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Perusing Springfield’s business district

POSTED: June 12, 2014 7:26 p.m.
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Etta Dickey

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The more this project unfolds, more and more is being shared about Springfield in the 1940s and 1950s. Note the additional information on Springfield Farm Supply. If you have any information on any of the old businesses, please share it soon.

Carlyle Exley had a saw mill in Springfield that occupied the entire block just south of the Springfield Cemetery. The address was at the corner of South Oak and East First Street. He purchased the mill in the early 1930s from the Boyles family. It was a John Deere engine manual mill used to saw board lumber for building.

Tommy Exley remembers his dad paid $600 for the business. In the early 1940s, the mill was relocated to property on Stillwell Road near Joe Jaudon (in the vicinity of the current residence of Harry and Phyllis Shearouse). Exley had a crew who harvested hard wood for railroad cross ties in addition to his lumber mill. They used an ox to drag the logs a short distance (a quarter-mile or so) from where they were cutting to the mill site.

Each morning the men led the ox, who spent the night at the mill site, to the area where the logs were cut. A man would lead the ox back to the mill pulling the first log. The ox would stop at the mill and someone would unhitch the log and slap him on the rump, and he would return back and forth for the rest of the day without being led, as long as someone slapped him and sent him back when the load was attached or unhitched. A crew of men hand hewed the cross ties.

A Gulf station was located about where the current Parker’s gas and convenience store is located on Highway 21 south of Springfield. It was established by Bob and Bertie Lee Brogdon in the late 1930s, according to M.C. Jaudon. This station sold gas, confections, food, cold drinks and legally sold beer when it was opened. Different people ran the station over the years. Lamar Burns operated the station himself at one time. For many years, the old faded round Gulf sign stood by the building after it ceased to be a station.

Lamar Burns operated a Gulf franchise gas delivery business in the area, as well as being involved with several service stations. The Burns family owned the old station building after it was closed.

Lamar and Nadine built a brick home where they lived in their later years, which is still standing across the road from the old station site. Some families lived in the upstairs area of the station, which was a two-story building, through the years. L.A. Burns and his wife lived there briefly.  Mack and Belle Williams lived there awhile. Son Robert Williams recalls a peanut boiling there with the Mitchell Calhoun family as their guests. Robert remembers they got a new refrigerator with a year’s supply of ice cream while they lived there.

Before Highway 21 became the bypass and some of the property became the right of way, Melvin Boyles and his family lived there in the old station and he operated a taxidermy business on the first floor.

Where the current viaduct is located at the intersection of Laurel Street and the Highway 21 bypass, the Blankenship family had a block building and operated a bee farm. Hiram and Sally Blankenship of Nebraska brought their bees south for the winter and lived here part-time in the beginning.  They operated moving bees back and forth from the north for many years.  Kelly Dickey recalls his first job working for them when he was around 10 or 12, making wooden frames to go in the hives.

The Effingham County Camp Ground was built in 1910 on the east side of south Laurel Street on the outskirts of town when Brinson Railroad came to town and relocated the camp grounds from its location in Springfield near the Methodist church. The tabernacle was erected and families constructed family “tents” for overnight shelter during camp meeting.

Just south of the campground on the west side of the road was the home of Jeff and Etta Dickey. Their side porch was the home of “Jeff’s Bait Ranch.”  Worms and crickets were sold on their side porch and a sign advertised the enterprise. All my early fishing trips to the pond were made possible by Jeff’s bait. A lot of crickets chirping filled the air.

Etta Dickey was a renowned seamstress for the community. She was known to have the ability to make anything described making her own patterns. All of the recital costumes for Louise Rahn (Zittrouer’s) dance students were made by Etta. Majorette uniforms and band uniforms for the Rebels at Effingham County High School were made by this talented lady.

Some of her best customers were lovely young ladies like Joan Rahn (Kessler) and Carleen Rahn (Fillingim) who needed dresses for proms and parties. Joan says she could show her a picture of a dress she wanted and Etta would stay up sewing and make it overnight. Etta made bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses, dresses for the mothers of the bridal party and flower girl dresses. Whatever you needed from alterations to new clothing, Etta obliged her customers.

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact her at 754-6681 or hesheraldexley@aol.com.

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