Photo from Industrial Denison

The High Grade Grocery was located at 118-120 North Rusk Avenue

in Denison prior to 1900. Dan Tracy was proprietor



Memories of Grocery Stores



Everyone has to eat and it seems that most people have stories about where their food came from, especially stories from many years ago when both Denison and Sherman were a lot different. Almost none of the grocery stores of the earlier days still are around and memories of where they were located are all that remain. The grocery employees were like an extended family.

A recent column jogged many memories of where many of these stores were located and my own memory was jogged a little wrong about the trade lot in Denison. I seem to remember it being on the south side of Woodard Street, but everyone else remembers it on the north side so I am persuaded that my memory strayed.

Bill Phillips was the first to recall the location. He said he worked at B&B Grocery for Bubba Whiting one summer when he was a kid. He remembers that the trade area was on the north side of Woodard on a vacant piece of land and it was called “The Jockey Lot.”

Farmers would drive their old pickups and buckboards to town to buy their supplies in that area and sell their produce and goods. They jockeyed each other for the best locations on the lot, the best prices and trade, thus giving the area its name. Others may have different names, he said, but that’s how Bill remembers it.

He said when the farmers came to town on a rainy day the land where they parked turned into a muddy mess. The mud was transferred onto Woodard when they left, much to the displeasure of the locals.

John Crawford said he bet my folks wouldn’t let me get near the jockey yard and that’s why I didn’t remember exactly where it was. He said it was on the north side of the street and little stores and cafes were on the south side.

Vittie Corthron’s grandfather had a hamburger place in the 200 block Woodard, behind where the Superba Theater was located. He remembers that there was a round watering trough for the horses to get a drink.

Farmer Jones’ Grocery was on the north side of the 100 block West Woodard. Vittie said on North Austin, a man named Pirkle had a barbershop on the alley on the north side and that it was part of the trade lot.

Beth Bowling remembers the jockey lot as the trade grounds. She said in the 1930s when she was a little girl it was the place to go for all kinds of things. She especially remembers how the Women’s Missionary Society of Waples Methodist Church held “rummage sales” there - forerunners to garage sales.

Beth’s mother and grandmother always were involved in the sales and she got to go along and help. Clotheslines were strung between some of the support poles and the clothes would be hung on the lines. All the clothes would be on metal clothes hangers.

Other “stuff” was spread on tables and some was placed on the sidewalk. “It was a lot of fun for a small girl to watch people go through all the goodies and to bargain for the best price,” she said. Some people couldn’t even afford the five or 10 cent prices and there was a “special price” for these needy customers.

At the end of the day when everything was sold - and seldom was much left - Beth would help gather up all the metal coat hangers and tie them in bunches to be taken to a local dry cleaner to sell for a penny each. She called this the original “recycling.”

“It was great to go early in the morning and get to pick out produce, especially strawberries and peaches that had just been brought in by area farmers,” she said. Sometimes there would be a puppy or two hanging around, but she never got to have one of them because she had several cats. The trade ground was a grand place to explore, she said.

Dorothy Rushing remembers that the hitch ground in Sherman was a stock trade yard in the late 1920s. It was like a stockade with fencing around it into the early 1930s, then several nondescript shops were added.

Dorothy’s uncle, Leon Hawkins, had a shoe repair shop there, off the street behind the present Child’s Carpet. She remembers it being a busy area with produce being traded and sold. She said she doesn’t remember when it all closed, but her uncle went into the Veteran’s Hospital in 1949 and it still was active then.

Jerry Durham remembers the Hitch Ground location as being two blocks west of the Grayson County Courthouse on Lamar Street. He remembered the old Lucas Store on that street. He wondered about the old May Grocery on the corner of Austin or Houston Avenue in Denison, but that’s one I don’t remember. He said it was an old wooden building with high ceilings and his mother would drive from the farm east of Sherman to shop at the May story.

Jerry has other remembrances and questions about some things he thinks he remembers but isn’t certain. He wondered if it was K. Woolen’s or Madden’s in Denison that had a candy counter. The only candy counter that I remember was at S.H. Kress store and it was a great one.

He also remembers a “popcorn guy” that was on the street north of the ice house on the west side. He had a red cart with big wheels, Jerry said. He also remembers going to Loy Lake to watch them feed the big fish bread slices from the end of the dock.

I don’t remember the popcorn guy, but I do remember Joe Espinosa who sold hot tamales from a cart on the northwest corner of the intersection of Main Street and Austin Avenue. Joe’s hot tamales were great and my dad, who had a drug store at 200 West Main, would bring them home for supper pretty often on Saturday night.

Oleta Singleton has lived in Sherman all her life except for a short time in Ambrose and Denison. She drove a taxi in Sherman for 31 ears and once knew the town like the back of her hand. Her parents were in the grocery business from the 1920s when they had a store in Dorchester, long before she was born.

She remembers going to the Hitch ground at Lamar and Elm, where a parking lot now exists. Popplewell’s Product was located on Elm and backed up to the trade ground. She had an Uncle Jack, also a taxi driver, who was killed in a taxi accident in 1944. He would go to the trade ground and take bets on his strength. Although he was a fairly small man, he was very strong and would carry 100 pounds of feed on each shoulder and circle the square. He had a good many takers, she said, and he always won.

Oleta’s parents had a grocery store for years at the corner of Tuck and Grand. They sold is in the 1930s and moved to another store at Maxie and Brockett that they bought from Mr. Reid. Then in 1939 they sold it back to Mr. Reid and Mr. Beck. This was the store that Bonnie and Clyde are believed to have robbed and killed one of the clerks.

They operated several other stores around Sherman and a grocery at the corner of Monterey Street and Armstrong Avenue in Denison and they lived in the back of the store. At that time, she recalls, the soft drink, Grapette, was only two cents a bottle.

She remembers many grocers around Sherman and Denison in those days when the Mom and Pop stores were where residents bought their groceries. When her family moved to Ambrose they sold produce to all the stores in this area. - Donna Hunt


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