Sometimes I like to sit back and
reminisce. I’m told it’s
something we all do with increasing frequency, as we grow older.
That was something I used to think I’d never do, “grow old?”
I think of life as a book, but one where only certain pages or
chapters can be accessed by some kind of bookmark.
Such bookmarks become embedded in our consciousness because of some
significant event that causes us to associate it with a particular moment in
time. I would like to share one
of those pages that I marked with an indelible bookmark on year page 1961.
It was not some spectacular historically
significant event, personal triumph or tragedy, but simply a day and point
in time that I vowed to remember.
That day was special because I was trying to imagine what my life and
the world would be like for the next five decades if I lived that long.
I was standing next to the main sound amplifier in the projection
room of Grayville’s Wabash Theater where I worked as projectionist. It was 7 PM, Friday, May 19, 1961. We had a double feature booked for that Friday and Saturday.
I was running the second reel of the movie “Chartreuse Caboose” and
had the second feature “College Confidential” rewound and stored in the film
magazines beneath the rewind table.
I walked over to check the current output meter on the main sound
amplifier. The rectifier tubes
cast a warm glow from the steel cabinet above. Downstairs, the smell of
fresh popcorn permeated the air as the Friday evening patrons settled in for
the movie. I watched as a
sliver of bright golden sunlight from the setting sun streamed through the
window above the marquee and formed a silhouette against the projection room
door. I stood there in the
golden sunlight for a moment and looked out the window to North Street and
up to the highway where the stoplight blinked its red beacon.
It was then that I thought about my last week of high school and
graduation that would follow one week later.
A warm spring breeze blew through the open window and the tall pecan
trees near the highway intersection swayed slowly, back and forth, clad in
their new emerald green foliage.
It was then that I wondered where I would be, and what the world
would be like during those future decades.
I vowed to remember that moment in time with a bookmark set in my
Over forty years have passed since I
stood there that evening, looking down on North Street.
Now I try to recall what downtown Grayville was like so many years
ago as I sit before the screen of this modern computer. Home computers, the internet, worldwide satellite
communication, even affordable color television, and so many more things
that today we take for granted; were almost unheard of back then. As I begin my mental trek through downtown Grayville on
that warm spring evening, I realize that time has taken a toll, but thanks
to some recent help from John Camp and Bill Warmack, I’ll try to remember
what it was like. Perhaps
others who read this story can add what I have forgotten, or correct errors
that have crept in and eroded the lines from this page of memories.
Standing on the northwest corner of the
“four way stop”, and shaded by the tall pecan trees, is the Lennox Antique
Shop in a two story white frame house.
Looking east across the highway is the Carey Court Motel, the alley
and the office of Dr. H.L. Bass.
Bradshaw’s Appliance Store stands on the corner with the Maytag signs
and lighted window displays.
Next door is Kemper’s clothing store, the Ben Franklin “dime store”, and
next to it one of Grayville’s icons; Madden’s Drug Store with the neon
Rexall Drugs sign above the sidewalk.
Then Teffertiller’s Department Store in two buildings, Beggert’s book
keeping office, a barbershop in the Elliott building and then the two story
building housing Bowman’s Market with the red and green neon signs in the
windows advertising “Bowman’s meats and groceries”.
Kepley’s TV Sales and Service is next door with their large lighted
yellow Magnavox sign. Next is
Evangeline’s Ladies clothing store where mannequins dressed in stylish
clothes stand in the lighted windows; and on the corner, Jordan’s Red and
Around the corner and in the rear of
Jordan’s building is Paula Barton’s Beauty Salon.
Looking north across the alley is Matthews Ford dealership. Then
east, across Middle Street is the American Legion and up to the North Street
intersection, is Ramsey’s Market on the corner.
Next door is Smith Hardware to the east, then Campbell dry cleaners,
and Schoenman’s Jewelry Store with a bright window display and the landmark
grandfather clock against the wall.
Next to the upstairs doorway is Horste’s Market, Bender’s Pharmacy
with the neon drug sign above the sidewalk, and Art’s Café and News Agency
with a Coca-Cola canopy in front.
The next two buildings are vacant and then there is Flossie Mae’s
Café, March’s Men’s Wear with lighted windows showing the latest styles in
men’s suits. Glenn’s Pool Hall,
Gene’s Bar, and Zella Riley’s Restaurant followed by Moon’s Tavern on the
corner completes the block. East across Main Street, and going north; the corner Carey
building where the post office used to be, stands vacant.
Next door is General Telephone’s Office, and then
“oilfield supply row”.
The supply houses as I remember them were Lufkin Supply, Harbisson Fisher,
Franklin Supply, Roberts’ Auto, and Bethlehem Steel on the corner. There are
probably one or more that I have forgotten so maybe someone can “jar my
Across from the old two story red brick
City Hall, Police Station, and Grayville Fire Department; is a vacant corner
building, Ben Ramsey’s Barber Shop with its historical wall mirror display,
another vacant building, then Clement Tate’s Main Street Tavern. Crossing the alley is Robinson’s Beauty Salon,
Robinson’s Cabinet Shop, Grayville Heating and Plumbing, and the
burned out remains of the Bouvaird Supply Company.
Next door is Kingdom Hall and on the corner, in a very old frame
building, is the Norman Schutz Shoe Repair Shop.
Back on the south side of North Street
and going west is the Dixie Beauty Shop, Bob’s Barbershop, and John Appman’s
abandoned Newsstand with the faded billboard sign above.
The two-story red brick People’s National Bank with Ivan Siekmann’s
Insurance Agency upstairs stands next to the alley.
Across the alley are the Laundromat, Grayville Electric, a vacant
building, then Knight’s Dry Cleaning.
Next door is Skiles’ Radio and TV Sales and Service connected by a
doorway to the large two story Skiles Auto Dealership building on the
corner. Orville Cooper owns an auto repair shop in the rear of the Skiles
building on Middle Street adjacent to the alley.
Across Middle Street and next to the
alley, is a newer building housing Dr. Wilson’s Dental Office, and the Law
Office of Attorney, Joseph Scott.
On the southwest corner of North and Middle Street is a Cities
Service Station; to the west is the Wabash Theater with its beautiful
marquee, an empty lot, and Richards’ Furniture Store in a two story brick
building. The new Moose Lodge
is next door and across the alley stands the office of Grayville’s newspaper
“The Mercury – Independent”. Back at the four way stop is Luke Taylor’s Ice Cream Shop and
Rudolph’s vintage D-X Service
Station. To the south is the
Coad and Groff Garage and Clyde Mason’s Oil Well Service. Across the highway and occupying the ground floor of a two
story white house on the corner is Wells’ Restaurant. With my mental walk around downtown Grayville on the evening
of May 18, 1961 complete, I’m back in the projection room. The warning bell
on projector number two just sounded, guess I had better strike the lamp
house arc and get ready for the changeover on reel three.
Well, now I‘ve returned from that time warp of some forty plus light years
Perhaps someone will spot some errors in my memory trip or have some
embellishments to add.
If so, I would appreciate hearing from you. Unless we take the time to put
those memorable bookmarks in writing, another portion of Grayville history
will be lost and forgotten.
There were other businesses outside the four-block area that I just toured.
In 1961, seven neighborhood grocery stores were still in business, there
were two lumber yards, seven or eight churches, nine service stations, a
number of oilfield service and supply firms, trucking firms, farm supply,
feed stores, welding firms, etc.
As I walked through the deserted downtown one evening last November,
remembering what it was like so many years ago; a poem came to mind that my
dad, the late Art Werzner, used to recite when business was slow.
“There’ll be some splash in the old Wabash, when Grayville come alive.
Some say she’s dead to stay, but she’ll come alive some day.
And there’ll be some splash in the old Wabash when Grayville comes alive!”
Top Of Page