Greenfield In The 1930's


The following article was written by Bill Collins and published in the Times-Gazette in 1999, as part of the community's bicentennial celebration.

My father, Ab Collins, and moth­er, Ada, moved to Greenfield from Hillsboro in 1931. Ab was employed as a meat cutter in Wise's Meat Market until 1933 when he and Ed Preston started their own market — Preston, the grocer, and Ab, the meat man. The market was later destroyed in the big fire of 1937.

During this period, Greenfield was a village of independent busi­nesses, made up of 27 grocery stores that included Casper's, C.W. Thompson, Henry Rowe, Preston's, Kroger's, Walt's, Davis', John Horn's, Home, Wise's, Jamar's, Hamilton's, A and P, Rooks', Clyburn's, West End, South Street, Moon's, Griffith's, Wolf s, Allen's and Francis'. Most of these markets delivered to the people's homes twice a day either alone or with the help of Wayne Mitchell's delivery service. Quite a difference from today!

Similarly, our downtown had six barber shops. There was Jacob Zinnecker with his two sons, George and Charlie; Clarence Fetherlin and his sons Wendell and Wylie; Aron Spargur, Fred Wagner at the Harper Hotel with Fred Fox; Barber's Barber Shop; and William Wilson's, who was located on South Street. Several of these barber shops had bath tubs partitioned off so privacy was enjoyed while you bathed.

During this time, at least 50 percent of their business was for shaves, and many of them had shoe shining chairs. The late Winston Price shined them up at Fetherlin's, and the Zinneckers used their nephew, Richard Kelley, and later Charles Bainter. John Wagner helped out at his dad's hotel shop, and Rice Payne would shine shoes on holidays and Sunday mornings in front of Wise's. All of them were very busy, and on Saturdays you would have to wait in line to have your shoes shined a cost of 10 cents.

In the 1930s Greenfield had three drug stores. Cox's, located in Midway and Washington Streets, had an ice cream store that operated in the summer months as well as its regular fountain service. (The store was later destroyed in the fire of '37.) Hurd's Drug Store was located on Jefferson Street, and it later became Stewart's. This, too, had an ice cream fountain that was always busy. Bradley's Drug Store, which was purchased by Wib Seilkop, became the Corner Pharmacy on the west corner of Jefferson until it moved to its present location. Like the others, it featured a fountain service. The drug stores were great meeting places for morning coffee and afternoon sodas.

   The downtown area enjoyed several good restaurants: The Grill on South Washington, another business lost to the big fire; Ballentines, which later became the Diamond Grill; the Silver Front; Anotts; Doc and Tom's; Cadbury's Bakery; Duch Deffner's; and Mark Striders, which later became Pearce's. Penny's and Simmons' that came along later were home-owned and prospered as well. Joining the dining fare were the restaurants at the Harper and Elliott hotels. Both featured a la carte menus in their dining rooms, and the hotels themselves provided comfortable sleeping rooms and great lobbies.

   The needs of Greenfielders were also furnished by those who operated the various department, shoe and variety stores. Department stores where all types of clothing was sold included Heidenfield, Fullerton, Doster's Hat Shop, Moehlenpage's, United and Nichol and Row, along with Brubaker's Shoes and Strain and Ross. John Holland Shoe Repair was also a busy place for the youngsters to have their baseballs sewn up after the stitches came out. Mary Ford was a local expert at making these and other necessary repairs. Gossetts' too, took care of the residents as it furnished books, magazines, gifts, office supplies school books that were bought and sold as new or used with credit given for the trade-ins.

   Household needs were met in other ways through a number of stores, including the Greenfield Furniture Company that was operated by Leroy Brizius. Situated on the corner of Jefferson and Washington Streets, the store housed three floors of furniture.

   One of the town's first five and 10 stores was the Variety Store that was located next to Ashling's Hardware, and Ashling's offered not only hardware, but harness, sporting goods, toys and stoves, too. Likewise, John Woods Hardware — that became Jones' — provided the varied goods for the citizens. In addition, there was Hamilton Electric that was located on the south side of Jefferson Street. It would provide repair service for electrical appliances like irons, washers and radios. John J. Mertz operated the Greenfield Lumber Company, and this business, along with the Slagle Lumber Company, provided the means for building supplies of all kinds. And having all types of building supplies, paints and some appliances, too, the Greenfield Grain and Hay could supply you with these lines and more.

   Tailoring services were offered by Glenn Harris with the help of Ed Conner. Together they also provided dry cleaning services. Jewelry could be bought at H.H. Limes or Ed Canter's, and a Western-Union office was located on South Washington Street. City services were carried out in City Hall while the post office that was located on the first floor. The police chief, George Willis, kept the peace with two patrolmen and one police car that he could not drive.

 Automobiles such as Chevrolets could be purchased from the Motor Inn Garage that was operated by Charles Davis. The Ferneau Brothers on Jefferson Street handled the Chrysler line, and Greenfield Ford also offered a new line of cars through manager Tom Louden. Henry Price handled the used car trade on Mirabeau Street.

   Yet Greenfield was not all mercantile, as professional services were offered by several doctors, lawyers, and the like. During the 1930s doctors J.B. Glenn, Herb Wilson, Howard Martindale, Robert Jones and William Ambrose all had offices in the village's business district, and they made house calls, too. The Drs. Hull and Edwards, the local dentists, and Dr. Noble, the chiropractor, had their offices uptown, too. Together, with the help of Greenfield Municipal Hospital that was located on South Street and managed by Mrs. Bobo, they provided for the health needs of the community.

   Lawyers who practiced in the busy downtown included J.S.S. Riley, Dunlap, Arthur Horn and James West. Charles Uhl, the Andersons, Charles Heiser, Walter Gray and Walter Dunlap owned the local insurance agencies. And Murray's Funeral Home featured a front porch where Jim Murray and his friends could sit and watch pedestrians walk by.

   From the mercantile and the businesses to the professional offices, Greenfield maintained a busy downtown trade and atmosphere. But it wasn't all business. Entertainment could be found at the Lyric and Royal theaters where shows played nightly and matinees on Saturdays for nine cents. The Daniels Brothers Pool Room and Cigar Store featured a soda fountain service, while across the street, Sammy Heart operated another pool room.

   Perhaps my biggest thrill of all as a youngster in the 1930s was taking the car downtown on Saturday afternoons, having it parked in the right place by 5 p.m. so our family and mother's friends could sit and watch the Greenfielders go by on their big Saturday night on the town.