Written by Tuffy Fields
In 1987, Farmerville celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding. This celebration depicted what a small town can do when it pulls together as a unified community.
It is hard to believe that in two years, we will celebrate Farmerville at 175. The 125th celebration began with the Centenary Choir providing a concert at the Farmerville gym and ended four days later with the old south ball. One of the artifacts left behind from the celebration was the souvenir program. I pulled it out this week and took a look at the advertisements and began to think about the local businesses that no longer exist and smiled as I saw common names that have become icons to the community. Here are a few:
- Union Motors, owned by L. C. Allen. Union Motors was across the side street from Preaus Motors and now houses Bumper to Bumper. It has changed hands and name and is still a viable part of our community. It is located today on the Sterlington highway and has just gone through a large renovation.
- No owner was identified for City Drug, but anyone native to Farmerville knows that Stein Baughman, Sr., father of current Farmerville Mayor Stein Baughman, Jr., built one of the most successful pharmacies in the state. It was on Main Street and is no longer an active business. The building is currently owned by Wade Trucking but is vacant. There have been discussions recently turning this into a parking lot.
- Town of Bernice, Van Salley mayor. Bernice is still there and while Mayor Salley is no longer with us, Bill Mitchem has proven to be an accomplished leader for that community. Bernice has gone through the same transition as communities across the country. Its high school was closed first, followed by the elementary and junior high, changes brought about closed amid cost cutting. Students now attend Union Parish Elementary and High School in Farmerville.
- Dr. W. O. Roberts. “Billy Roberts” was the local Farmerville dentist. His office, located on Bayou Street, is still standing and has had several owners and businesses.
- Mr. and Mrs. Chester Reid. We lost Mrs. Reid several years ago. She was foremost a math and physics teacher. Following her death we lost her son Randy. Randy was a sophomore at Farmerville High School when the celebration took place.
- Grafton’s Variety Store – This was located on Main Street next to City Drug. The demise of these home owned five-and-dime stores began with the introduction of chain department stores into the small communities. For Farmerville this was Ben Franklin followed by Gibson’s and then Walmart.
- Don’s Food – Don Mashaw purchased the McMurrian Grocery Store, which was located on the corner of North Washington and Bayou Street next to what is now the Earl Law Firm. Don moved his grocery from this location to the Mid City Shopping Center where it was located at the time of the Farmerville anniversary. Don’s Foods is now the location for Big Star.
- Robbie A. Sims Co. – Robbie had his business located at this home on Sims Road. He built the Lake D’Arbonne Spillway as well as other large heavy-industry projects around the south. His home is still there. His equipment storage area is now Eastside Hills Apartments.
- Phillips’ Gulf Service Station – Ed Phillips had his Gulf station on Main Street next to Selig and Baughman Department Store. Eventually the Chevron Oil Company bought Gulf Oil and changed the names of the stations to Chevron. Ed eventually quit the business, and Hill Oil rebuilt the Gulf station. The Chevron station is operating today where the original Gulf station stood on the corner of Water Street and Main Street.
- Read Lumber and Supply – One of the few advertisers of 50 years ago that remains unchanged is Read Lumber and Supply. This has become an enduring part of our community and is at the same location it was when the advertisement was placed. It has remained in the Read family for decades and proves that a family-owned business can remain viable even with the bombardments of multiple chains of similar businesses.
- Hester’s Piggly Wiggly – This was one of a couple of the main “mom and pop” grocery stores in Farmerville that advertised in the program. It was owned by Layton and Susie May Hester. Like many of the grocery stores of the day, a person could walk through the doors and was immediately met with the smell of fresh that was on sale. Fresh vegetables, mixed with warm greetings from the owners, was a welcoming experience for shoppers. It was located on Main Street across the street from the bank next to the Hampton Law Office.
- Our final advertiser is The Gazette. It was listed as the “official printers of this program book.” The paper remains the only newspaper in Farmerville, has gone through several ownerships but remains an icon of the community and is located in the same vicinity that was at the time of the celebration.