Going, Going, Gone

A few yesrs ago I talked with Tom Smith in front of the post office. I was principal at Fayetteville Elementary School when he, his brothers, and sister were students there. Tom’s mother, Katherine Smith, was also a teacher at the school during this time, so I have fond memories of the entire family. Tom pointed out that a number of the historic houses and buildings in the area had recently been torn down. Some were in critical need of repair and others were just in the way of “progress”. He specifically mentioned the Stell House, the McCollum Home, the group of stores where Willie Easons’ Cafe was, Mask and Nations’ Grocery, Kitchens’ Grocery, and Graves’ Restaurant. He saw a need for historical documentation of these old homes and stores before they are all gone. I whole-heartedly agree.

I appreciate the improvements being made, especially around the Courthouse Square. While I can accept that changes are inevitable, I like remembering my childhood when these old structures were an important part of our community.

I spent many of my teenage hours at Mask and Nations’, Graves’ Restaurant, and Kitchens’ Grocery. Miss Agnes Kitchens hired me to work on Saturdays in her store when I was only thirteen. Later I worked for Mr. Tom Nations on weekends and during vacation time. I never worked for Mrs. Clara Graves, but I spent a lot of my time in her restaurant eating the best hot dogs in town.

The Stell House was built in 1912 by Mr. Walter Stell across from where Melear’s Barbecue is located today. It was a stately building with a large sweeping verandah. Mr. Stell was quite old when I was a child. I remember him as a very distinguished looking gentleman. He always wore a dress shirt with arm garters just above the elbows and a straw hat with a flat top (the kind that you see today at political conventions). He would walk past my house each day on his way to and from town, quite a distance for a man of his age. He seemed to enjoy it. He smoked a cigar and I could often smell his cigar before I could see him coming. Although I was just a small child, he always recognized me with a friendly greeting. Mr. and Mrs. Stell raised a large family and their children have left a positive mark on this community. One outstanding daughter was Mary Stell who married Frank McFarland. The McFarland family occupied the Stell House for many years and it became known by some as the McFarland House.

The McCollum House was located on the large triangular lot formed by Highway 85 and Beauregard Blvd. When I was twelve we lived across the street from the McCollums. At this time John McCollum, his sister Mary Lucy Jones and their mother lived together in this house. Numerous times I’ve cut that large triangular lot with one of those push-pull reel mowers. Mrs. McCollum always paid me well for my work. I recall late one summer evening when I was about seventeen, my friend Tucker Day and I were walking past the McCollum house. The McCollums were sitting on their front porch. Mrs. Jones called to us and invited us to join them on the porch. We talked for a while. Then Mrs. Jones invited us into the house where she and Tucker played the piano and we sang songs for about an hour and had refreshments. Mrs. Jones could really sing. I think she sang at just about all of the weddings, funerals and special events in town. The visit was fun and there certainly wasn’t a generation gap.