Mary Williams recently reached out to me to share her childhood memories of Meigs. I am always grateful for local history, from the people who lived it, and for many of our smallest towns, it’s all we have. Mary writes: My grandparents [Jerry and Verona Davis] lived in Meigs all of their lives, and my great-grandparents before them. I have so many fond memories of the town. It is unfortunate that it is almost gone now. My great-grandparents built their home on the corner of old US 19 now called Church Street, and the main road thru town now called Depot street. My great-grandmother had a beautiful yard with lots of flowers. Folks going to Florida would often stop and ask her about the flowers. My great-grandmother came from a farming family who had been in the area since the late 1700s. Her husband was not a farmer, so her father gave them land in town when they married. They always had chickens and a cow and a large garden, but no farm. My grandparents built their house next door-just to the east of my great-grandparents. My great-grandparents originally owned the whole lot bordered by Mill Street, Depot Street, Church Street, and what is now East Marshall Street. They sold the back corner-on the corner of East Marshall and Mill street-to my Grandfather’s uncle, who built a house and barn on the lots. Eventually, they sold off the other two corner lots.
The drugstore in your pictures was never the bus station. It was always a drugstore. Mims Aultman was the pharmacist, and Mable Aultman was his wife. Their son, Mims, Jr. became a physician, and was career military. He never came back to Meigs to live. They built the drugstore and lived just next door on the north side. Behind the drugstore there use to be an old Quonset hut that was open on both ends, and black ladies would take in washing in there. I guess they washed by hand, because I don’t remember any washing machines-just tubs and lines of laundry hanging to dry, and the smell of clean soap. There were two coton gins in Meigs then, and when they were ginning cotton they would line the bales up in front of my great-grandparents’ house and on down that road to the east, until they could get loaded on the train. We loved to play around the bales. That was also where the big carriers for the new Fords would park to unload cars for the Ford place. Across from the gin on the corner of Depot street and Mill Street there was a peanut drying station. Across old US 19 from the drugstore was the Ford place, and across the street from the Ford place on the other corner was a gas station-so the four corners of US 19 as it went thru Meigs were occupied by Aultman’s drugstore, the Ford place, Gasset’s service station, and my Great-grandparents’ house. Next door to the gas station running west on that side of the road was Buck’s Jewelry store, Leon Banks’ Barber shop, Ms. Laws Cafe, Hewell’s dry goods, the hardware store, the dime store, Bolton’s Drug store with Uncle Leo’s law office behind it on the alley. A small walking alley, the post office, the beauty shop, and the Snack shack. Across the street from the Snack Shack going west was the small police station sitting in the middle of the parking lot for the train depot, and then the train tracks and the city hall-which included the jail and waterworks. Going down the other side of the street from the depot to the drugstore was the store you have a picture of that when I was a child, was a grocery owned by my cousin, Dan King. then there was a walking alley, and the next building was the Bank with Dr. Izlar’s office above it. At one point, the operator for the telephone company was also upstairs. Then there was Wurst’s grocery, and another grocery, but I don’t remember the name, then the Ford Place. The farmers would bring their fresh produce to town, and I remember watermelons stacked on the sidewalk outside the stores. The old men sat on benches and watched everyone going up and down the street. They chewed tobacco, and if you were a barefoot child you had to be careful of where you stepped because they spit on the sidewalk.There were apartments upstairs over the stores, but I never knew anyone who lived there. Going back to the depot and the street that ran south to north from Dan’s grocery, there was a furniture store. I think it was Dasher’s. The back of the furniture store was open to the grocery. Next to that was the movie theater-until it burned and was not rebuilt, and then the pool hall and the icehouse. The pool hall was across from an open storage area for things that came in or were going out on the train, and I could always find my Uncle Leon under that shelter playing checkers. At the end of that street was the sawmill.
When I was a child the garbage was picked up in a mule-drawn wagon. The driver was a mentally-challenged man named Maurice. The mule would stop and Maurice would get off the wagon, empty the garbage can into the back of it, and get back on the wagon and the mule would go to the next stop. The mule knew the route, and it gave Maurice a job. I don’t know what happened when the mule died.
One of the cotton gins was down from my grandparent’s house on the corner of what is now Mill Street. The teenage sons of the Cotton gin’s owner set up a hamburger stand during ginning season, and that was the first hamburger I had ever eaten-no fast-food chains at that time.
There were two churches in downtown Meigs when I was a child-the Methodist and the Baptist. The Methodist church didn’t have services every week, so when they didn’t have services all the Methodists went to the Baptist church. The Methodist church had a great organist who practiced every afternoon, and would play hymns on the chimes that you could hear all over town. During Christmas time he would play carols. On Sundays he would start in the morning. When the Methodist church burned they didn’t rebuild. It was located on US 19 just south of downtown. Between it and the main street was another gas station on the west side of the road, and that was where the bus station was located. So you had Gasset’s gas station and going south there was an alley that ran behind the south side of the main street, a boarding house, and then the gas station where the bus station was located, a street, and then the Methodist Church.
My grandfather was the Day policeman in Meigs from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. That meant he was also the fireman, the dogcatcher, the meter reader, the jailer, and in charge of water works. It was a wonderful place for us as children to visit. On Saturday nights in the spring and summer my grandfather would close the street downtown so that the kids could skate. During vacation Bible school-which lasted two weeks in Meigs at that time-the kick- off would be a parade through town, and my grandfather would crank up the old fire engine to lead the parade. The theater would have new movies every week, and as children we saw them all. I can still see my grandfather leaning against the back wall of the theater checking on us. Meigs was a vibrant, active town, full of sweet people. I hate to go by now and see the changes. My great-grandparents house burned, and there are now mini warehouses on that lot. I prefer to remember it as it was.