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Picturing the Past 51: Williams Grocery

Posted Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at 10:12 AM

Williams Northeast Corner Grocery in 1933. (Photos submitted)
Thanks to a contributor for these 1933 photos of Williams Northeast Corner Grocery, which I'm under the impression (based on what I've heard others say over the years) was on North Main Street just off the Shelbyville square in a location where today there's only a foundation of a building and the remains of the basement. Seems like I remember seeing the side of the building in the middle photo bordering Holland Street and painted white. Feel free to correct me or clarify any of this.

The back of the top photo reads "Lillard Stephens (Banks) A.B. Jennings." The guy in the middle is listed as Banks Stephens in a photo below. Hopefully some of you can straighten us out on who's who.

Of note are washboards on special for 22 cents each and sorghum molasses for 40 cents per half gallon or 75 cents a gallon. Those were the days -- and apparently pretty rough days economically. Note the NRA sign in the window -- for National Recovery Administration.


Here's Ben Phillips, listed as a salesman, along with Banks Stephens.


And this is Mildred Hummel, who I'm assuming was a customer.

Am I slightly off-location in thinking this building housed a drug store in the 1970s? Also: I noticed while Photoshopping the top photo that the storefronts looked a lot like those still remaining on South Main across from the library. Did North Main and South Main look similar in those days?

Picturing the Past is featured each Tuesday in this blog. Reader contributions are welcome.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Before my time, but I do remember a drugstore on the corner of N. Main, and Holland Street. I think that it was Taylor's. Another interesting photograph, David.

-- Posted by cookie on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 11:26 AM

Wow! Three great pictures from days gone by. This was before my time so I can not add anything to this blog I am afraid.

One thing that I noticed is that the two second floor windows a few doors down on North Main are identical to the windows in a picture that you posted from the 1934 riots.

Also, are my eyes deceiving me, or does the reflection in the storefront window depict cars parked on the square? I can not make out the Court House in the photo.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 11:41 AM

Interesting observation, leeiii. On second glance I'm also seeing what appear to be cars -- and, just to the left of the doorway at far right, someone walking toward the store. And look behind and just to the right of A.B. Jennings. Is that someone walking toward the store with a basket -- or a reflection of the man in front of Jennings?

-- Posted by David Melson on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 11:55 AM

David, Yes I agree with you. I can see both men that you are speaking of.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 12:02 PM

Also, That is an interesting old Coca-Cola drink cooler in the picture with the shallow tub that featured drinks standing up in cool water. I have not seen one like that in a long time.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 12:06 PM

This store was owned by John Enoch Williams until his death in 1913 , then his son Eustace Williams operated this store as well as the wholesale store on Holland street until 1975. The store was listed as 200 North Main,so I don't know where that is in today's world, but it seems to me that it was the corner store on Main & Holland. The wholesale store was East on Holland a block or so on the left and had a loading dock facing Holland.Banks was the black man in front and he worked there at least in the late '50s.There was a freight elevator to the back left side that we loved riding on.Some old Rotarians may remember Mr. Williams for his many years of not missing a meeting.I never saw him without a big cigar in his mouth.

-- Posted by Cal t on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 1:03 PM

The reflection of a person on Banks left elbow is my dad who took the pic. He worked there also and has the apron on just like Banks. The other person I can't identify ,but it could be Mrs. Hummel coming to shop. I can't imagine them spending too much time out front playing with a camera with work to do.Those were rough days and the work ethic was go until you drop.

-- Posted by Cal t on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 1:22 PM

Thanks Cal t for the accurate info. When it's part of your family, it's authentic information. Mr. Williams's retail business was on the corner. Following the Williams grocery being there it was "Shug" Taylor's drug store (for a number of years) and after some interval, most recently a thrift/antique/etc. shop run by Dale Cleek--until the building was razed a couple of years ago.

Someone mentioned that the facades of the buildings in this photo looked like those in a photo taken during the 1934 Courthouse riot and fire. That's true also. There's a photo of a man driving a wagon down N. Main in front of these stores during the turmoil of the melee. The picture is one of the series published in the 1969 Sesquicentennial Edition, and other places as well.

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 2:36 PM

I'm having a senior moment on that 1975 date I gave earlier,because I think the grocery was sold maybe in the '60s. My time in the service came along about then so I will accept any date that others may come up with.I spent lots of time across the street at Mr. Bracey's hardware store , so 1975 might be the wholesale store only.Just think about it.Some young person should make a project of taking pics and gathering info so they will be able to talk about Shelbyville history 40 years from now when we are gone.

-- Posted by Cal t on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 3:50 PM

To answer the South Main question, First National was on the corner and went back to the alley then there were several small buildings across from the old Post Office. At 111 South Main was Cobb Realty, and at 117 South Main was Payne & Cartwright Insurance. Seems to me that it went right into homes after that. This was in 1960.

-- Posted by Cal t on Tue, Mar 9, 2010, at 8:05 PM

Cal t, You have knocked the dust off the old memory cells. It seems to me that I remember Payne and Cartwright being in the Carney building which sat on the NE corner of the intersection of McGrew and South Main. I also seem to remember that the Main Street Church of Christ sat on the SE corner of that intersection. I also seem to remember that Dr. Methvin and his partner (maybe a Dr. Carter) had their clinic somewhere in that general area, a little further South on South Main, and the Earl Locke home across from the Shelbyville Water and Power building. Wow, this is fun.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Mar 10, 2010, at 7:36 AM

The Carney Bldg. is still standing and sits across the street from the current Argie Cooper Library is one of the oldest building in Shelbyville. At least part of it served as an infirmary. H.B. Cowan has his insurance offices there for many years and a postcard, circa 1908 has a law firm named printed in one window.

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Wed, Mar 10, 2010, at 8:43 AM

David, you mentioned the reflection in the store window and there also looks to be something else besides cars toward the court house, so I was looking in the Bedford County Tennessee book by Dick Poplin, and inside the front cover a pic of court house and look toward the Dixie at that white fenced in thing. I think I see the same thing in the reflection.

-- Posted by Cal t on Thu, Mar 11, 2010, at 8:11 PM

On page 5 is a list of the Historical Society charter members, and Charles Hummel is listed, so he may be related to the lady at the store. I've heard the names before but can't place them.

-- Posted by Cal t on Thu, Mar 11, 2010, at 8:18 PM

Either Charlie's daughter or his grandaughter has responded on these blogs before, so maybe she will chime in and give us an answer.

-- Posted by leeiii on Thu, Mar 11, 2010, at 8:44 PM

I remember Bank very well. He drove the delivery truck when I was a kid. He was very short and sat on a box to drive. I will always remember his smile and how good he was to us young folks

-- Posted by Black Swan on Mon, Mar 22, 2010, at 8:51 PM

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