Guest Column: Saturdays in town – then, nowGuest Column by Norma Haynes
Special to The Newnan Times-Herald
This past Saturday, the first in the month, I went to town as I have for many, many Saturdays.
During my early years of growing up in Newnan, going to town on Saturdays was an event looked forward to by young and old alike.
My daddy had his barber shop off the square on Greenville Street, and Saturday was his busiest and longest day. Everybody wanted a hair cut and a shoeshine to be ready for Sunday church.
Folks bought their groceries, tried on new shoes and new hats, bought a pair of stockings, if needed, and some just came to town to see who they could see. Going to town on Saturday was a big deal for all of us in the 1950s and 1960s.
I can well remember my mother driving to town, parking in front of Kessler’s and all of us just sitting in the car, watching people pass by. We could run in Kessler’s and get a bag of popcorn or some candy or run into Lee King’s and get a Coca Cola or an ice cream cone.
As I got older, going to the Alamo Theater on Saturday morning was the thing to do for us teenagers. We would get there by 10, watch a travel log, a cartoon, previews for the week and then settle down to the latest cowboy movie. The good guys always won. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Tonto, the Lone Ranger, the Cisco Kid, Gene Autrey — just to name a few of our heroes. Town was very much alive, and how we loved our Saturdays in Newnan!
As I strolled around the square Saturday, it brought back so many good memories of those days gone by. It was wonderful to see our town bustling with people at Market Day. The smells of the foods being offered and seeing all the creative things brought in by so many was just delightful.
Life sort of slowed down, and people found themselves visiting with each other. After walking to each of the vendors’ tents, I went into some of the stores off the square. The owners and others who worked in the stores made me feel so welcome and greeted me with such enthusiasm. I could not help remembering those long-ago days when I walked into a store and the owner would want to know about my family and would offer to show me new items just arrived.
I know that we can’t have things the way they once were, and I do understand. However, it was just wonderful when you could walk into a clothing store, spot a dress or skirt, and the owner would say, “Would you like me to put that on approval?” What that meant was that the owner would just write up a ticket, mark it “approval”, and you would take the item home, try it on, and return it if you didn’t like it or it didn’t fit.
If you kept it, the owner would send you a bill later for the charge. It was always a store charge in your own name; there were no credit cards. And there was never a late charge. You paid as soon as you could, but the owner would always work with you.
I look back now and wonder how they were able to stay in business when I knew that often some people were late, late in paying or in some cases, never paying.
The first credit card I ever remember seeing in my family was a green card from Rich’s. Most stores just kept a running tab for your family, and you just said, “Charge it, please.”
I don’t remember having to pay a sales tax until sometime later, when we had to pay 3 percent. That was just outrageous, we thought. Of course, in those days, you could buy a nice house for the price of a small car these days.
The stores had cash registers that worked manually — you hit a key, and it opened. You had to figure out your own change. I look back and realize that was such a wonderful way to learn to add and subtract, because there were no adding machines and certainly no computers. Checks were few and far between, and most all were “Counter Checks.” You didn’t order checks or pay for them. You just used a check at the counter and signed your name.
It is exciting to come to town on a Saturday. More and more people are just parking their cars and strolling around, and it makes me so glad I live in a town where we still have a Court Square and still have small stores in which you can browse and be welcomed and get service.
I wouldn’t take anything in the world for having lived in Newnan all my life, and I am so thankful for all the Saturdays God has allowed me to go “uptown.”