Greenville native takes a look back at yesteryear

Published 5:52 pm Friday, April 16, 2010

WW II veteran John J. Guice’s recollections paint a portrait of Commerce St. and beyond “the way it was.”

“In 1920 my father opened his first general merchandise store in Liberty, three miles west of Greenville on Highway 10,” Guice said.

Like most country stores of its time, Tonto Guice (as the store was named) carried groceries, a little hardware, dry goods, gasoline and oil. There were three other stores in the community: Cheatham’s, Boutwell’s and Skinner’s.

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“Somebody made a joke about the stores. My father’s Guice’s (sometimes mispronounced ‘Juice’s’ where you could get ‘juiced,’ then next to Cheatham’s, where you got cheated, next to Boutwell’s, and when you were ‘about well,’ you could proceed to Skinner’s where you got ‘skinned.’ It was all in fun, of course,” Guice recalled.

He attended Walter O. Parmer Grammar School where Ethel Cowart and Mrs. Richard applied “severe discipline by today’s standards. Guice went on to graduate from Butler County High in 1938.

That senior year proved memorable in more ways than one.

“The high school burned to the ground while we were preparing to take mid-term exams, and all the records were destroyed,” he said.

The students were given two weeks of vacation to allow the system to be reorganized.

After that, “we held classes all over town using the Sunday School rooms of the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches as classrooms. It was a chore, but somehow, we made it.”

Guice continues his tour down Memory Lane starting with Court House Square in Greenville.

“There was the Chevrolet dealership and the Motor Service Auto Repair operated by Aubrey Bodiford and Mack Carter, and next was Albert Owens’ woodworking shop. That completed the ‘Court House Roundabout,’” Guice recalled.

“Proceeding west on Commerce, we found Capps Drugstore, Mrs. Dollhite’s dress shop, and the Ford Dealership. Somewhere along Commerce St. was Dr. William Hopkins’ dental office and The Greenville Advocate, where my classmate Virginia Webb Plummer later served as society editor.”

Continuing down the Commerce St. of yesteryear, one would discover Beeland Wholesale Grocery, Beeland Mercantile, several “stately residences,” Boutwell’s Radio, the City Park (Confederate Park), Boutwell’s Auto Repair, the post office, the Ritz Theatre, a service station, the Greenville Bank, the First National Bank, Ray’s Movie Theatre and the Greenville Cafe.

There was also Miller’s Dry Cleaning, the A&P grocery, Hainje’s Furniture, a hardware store, Skinner’s Pool Hall, Western Auto, Lewis Auto, “Jelly” Cheatham’s Grocery, Blackwell Drugs, Waller Hotel, Dunklin-Blackwell Drugs – and Greenville’s only traffic light at the time, just before the L&N Depot and underpass.

Just beyond were Riley’s Building Supply and Contractors and, turning the corner, Clyde Stabler’s Buick and Farm All Tractor Dealership.

Guice also recalls two law offices still existing today in downtown Greenville, Poole and Powell and Hamilton, along with Steindorff’s Garage.

“This 90-year-old brain can innocently overlook someone. If I am guilty, I sincerely apologize. That’s the way it was along Commerce Street back then,” Guice said.