Memory lane goes back to 50 years ago

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There has been a program on Louisiana Public Television called “Louisiana Lost” It listed many old buildings that were now gone, either torn down, or burned, or blown away. These pictures had either been captured on film or drawn by an artist. I thought of the many businesses that were once active and busy here in Minden but now are gone. Lost to all but memories. Some have both the buildings and the businesses gone, but in most cases the building is still there, just the people gone.

Down the Aisle

If only I could, I’d like to turn back the years and once again be a part of the congregation in the old First Baptist Church that faced North Broadway – the church building that was razed in 1978. I’d like to sit again with my mother in the center section of the auditorium as I did long ago during my “growing up” years, right under the preacher’s nose, and listen to some of the great sermons we heard preached. No misbehaving there.

Or I’d like to relive June 12, 1948, and walk down the aisle and meet J. C. and Dr. Miles at the altar as we did that hot June wedding night almost six decades ago. Or I’d like to watch again as my children went down into the baptistry and Dr, Aldredge baptized Suzanne and later as Dr. Prince baptized John. And then at a later date I’d walk down the same aisle to take my place near the front and watch J. C. and our daughter, Suzanne, walk down the aisle to the altar for her wedding. Well, I can’t go back, but I can relive those precious memories. Dr. Miles, Dr. Aldredge, Dr. Prince, my mother, J. C. and even the old church are gone.

Now MMC

Nor can I visit the Rex Theatre where my friend, Mrs. Jesse Harris sold popcorn at the concession stand. Gone is the pretty little blonde, Mrs. J. D. Batton, who sold the tickets. Never to sit in the theatre again and watch our favorite actors and actresses – Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, John Wayne, Olivia DeHaviland. All are dead. The building was razed and is now a part of the Minden Medical Center complex. Lost to us forever except on film or in our memories.

The big old two-storied R.H. Miller home has been gone for many years and the lot is also now a part of the Minden Medical Center complex. No more will I see Mrs. Miller sit under the floor lamp by the huge old windows that went to the floor and read with the light making her snow-white hair silver. Nor will we gaze in awe at the covers of the Saturday Evening Post that formed the deep border around the room there. I remember how shocked I was when she died the day after my little daughter’s first birthday.

Downtown

Across the way I’d like to once again go into Fort’s News Stand and order a hand packed ice cream cone and look at all the papers and magazines that he stocked. All of this is gone and an insurance office is there today.
Maybe I’d stop in at City Drug Store and check out the new fragrances they stocked, and certainly I’d visit with Mr. Rollin Williams, Sr., Rollin, Jr. (Froggy) and David Williams, such gentlemen, and always so helpful. The building is still there, but Mr. Rollin Williams, Sr. and “Froggy” are both dead. David has retired and the drug store is no more. Other businesses have located there.
I’d take a short cut from Front Street and go through the filling station on the corner of Fogle that was Treat’s Station where we’d often see Obe Lowe, Robert Case Lary and Hinson Mims, Jr. The station has been gone for many years and so are the friends we saw there. Today Dr. Eddie Moss and Dr. Carter Norman have an Eye Clinic there in a new building.

Perhaps we’d stop by Thad’s Café for a cup of coffee. Thad had a tough exterior but his heart was soft and good. So many of the waitresses from Thad’s are dead. From the thirties the waitress that was and still is my friend is Lorene New Sullivan. She goes back to the little Double Dip on the corner across from Thad’s later, larger café. Another that stands out in memory would be LaQuita Fuller, a sweet, pretty little blonde girl. But she has been dead for decades. Of course Thad’s Café has been out of business for a long time. And he has been dead for many years, too.

The Dealership

As I left Thad’s to return to Andress Motors Company I’d like to stop and visit a minute with Bill and Tom Fitzgerald as I did in the long ago. I’d look at the latest in televisions and listen as they explained the new features and innovations. Both these men have been gone for many years and other businesses have been there but in the vacant building now only a wooden Indian keeps watch in the window today.

And Andress Motors Company? It was sold in 1965. Bolen-Speede bought it out and finally it was J. C. Johnson Ford before they built a new building near the new service road and located the dealership there in 1971. Almost all the men I worked with there are dead and gone – the Adkins brothers – Leon and Conrad, my husband, J. C. Agan, Horace Upton, Grady Sanders, Glen Ardis Anderson, Pat McCrary, Ben Neal Craton, Parker Lay, W. D. Roberts, Brad Cheatham, G. W. Dillon, Carter Lee Shaw, Felix Rhodes, Jack Lary, Drew Maddry, and of course, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Andress. Even one of the girls who worked in the office with me – Caroline Alexander – is now dead. I surely can’t go back there because not only are all my friends there dead, but the building is now torn down and there is just a hole in the row of buildings where once it stood. One of the Andress sons is still active in Minden today. That is Thad, who was just a little boy when I went to work for the Andress Motors Company.

More Businesses

Few of the old stores in downtown are now familiar. Western Auto is there but Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Price who were so active in our church have been gone for many years. The young man there is Mr. Price’s grandson John Collins and he bears a remarkable resemblance to his grandfather. West Bros. where I worked as a young girl has been out of business for many years. Mr. and Mrs. H. O. West have been gone for years, too. I still see Claude West and his sister, Gloria West Evans from time to time. She was flower girl in my wedding. “Her’s Bridal” is now in the old West Bros. building.

It would be wonderful to look in the windows at Webb Hardware and admire some piece of furniture, perhaps to go into the store and visit with Mr. Life, or George and Inez Lorraine. Some people say they have Early American furniture, or French Provincial, but I always say that my furniture is Early Webb Hardware because almost all the furniture I have today came from there. It was solid Mahogany and will last long past my lifetime. But Webb Hardware has been out of business for many years now and of course Mr. Life and George are both dead. Only Inez is still living.

There is a longing in my heart to go back to Wren Mercantile and see the pretty material that Mr. and Mrs. Wren stocked. The Skinner satin that my wedding dress was fashioned from came from there. Wren’s has been gone for many years as well as Mr. and Mrs. Wren, Varah Hardy and Chloe Powell Drew. Many other businesses have been there.

Walk a Little Slower

Of course there are so many other people who meant so much to me as these people did in my journey through life. If we don’t let them know as we go along we do not get another chance. Perry Como was a popular singer back in my youth. One song that he sang had these words “If I had my life to live over, I’d do the same things again, I’d still want to roam near the place I call home” and part of that is true. I’d still want to be a part of the best place on earth to live _ Minden. However, I’d change a few things I’d try to walk a little slower and take the time for the friends who loved us unconditionally and let them know how much they meant to me. Do you remember these folks and the businesses?

They call the program “Louisiana Lost” but I won’t call this “Minden Lost” because there will always be a secret place in my heart where these happy memories are stored and from time to time I will go back and open that door to that secret place of memories and relive those happy times. Do you have such a memory room in your heart?

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.

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