily grocery specials. Across Middle St. and located on the northeast corner was Ramsey’s Market operated by Norman (Cotton) and Wilma Ramsey. I will always remember Ramsey’s Market as having the coffee bean grinders located at the checkout counter and the sweet aroma of freshly ground coffee that permeated the air. Four more doors down North St. was a market owned by Ralph and Mae Horste, that was truly one of Grayville’s landmarks and assets as well! Horste’s Market will no doubt be remembered for their famous homemade smoked baloney which was really German wurst at its best (no pun intended, wurst is the word for sausage in German). That was no doubt the best wurst ever made this side of the Fatherland! There is a Shell truck stop here in Texas on Interstate 10 between Houston and San Antonio called “Grumpy’s” that makes a very similar wurst, aber Ich denke das Horste’s war etwas besser! (I think Horste’s was better, “especially with a cold brew”), Jawohl!

 With all of those stores now gone, Grayville just doesn’t seem the same anymore. Each had its unique characteristic that distinguished it from another and somehow all of those businesses survived together in a town the size of Grayville. Today, only one market stands on the site where one of the previous markets stood several decades ago. As for the town philosophers who used to frequent Pete Coe’s, well most have returned to the neighborhood and now reside permanently just across the old highway in Oak Grove Cemetery. Maybe their spirits still get together over there some nights when the moon is full. I’m sure they argue politics, exchange graveyard gossip, and some no doubt long for one last taste of Horste’s baloney.           

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