By David Tuma, Publisher
Stewart Drug Store was once on the corner of Main and Central Ave. Didn’t know that, did you? Well maybe you remember that because the unique thing about Belton is how many generations of Texans still live here.
A couple weeks back, a pair of older men were on the corner of Central and Main Street. Joe Smith used to run Red and White Grocery on Main Street years ago. Smith and his best friend James (Jimmy) Hannon met to talk about what businesses used to be in all the old buildings downtown.
They had only been talking about doing this for 15 years. They agreed to meet with me the very next week same time, same location.
Hannon was a postal carrier who walked 16 miles a day delivering mail. They had those lock boxes (four or five) on the route. No way Hannon could have carried 16 miles of mail.
Coffee was a nickel at Clemons Drug Store. That was where Sarsaparilla Saloon & Cafe is today. If you look at the bottom of the wall in front of the building you can still see where they double doors used to be. They tile on the floor is still original. Had one of the best soda fountains around. Next to Clemons was Perry Brothers.
Avenue Café was where Main Street Bridal is today. Businesses men meet at 5am there each morning. Anderson Bail Bonds was a book store and next that was a cleaners. There was also a dress shop on that strip of Main Street. Neither of the old timers could remember exactly which building the dress shop was.
Alexander’s Barber Shop was on the far corner of that part of Main Street where Fine Lines used to be.
“You could get six hamburgers for a quarter at the Hamburger King. If you had a quarter,” said Smith.
First National Bank was across from McWha Book Store. There was once a hatchery downtown near where Potts Hardware and Tulluch Plumbing used to be. Where Vintage Days is today, there was a furniture store. Smith remembered that there was a basement in that building, and there is.
Smith’s mother worked at Max Newman, a store on that street. There was several small grocery stores on that strip across from Vintage Days. “When we went into the grocery business there 19 food stores. We delivered but that ended in the 1960’s. Now they start delivering again. We ran two trucks every day Mon-Sat,” said Smith.
Hood Theater was next to where Scb Fashions is today. And yes that street had two theaters. James Grocery was where Perry’s is today. White Auto was where the Salon at Green Briar is. The Jail Ministry was a cleaners. AT&T had a switch board operation where Debra Taylor’s office used to be on East Street. Taggart Grocery was where the parking lot is today near Jones’ Home and Auto.
Arusha’s building was a plumbing store. They bent the pipe right in front of the counter where they serve the coffee. Smith showed the flooring where it had been repair. You jump on the spot and the floor gives a little. It is right under where the slices of pie are.
“I love these memories. Joe and I have been good friends for years. Our mothers were friends,” said Hannon. “I don’t have a memory of life without Joe in it. My parents moved into town in the 1940’s.”
Both men are close to 80.
“Let me tell you our history class. I asked my dad about the recession. He said when I found out it was a depression I lived like that my whole life. Wasn’t much different than normal. Dad drove a bus and times where tough. We didn’t know much different,” said Smith.
“Joe and I have been friends our whole lives. We were in the boy scouts together. When I bought my wife her wedding ring she said Take me to Joe’s so I can Show them,” said Hannon. “In 1966, I bought a brand new car for $1,600.”
“Family and friends is the biggest difference from then and now. Family was what everything was based upon. It was that which carried us through the tough times. In today’s world of both parents working it makes that tough,” said Smith.
He remember one time there was a report of Taggart’s and Smith’s grocery trucks drag racing down 13th Street. They both attend First United Methodist Church and love to play dominoes’ 42.
“We don’t look at our phone all the time,” said the both of them.
They were downtown because both of their wives were attending a wedding in Waco.