July: 50 Years Ago

 In WKDK Road Trips

Since last week was the anniversary of the moon landing, this month’s Road Trip involves time travel back to July 1969 to see what was happening in Newberry when man first walked on the moon. (I forgot to get advanced permission to use the WKDK Retro Rocket this time, so just remind me to stop by last week to make the arrangements!) The information for this trip is provided by the 1969 Hill’s Newberry City Directory and The Newberry Observer.

We’re going to park our rocket in Memorial Square, because, with everything going on downtown, I don’t think anybody will notice. Highs today are expected to be in the low 90’s. Most of the businesses downtown are having summer clearance sales and the town is still buzzing about the return to Newberry of Brantlee Price who has just been named Miss South Carolina (1970). (Excited students from the College asked permission to break the lock on the bell tower to ring the Victory Bell for Brantlee.) The oak trees in Memorial Park are not nearly as big as they are in 2019. Parking here will allow us to save time (and change for the parking meters) and begin our tour on the Square in historic downtown Newberry. At first glance, the Square looks much as it does now, except that the streets are paved rather than brick and there are no ginkgo trees. The Old Court House (Community Hall) is occupied by the Ladies’ Lounge and the Newberry-Saluda Regional Library. The Old Post Office on Friend Street is in the process of being renovated to house the ever-expanding library. The only monuments on the Square are the Confederate monument (behind the Old Court House), the World War I Doughboy Statue and a 90 mm anti-aircraft gun which was used in World War II (both in the lower Square or Memorial Park). Don’t expect to find any operas in the Opera House. Instead, you will find City Hall, the City Police Office and the Newberry County Development Board. (At the corner of Nance Street is Whitaker Floor Company which is one our sponsors in the future!)

At the foot of the Square (west end), McKibben Street runs two blocks to the south where it ends at Boundary Street and one block to the north to Harrington Street where it ends in front of the Sheriff’s residence. Next door to it is the County Jail which was considered the “best jail in the state.” Looking up Main Street, the skyline is considerably different with the addition of Newberry Cotton Mills at the top of the hill.

The four story brick building was begun in 1883. Standing at the top of the hill on Main Street, looking toward the downtown, from our time-travelling perspective, the first impression is one of a thriving town with very few unoccupied buildings and even fewer vacant spaces. The residential, commercial and industrial areas flow together with little transition. To list every business on Main Street and beyond would make for a very boring Road Trip – besides there’s so much to see! Let’s start walking.

Opposite the end of Victory Street on the right are Wertz Music and Appliance (where many a band instrument was purchased) and Newberry Steam Laundry (stop in and welcome Mr. Jackson who just partnered with Mr. Youmans). On the right at the corner of McKibben Street is Newberry Drug Company with its beautiful soda counter. Across the street is the Firestone dealership. Cross McKibben Street. The store on the corner is a grocery operated by J. S. Hutchinson. The next building, occupied by Newberry Dry Goods, fronts on both Main and McKibben Streets. Called the “L” building, it was constructed around 1800 from pieces left over from the last wooden courthouse to stand on the Square. The offices and general merchandise stores of this block pale compared to the aroma of Curtis Bakery and the dark windows of the “Ten Fourteen Sports Club” and billiards room. Rounding out the block is The Square Grocery Store on the corner. Cross Nance Street.

The 1100 block is full of mercantile establishments, one vacant store and the burned out shell of the Wells’ Theater. (The marquee still declares: “Movies are your best entertainment.”) On the first corner is the M&J Store and next to the old theater is the Outlet Store, but the real stars of this block are Roses and McCrory’s. These stores have everything. (I swear I can still smell the popcorn all the way to 2019.) Looking across the Square at Boyce Street, the two bank buildings dominate the corner, State Building & Loan and South Carolina National. Caldwell Street facing the Square, has Bergen’s Men’s Store, Clary’s Men’s Clothing and Bergen’s Ladies’ Clothing. Looking across Caldwell in the other direction, the old Hotel (upstairs) is no longer in operation, but Summer Insurance Company occupies the corner.

The 1200 block is full of stores. There are three shoe stores: Robert Anderson’s (1202), Garner’s Shoes (1209) and Roy Anderson’s (1215). Roy Andeson has 360 pairs of ladies’ shoes on sale for $6.99. There are three drug stores: Central and Main Street and Scottie. There are a Home & Auto Store (1213) and a Sears Catalog Store (1211). There are three clothing stores: Tots to Teens (children’s), Crooner’s (men’s) and Carpenter’s (women’s). Peek into Carpenter’s at the southeast corner to see the old brass cage elevator and enjoy their half-off sale. When you get to the corner of College Street, look to the left. The County Court House is not visible from this point because the four-story Wiseman Hotel is in the way.

The 1300 block is nearly full too. The Newberry Bank Building (skyscraper) is the place to go for doctor’s and lawyer’s offices and insurance agents. On the south (right hand) side of the street are Rabin’s Shoes, Diana Shops, Southern Auto, The Fashion and Belk-Beard. Check out the “Weight and Fortune” scale in front of Southern Auto and the beautiful display windows at The Fashion (more shoes on sale). The north side of the street includes Turner & Taylor Jewelers, Black’s Radio & TV, Nichol’s Photography, J.J. Langford & Son Furniture, Chapman-Hawkins Hardware and The Dollar Store (not the same thing as the ones in 2019). (Stop by Nichol’s to see if Cynthia Martin can tint your grandparent’s wedding photo.) The last two buildings on the block were built of concrete block after the 1907 Fire. They have unusual stepped parapets across the front.

If you haven’t found that perfect gift yet, there are plenty more shops in the 1400 and 1500 blocks. On the right (south) side, there are Clamp’s Clothing, B.C. Moore & Son’s, Jim’s Jewelers, City Barber Shop and Purcell’s (some things don’t change). Moore’s is having a Summer White Sale and bath towels are 73¢. On the left side are (among other offices) Belle Dame Wigs, Frank Lominack’s Hardware, Lominack’s Hardware, Lominick’s Drug Store and People’s Book Store. The 1400 Block ends at Wilson Street.

With no break on the north side, the 1500 block begins. On the right-hand side are Jones’ Florist and Claussen’s Thrift Store, but these are all overshadowed by the big neon sign for Johnnie’s News & Do Nut Shop (home of incomparable donuts). Rounding out the left-hand side are Bergen’s Gifts and the Ritz Beauty Shop. Of course this last store is in front of the Ritz Theater. Maybe there’s an afternoon matinee showing. Featured this week is the 30th anniversary showing of “Gone with the Wind.”

If you’re lucky you might enjoy a Johnnie’s donut, too, during the intermission of this four hour film! Swing by Martin Street on the way back to see Newberry Junior High School. It’s a hot day in July, so a visit to Martin Street Beer Parlor may be in order. (I’m sure they’re used to time travelers by now.) Return to the Square in historic downtown Newberry, board the Retro Rocket and return to the year 2019!