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Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

Picturing the Past 35: Rebel Maid again

Posted Tuesday, November 17, 2009, at 12:21 PM

(Photo)
The Rebel Maid restaurant on Madison Street from July 3, 1952. (T-G file photo)
This week it's back to the Rebel Maid, the second photo I've used of the well-remembered 1950s eatery, but with a very different view from the earlier one, showing it after storm damage in 1959.

Here's the Maid from July 3, 1952, complete with a small cart next to the building.

Even the parking lot looks different from the later 1950s views we've posted. How long had the Rebel Maid been open at this point?


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Wow David, You threw me for a loop on this one. I only have one more picture of the Rebel Maid that was made in March of 1959, and this one makes two. So I am scrambling to see if I have missed one that you had posted before.

This picture brings back a lot of memories and helps me to establish exactly when I worked there pushing one of those ice cream carts that is shown by the side of the building. If my memory serves me correctly Chick only did the ice cream carts for one year, so the time I worked there must have been either 1951 or 1952. I am basing that on the fact that the cart is beside the building instead of either being out on the route or being directly behind the building where we loaded our carts before going out.

As to the question of how long it had been open at this point. It had been open long enough for the front area to be enclosed in glass, and for an appendage to be added on to the back for a kitchen and storage area. steadyeddie might be able to give us some insight as to when it was opened. When it first opened there was only two small windows almost directly under the dormers where you could walk up and place your order for soft serve ice cream. My best guess is that it would have been in the late '40s when it opened.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Nov 17, 2009, at 11:04 AM

You're right, leeiii, this is actually only the second photo I've used of the Rebel Maid. I corrected the blog accordingly, and thanks for pointing that out.

I think I was getting it mixed up in my mind with a mid-1960s photo I have of the Rebel Maid's successor, the Plantation Restaurant.

-- Posted by David Melson on Tue, Nov 17, 2009, at 12:23 PM

You're about right, leeiii. The original Rebel Maid with the two little windows would have opened in the '48 or '49 time frame. For the life of me I cannot recall the little ice cream carts y'all have talked about. They must not have pushed those carts down my side of North Main.

-- Posted by steadyeddie on Tue, Nov 17, 2009, at 12:27 PM

steadyeddie, My route ran up Madison to Deery, then up Deery to Depot/Wartrace Pike/Belmont, then out Belmont to Walnut, all the streets on the East Side, back to Thompson, then down Thompson to Highland Court, then all over the Fairgrounds and back to Thompson, down Thompson to East Lane, East Lane to Whitthorne, down Whitthorne to Madison and across it, then all of the streets back to the Rebel maid (Calhoun, Evans, Vandy, Hoover, King, Alton, other side of Deery). I am not sure where the other two routes ran except that I know one ran the South Side area.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Nov 17, 2009, at 1:25 PM

Oh,I remember the Rebel Maid so well!

(It never was *quite* the same after it went "Mod".

The place that was reminiscent of the Partridge family bus was great but the Rebel Maid (like the Saddle,Stirrup,Pope's,etc.) was meant to be cozy and quaint with a hometown diner feel that went with cherry Cokes.

Their "slicker" successors (Hobble House,Huddle House,Mr. Burger et al) acquired some of the feel that went with a breakfast crew,real milkshakes and meat n' threes but wasn't quite the same.

Even these lost some of the vintage feel as quick trips through franchise drive-thrus took their place.

Now,this kind of place is being popularized again as a sort of retro phenomenon.

I wonder what memories we'll have of today's establishments a half century from now.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Tue, Nov 17, 2009, at 2:36 PM

Was the Rebel Maid originally a house?

-- Posted by reilly on Tue, Nov 17, 2009, at 6:00 PM

reilly, No it was kind of a two window walk-up Dairy Dip, but it was erected on a lot where a house had previously been.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Nov 17, 2009, at 6:51 PM

leeii, You had one heck of a route. Did you walk and push the cart, or was it pulled by a bicycle? How many carts were there?

-- Posted by cookie on Tue, Nov 17, 2009, at 7:03 PM

cookie, We walked and pushed the cart. It was on bicycle wheels. If I remember correctly, there were three carts.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Nov 17, 2009, at 8:16 PM

leeiii....you have me completely fascinated with this push cart business. Don't know why I never observed this action. What kind of stuff was in your cart? Popsicles? Soft serve in a Dixie Cup? Drumsticks? What was the going price? Nickel or dime? Did you ever get held up? How many hours would your push? Was your cart approved by the Department of Public Health?...NO wonder our business was slow at the soda fountain...everybody was buying from your cart!

-- Posted by steadyeddie on Wed, Nov 18, 2009, at 12:54 AM

steadyeddie, First of all, no, it never did really catch on in Shelbyville. I think that it only lasted one Summer. We never did develop a following of kids buying ice cream.

As best as I can remember I think that we had cups (Dixie cups) of ice cream, sherbert cups, brown cow popsicles, fudgesicles, orange sherbert with an ice cream center, two stick popsicles, cups of ice cream with fruit (strawberry, pineapple, chocolate) in the bottom which was always frozen so hard that all of the ice cream was gone before you could ever get any of it out to eat. It is possible that we had ice cream sandwiches, I am not sure. I also do not remember drumsticks or frozen bananas. It seems to me that everything was a nickle except maybe the ice cream with fruit in the bottom ('50s parfait).

No, I was never held up except for having to deal with a few bullies that tried to take ice cream away from you. Neither do I remember ever seeing a Health Department Certificate, and I would think that it would have to be prominently displayed on the cart.

As for hours, I do not know, we just ran our route until we finished or sold out. I can never remember selling out. Also, I do not remember getting wealthy that Summer. Maybe I ate up all of my profit.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Nov 18, 2009, at 7:06 AM

Does anyone remember the pinball machine in the Rebel Maid that " Paid Off"

-- Posted by FlaDon on Wed, Nov 18, 2009, at 12:04 PM

LOL! Was that the Rebel Maid? I thought that it was the bowling alley, or one of the service stations, among many other places.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Nov 18, 2009, at 12:08 PM

One Sunday when I was running Radio Station WHAL Gilbert Barnes came in the Studio and asked if I could help him "Beat the Machine"... I wound him an electromagnet and wired it up his sleeve to a battery and switch in his pocket...He was to go to the Rebel Maid and lift the balls with the magnet and drop them into the right holes...Soon he came back with his winnings and I told him to lay low for a while...Later he came back and had been caught and had to give the winnings back....

-- Posted by FlaDon on Wed, Nov 18, 2009, at 12:55 PM

FlaDon, Wow, I had not thought about Gilbert in years. I wonder if he is still alive and where he might be.

Your electromagnet was just one of many schemes that was used to beat "the machine". Many never got caught that I know off.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Nov 18, 2009, at 2:22 PM

Last I heard about Gilbert Barnes he was living in Las Vegas and that was many years ago. I remember Thomas Yancey playing the pinball machine and making a lot of noise hitting the machine to bounce the balls.

-- Posted by Grits on Wed, Nov 18, 2009, at 3:32 PM

PS I know Thomas made a lot of noise because I was usually sitting there waiting for him to finish, so I could play the machine.

-- Posted by Grits on Fri, Nov 20, 2009, at 2:36 PM

If you were waiting on Thomas to get through I will bet that you usually had to wait a long time.

-- Posted by leeiii on Fri, Nov 20, 2009, at 2:48 PM

In the days of the Roman Empire it was said that "All roads lead to Rome", and that was true for the most part. It was also true in the 1950's that "all roads in Shelbyville led to the Rebel Maid", at least all the roads that were important to the younger generation, such as Madison, North Main, Elm. If you wanted to see who was in town on a given night, just cool it at "The Maid" for a while, or run up town and park on the square for a few minutes. Unless they were kicked back at the Drive-In, they would probably be seen at one of those locations pretty shortly, if they were in town.

The time that I spent there was most enjoyable. I don't recall, as it relates to me, a single negative thing about The Maid. I can only recall one instance of a disagreement between two parties in the whole time that I was in and out of there, and it didn't even come close to blows. Of course I wasn't there all the time, so I possibly missed an altercation or two. But all in all, I think it could be described as a wholesome place for the youngsters of the day to congregate, and I offer a salute to the memory of management and staff for making it so.

On one occasion, while at the Rebel Maid, I observed a situation that will always be fresh in my mind, due to the nature of it. The names of those involved I won't divulge, and will only say that as far as I know all participants are now deceased.

On this occasion a car came down North Main St. from the direction of Edgemont, and turned right onto Elm St., followed closely by two police cars, two policemen in each car, no flashing lights. After rounding the corner the cars all stopped and the policemen all got out and one of them opened the driver side door and a second one reached into the car and began to drag the driver out by force. I wasn't within earshot, so can't say if they asked him to get out before using force to remove him. What I can say is this, as soon as his head was exposed outside the car,nightsticks started banging on it like it was a set of drums. He came out swinging, and without knowing the whole story, I have to say who could blame him. I guess this went on for at least a minute and a half before they finally shoved him into the back of a police car. I was later told that he was drunk and beligerent and had to be subdued by force. Four medium to large policeman vs one medium size drunk with no weapon in sight, and he has to be beaten like you're killing a snake? Well, OK.

In retrospect, I suppose the Rebel Maid could be considered a microcosm of life, with opportunities to spend time with friends, make new acquaintances and learn to interact with others, generally, such as Mrs.Pass, Buck's mother, and "Skillet", and others who worked there whose names escape me at the moment, and probably forever,given the feeble state of my mind.

Again, thanks to all involved in making my memories of the Rebel Maid some of the fondest memories of my life.

And thanks again, David, for continuing to stir the pot of old memories, many of which have been dormant for a half century or more.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Mon, Nov 23, 2009, at 1:29 PM

ilikeoldsongs, You always stir my memories. You have made three things come to mind.

RUMBLE! Somewhere in the '50s there was a rumor that a group of people were coming from Murfreesboro to rumble with the folks from Shelbyville, and it was supposed to happen at the Rebel Maid. I can remember that the parking lot was full all night that night but the group from Murfreesboro never did show up. Chick's business was better than ever that night. Hmmm! I wonder who started that rumor.

SAPS! A piece of lead covered with leather used for the purpose of getting one's attention or in some cases subduing a rowdy.

MRS. PASS! I had completely forgotten about her. She was always one of my favorites.

And yes David thanks again for helping to revive the memories. Now after 35 weeks, I hope that we are just beginning.

-- Posted by leeiii on Mon, Nov 23, 2009, at 2:49 PM


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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.