Weldon Grocery still stands — for now

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Many of Shelby County’s residents can still remember sitting at the ice cream counter of The Weldon Grocery Store in Chelsea.

For now, the old general store building is still there. The simple two-story frame structure, typical of rural Alabama buildings of the era, has been a focal point for artists and photographers desiring to add a bit of nostalgia to their work.

George Washington Weldon built the store in 1915. Weldon didn’t learn to read and write until the age of 21, going back to school for that very purpose in order to open the store.

The original store burned, and Weldon, having been in the sawmill business previously and having access to lumber, chose to rebuild the store with wood.

The result was a typical small-town general store.

At a time when life moved at a slower pace, the store became the local gathering spot.

Weldon’s daughter, Velarie, succeeded him in running the store, operating the grocery until she retired in 1979. People still talk about the pictures of movie stars that hung in the store while she was there.

There were pictures of Dale Evans, Roy Rogers, Bing Crosby, Elizabeth Taylor, and Janet Leigh, just to name a few.

These photos were brought to the store and hung by the route man for the Wideman Ice Company in Sylacauga, who brought the store’s ice cream. Children could save the lids to their ice cream cups and, when they had 10 lids, they could trade them in for a picture of a movie star.

The route man hung the pictures in the Weldon’s store to help the children decide which picture they wanted when they traded in their tops.

Velarie Weldon had many opportunities to sell the pictures, but she passed on every one of them, suggesting the buyer would store them away and she wanted the pictures out where they could be admired.

The future of The Weldon General Store building is not certain, as there are plans to straighten Shelby County 39. The building sits directly in the way of the proposed redirection of traffic.

Mayor Earl Niven said the building will eventually have to be torn down. Hopefully, it will be removed to another location and rebuilt exactly as it stands now.

In the meantime, it’s nice to turn off the congested lanes of U.S. 280 and drive past the old general store, adorned by a large American flag, and think about that time when life moved at a slower pace.

Catherine Cousins writes a weekly column about the history of our county. Have an interesting historic topic? You can reach Cousins by e–mail at info@catherinecousins.com.