Montevallo was once a walkable community

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The idea of neighborhood centers and walkable communities proposed in the new Shelby County subdivision regulations is intriguing and brings up memories of many of the little communities common in the mid 20th century.

J.A. Brown, who grew up in Montevallo, recently remarked, &8220;Montevallo comes to mind when you hear of the plans. That would be the Montevallo of the 1930s and 40s, when there was a close community spirit and you could buy nearly everything you needed here in town.&8221;

The recapturing of the essence of that good life seems to be the county&8217;s goal.

During those years of the 1930s and 40s, in just one block of Main Street, between Shelby and Middle Streets, there were three grocery stores, three clothing stores, two barber shops, two beauty shops, a watch repair shop, one restaurant, one dime-store, two drug stores, two dentists, a doctor&8217;s office, a bank, an insurance office, a Railway Express office, an electric utility office, the telephone operator&8217;s office, a church, a photographer and a theatre.

Those people who came in and out of the businesses were friends and knew all about each other; the good things and the bad.

In that block, the grocery stores were McCulley&8217;s, Holcombe&8217;s and Jeter Mercantile.

Klotzman&8217;s, Hoffman&8217;s and the Little Shop sold clothing.

Red Mahan and George Kendrick were the barbers.

The beauty shops were Ethel Mahan&8217;s and the Modern Beauty Shop.

P. D. D. Pendleton had a little shop for watch repairs nestled between Klotzman&8217;s and the Little Shop.

Billy Rotenberry&8217;s parents offered wonderful &8220;meat and three&8221; every day at the Plaza Grill.

Laura Hicks operated Hicks&8217; Ben Franklin Store.

The drug stores were Montevallo Drug and Wilson Drug.

There were dentists Dr. Milton Orr and Dr. Mitchell and Drs. Givhan or Bridges. Merchants and Planters Bank occupied an important spot on Main Street.

Sassie and Pete Givhan sold most kinds of insurance.

The Rogan family owned Rogan Furniture and Hardware and ran the express office. Alabama Power was across the street and just a little further down the street, Bea Fancher handled every telephone call made in the town.

Rakes Studio was the photography shop.

The Baptist Church on the corner played a very important role in the lives of the citizens.

The most popular place in town was the Strand Theatre.

Their banner claimed &8220;The Coolest Place in Town.&8221;

There were five different movies shown every week with a double-feature cowboy movie on Saturdays.

Admission was ten and twenty-five cents and popcorn only a dime.

So, in that single block one could find just about all they needed; even a 16-year education was within three blocks.

The requirements of a lifetime, from a doctor&8217;s assistance with the birth of a baby to taking care of the remains at the time of death.

The Rogans and the Jeters offered embalming services and sold caskets in their stores.

Marie Fancher recently boasted, &8220;I&8217;ve lived in Montevallo for more than 60 years and loved every minute of it!

My only concern is that now you can&8217;t buy the things you need here in town.&8221;

Everyone is looking for that &8220;good life&8221; and that&8217;s what planning is all about.

The challenge for the county planners today seems to be to duplicate the self-sufficiency and to enhance the neighborliness and community spirit that was found long ago in towns like Montevallo

Catherine Legg can be reached