Cov­ing­ton’s days gone by

The Covington News - - OPINION -

In years gone by, any­thing the heart de­sired could be found around our bustling square.

The late Louise Kitchens, who would be per­haps 100 now, pro­vides proof in “My Mem­o­ries of Cov­ing­ton as a Child,” writ­ten in 1980. My mom shared her copy with me.

Mrs. Kitchens and her hus­band Fred ran a gro­cery and meat mar­ket in a small build­ing that once stood be­hind the Ma­sonic Build­ing fac­ing Pace Street. Her ac­count cites his­tory as far back as 1900 when “fire de­stroyed all of the west side of the square,” she wrote, but it “was re­built very soon.”

There’s no timeline in her typed ac­count, and many of the named stores suc­ceeded each other in the same space. Her mem­o­ries may col­lide with oth­ers; even sib­lings re­call shared fam­ily life dif­fer­ently.

But this is about Louise Kitchens’ life in this town, a woman born, reared and mar­ried here, who helped run a busi­ness, who raised a fam­ily here and who par­tic­i­pated fully in the life of this com­mu­nity un­til her death. Mrs. Kitchens re­mem­bered there be­ing no paved streets, “not even around the square. There were hitch­ing posts for mules and horses. Peo­ple came to town in wag­ons, bug­gies and sur­reys. Only the wealthy could af­ford sur­reys.”…

“We bought ev­ery­thing we needed from Fowler Broth­ers Depart­ment Store and paid them once a year, as all farm­ers did.” Her fa­ther, J.W. Hooten, was the over­seer for Edd Martin, who farmed land where the New­ton County Li­brary and Chim­ney Park now stand. Fowler Broth­ers sold dry goods and gro­ceries and was on the cor­ner of Mon­ti­cello and Wash­ing­ton streets where Trea­sure Thai is. Depart­ment and dry-goods stores abounded through the years. There were Heard and Whites, Steven­son Call­away’s, fol­lowed by Pool’s, now Spires In­te­ri­ors; Co­hen’s, Belcher’s Gen­eral Mer­chan­dise, Di­etz Depart­ment Store where Cold­well Banker is now; Belk’s and stores owned by Men­dle Levin, Carl Ka­plan, E.H. Mob­ley and Joe Guinn, where Mrs. Kitchens bought vi­o­lin strings. She played at First Bap­tist Church and at the Strand Theatre on the west side of the Square where Ed Crudup and Ben Hen­drix have law of­fices.

When Mrs. Kitchens worked at Di­etz’s Depart­ment Store af­ter school and on Satur­days, stores stayed open un­til midnight or 1 a.m. “We were not al­lowed to sit down as long as peo­ple were com­ing in, even if it was midnight!” She made $2.50 per day.

Any­thing in gro­ceries or meat could be found around the square. Fowler Broth­ers sold gro­ceries, as well as dry goods. There were Bush’s Gro­cery and food stores run by W.G. Hays and Clarence Tay­lor. Wil­son Big­gers had a store where the Bank of Cov­ing­ton was, then on the west side of the square. Later it would be Franklin’s Gro­cery.

Ed Pierce ran a store where the Led­bet­ter law of­fice is now. Rogers, site of the Lula Build­ing, and a Pig­gly Wig­gly were chain stores. Dave Elling­ton ran a mar­ket that later be­came Craw­ford Gro­cery and Meat Mar­ket that, af­ter Mr. Craw­ford’s death, was run by Becky and Bill Cox from So­cial Cir­cle. Mrs. Kitchens’ hus­band Fred bought the mar­ket from them, and he and she op­er­ated it for 32 years be­hind the Ma­sonic build­ing.

There was once a seed com­pany where Sher­wood’s Flow­ers is, and Bird­sey Flour Co. was where Kut­ter’s Kage is. Broth­ers Carl and Al Aench­baker ran Aench­baker’s Bak­ery. There were two milliners and two “10 cent” stores, Robin­son’s and Harper’s, where a tea­room served lunch. There were two jewelry stores, sev­eral bar­ber shops and a dry cleaner’s be­hind Co­hen’s,. There were fur­ni­ture stores owned by R.E. Everitt, site of Jour­ney Church, and by Moody Sum­mers, later Wood-Dick­in­son where Church Street An­tiques is. Hard­ware stores in­cluded Piper Hard­ware, later King & Hicks, then May­field’s; and Nor­ris Hard­ware next to Co­hen’s. There were two soft-drink bot­tling com­pa­nies

Drug­stores were plen­ti­ful over the years: Brooks, owned by Court­ney Brooks and later Doc and Ge­or­gia Vin­ings, where the R&L Shop was, but now is McKibben Mu­sic; An­der­son’s, later Peo­ple’s; Pen­ning­ton’s next to the Bank of Cov­ing­ton, and City Phar­macy that started out next to the Strand The­ater but later moved to the Square Perk cor­ner where broth­ers Luke, Guy and Regi­nald Robin­son ran it. Guy was Irene Smith’s fa­ther. Phil Stone would later turn it back into City Phar­macy.

Mrs. Kitchens’ ac­count in­cludes hun­dreds of by­gone in­di­vid­u­als who would be fondly re­called by many to­day. One name I didn’t know was that of a Dr. Hop­kins, one-time mayor.

She wrote: “When Dr. Hop­kins was Mayor of Cov­ing­ton, he had all the trees around the square cut af­ter midnight so the Woman’s Club could not stop him. I think ev­ery­one in Cov­ing­ton will al­ways re­mem­ber this be­cause ev­ery­one was mad about it.”

I won­der if Dr. Hop­kins got a sec­ond term.

Bar­bara Mor­gan is a Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent with a back­ground in news­pa­per jour­nal­ism, state govern­ment and pol­i­tics. She can be reached at barbm2158@ gmail.com.

BAR­BARA MOR­GAN COLUM­NIST

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