Covington’s days gone by
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.