Monday, June 27, 2016

The Iconic Three-C Grill

When students left the campus of Florence State College at the end of the spring semester in 1958, they left the Triangle Grill standing on the corner of Wood and Morrison Avenues. When they returned in the fall, they were met by the new Three-C Grill. The Triangle had been so named due to the acute angle at which Wood and Morrison met, and over the years it had won popularity with the college students who were its largest customer base; yet the Three-C is what most Florentines think of when asked to recall the corner before it was purchased by the university.

When Jerry, Jim, and Charlie Carroll acquired the old Triangle Grill, it seemed only natural to rename it the Three-C. Less than a year later the brothers established the Three-C Barbershop directly behind the grill on Morrison Avenue.

It was during this era that the Baptist organization on campus purchased a Victorian home on Wood Avenue directly across from the grill. The new Baptist Student Union was completed c.1962 and produced a marked increase in foot traffic at the iconic Wood/Morrison corner. Business flourished.

Even with its enormous popularity, the Three-C wasn’t always met with smooth sailing. In July 1960, an employee’s brakes failed as she attempted to park on the Morrison Avenue side of the grill, resulting in severe damage to the establishment. Yet, the Carroll brothers persevered, and by the early 1960s branched out, purchasing the former Jiffy Burger location on another triangular corner at Wood and Royal Avenues. They dubbed their newest eatery the Three-C Grill Jr. It boasted a drive-thru window that was perhaps, not counting bootlegger establishments, the only one in the Shoals at the time.

Business continued to be good for all the Carroll brothers’ businesses, and in 1966, they completely renovated the interior of the Three-C Grill adjacent to the college campus. It wasn’t unusual to see classes from Appleby or Gilbert Elementary Schools dining at the grill as a special treat. When plastic first came to the area, the Three-C became one of Florence’s first businesses to accept the innovative Bank Americard (the forerunner to Visa) in 1968.

After the arrival of Hardee’s in Seven Points and similar fast food restaurants in nearby areas, the Three-C Grill Jr. closed in the late 1960s, but the original continued to thrive. Many who remember the small eatery have compared it to Trowbridge’s in popularity and the loyalty of its customers. It’s entirely possible the Three-C would still be serving university students today if the school hadn’t coveted the choice property adjacent to the campus.

In May 1975, the University of North Alabama offered to purchase both the Three-C Grill and Barbershop from the Carroll brothers who accepted the offer. The UNA purchase was ostensibly to create more parking, but the land where the iconic Three-C once sat is now home to signage and landscaping. All that’s left of the Three-C is memories and the faint aroma of once famous hamburgers that many claim still permeates the small corner.

Bette F. Terry holds a BA is history from UAH.

Monday, November 30, 2015

If You’re From the Shoals, You Probably Use Glad Wrap?

This Thanksgiving one of the dinners I attended was a friends/neighbors affair. When a neighbor (originally from Arizona!) asked for Saran Wrap, I had to explain that Glad Wrap usage is more common here. Or is it? And why?

“Buy local” isn’t that new a phrase. My mother practiced that by using Glad Wrap. Not only was it better than Saran Wrap, it was a Union Carbide product. Unfortunately the Union Carbide plant left Muscle Shoals in the late 1970s, but my family’s Glad Wrap usage continued.

Since my neighbor had brought up the subject, I was curious to know if Union Carbide still produced Glad products. It seems that the company sold the Glad line to First Products (Energizer Batteries) in 1985. First Products later sold Glad to Clorox which still retains 80% of the plastic wrap giant. In 2002, Procter & Gamble acquired 20% of the Glad Product Company.

Will I still use Glad Wrap? As my mother told me, it’s better than Saran Wrap, so that’s a big “Yes!”

Bette F. Terry is a local historian. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Jesse Walker Stutts & His “Eas-It” Elixir

If you walked down Court Street in Florence exactly 100 years ago, you would encounter the pharmacy belonging to Jesse Walker Stutts. The small business was located where a sandwich shop now sits on the northwest corner of the Tennessee Street intersection.

J.W. Stutts Drug Store, Circa 1916
J.W. Stutts Drug Store, Circa 1916

Born on December 12, 1875, Jesse passed away on December 1, 1960. He's buried in the Florence City Cemetery on Tennessee Street in a plat that includes his wife Virginia Lull Johnson Stutts, his son Jesse Jr., and daughter Margaret E. Stutts.

The early 20th Century was an era when most drugs were compounded. Often physicians opened their own apothecary shops; however, whether these druggists had a doctorate or not, they were often addressed as "Doctor." Some documents refer to Jesse as Dr. Stutts, but records show that Stutts received the Ph.C. degree from Vanderbilt University in 1902, making him a Pharmaceutical Chemist.

Many also confuse Jesse Walker with his brother, Dr. John Lee Stutts, a prominent Greeehill physician. Both were children of John Ritter Stutts and his first wife Margaret Jones Stutts.


Over a 35 year span, Stutts marketed several medicines, including Ivago for poison ivy, Scratch-No-More for pruritus, and Germ Death, an antiseptic. Yet it was his pain medicine Eas-It that put his pharmacy on the local and regional map.

The Eas-it Chemical Company was established in December 1913. State records show that initial shareholders were J. F. Brown, R. W. Stribling, and M. S. Hansborough. Stutts proudly marketed his pain relief liquid as "non-narcotic;" however, it was formulated in an elixir base indicating the popular product contained a large percentage of alcohol.

Stutts conducted what could be called an innovative marketing campaign, utilizing both print ads and signage:


When current owner of the former apothecary building Delana Darby Blake began remodeling, she found one of Stutts' ubiquitous signs:


By 1940, Stutts' place in Florence history was cemented. He and son Jesse Jr. and daughter Margaret incorporated the Stutts Laboratories. For whatever reason, perhaps the uncertainty produced by World War II, the company was dissolved after a relatively short time. One of this company's most popular products was Nervine, recommended for both humans and horses.

By 1960, the year of Jesse Walker Stutts' death, his once famous drug store had become home to Kreisman's Men's Wear:


What would Stutts think of the building's current incarnation as a sandwich shop? The entrepreneur in the noted pharmacist would undoubtedly want to buy stock and initiate a new advertising campaign.

Bette F. Terry holds a B.A. in history from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Patch the Pony Born in Florence in 1963

It was 1963 when Margaret Liles of Florence heard FBI Agent Glenn Hearn address a PTA meeting. Hearn commented on the frequency of child abductions, and the idea was further brought home to Liles three days later when an attempted child abduction was reported at Gilbert Elementary School in North Florence. Liles wanted to make a difference, but how?

The mother of four soon came up with the character of Patch, a pony designed to convey safety messages to primary school children. As Patch said, “Nay, Nay, from strangers stay away.” Mrs. Liles then began a campaign to introduce Patch and his safety slogan into local and then state schools. Governor George Wallace was so impressed with Liles’ character of Patch that in 1966 he flew her to Washington to speak to the President’s Commission on Crime. 

Embarking from Florence in a designer ensemble donated by Abroms Department Store, Margaret Liles hoped to make her Patch character as well-known as Smokey the Bear; however, while support was there, the money never materialized. Despite the lack of government funding, Patch became well known in school systems in all 50 states where teachers presented his story in film strips and in books given to each student. 

After much thought, Liles decided to sell the rights to her creation to someone more financially able to produce the materials used in Patch’s program. Then with the advent of better technology, Patch gradually began to fade from school systems, and many relegated Patch to a bygone era. Some years ago the rights to Patch were purchased by Russ Fender, a man who had grown up hearing the story of the pony who wore an eye patch.

Fender stated he wanted to bring Patch up to date and make him known to a new generation of children, but found the cost of his project made it necessary to proceed in increments. A glance at the website for Patch shows that it’s reverted to GoDaddy.
What of Patch now? Until Fender gets the resurrection of Patch the Pony fully underway, those who fondly remember Patch and his creator Margaret Liles who passed away in 1990 may wish to to join the pony’s fans on Facebook: Patch the Pony.

Bette F. Terry holds a BA in history from UAH

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Florence's Dutch Treat Turns Into Trick?

The Doughnut: Historical or Just Dangerous?

If you say “Dusty Joe’s” to a person of a certain age, you’re sure to hear tales of barbecue and teenage hijinks long before the now defunct strip was even thought of. Many will still say the demise of Florence’s premiere fast food establishment was a sad turning point in their lives.

Yet in 1971, Dusty Joe’s closed its doors for the last time, and the Huddle Restaurant arrived. Its stay in Florence was short-lived, and in 1973, the Dutch Treat opened at the busy corner of Tennessee and Poplar Streets. It was to remain until 1980 when it also closed, leaving the building vacant for a year until it became home to the Trailways Bus Station. While no treats are now served at the building that is currently home to Knight & Humphries Real Estate (Kevin J. Knight and Steve N. Humphries), it seems there’s still a trick remaining.

The Dutch Treat was opened by William and Jane Woldenberg and Linda Mae Bryan, and while the menu may be lost forever in local memory, it’s certain the most popular items were doughnuts. After 41 years, the store’s neon adorned sculpture of a doughnut still stands on the southeast corner of Tennessee and Poplar, yet unclaimed by any and all and a menace to the public.

Since the building that housed Dutch Treat had stood on the busy downtown Florence corner for years, it’s safe to assume the neon doughnut had its own electric meter added when the desert shop installed the sign--a meter that was pulled when the new owners took possession of the building.

It’s also safe to assume that when Trailways remodeled the building to house more public restrooms and locker storage, the switch to the doughnut sign was covered in dry wall and forgotten. To make the problem of the now leaning doughnut sign even more perplexing, the pole on which the sign is mounted appears to be secured, either firmly or tenuously, on the state right-of-way. Florence didn’t pass a sign law until the late 1970s.

A few years ago, a local blogger proclaimed the sign one of the Shoals area’s eyesores. At that time, the city said Knight & Humphries (which also operates under the name “Real Property Management”) owned the rusty doughnut, while the real estate firm adamantly averred the city was responsible for the relic and any damage it might in future cause.

Is it dangerous? Is it a local landmark that should be preserved instead of relegated to a scrap yard or stored ala the famous neon Coca-Cola signs? In case any think it should be declared a landmark, much of the neon that outlined the pastry is now missing, the doughnut itself is rusty, and two iron rods (presumably to hold additional advertising) are secured underneath giving the sign the look of a primitive weather vane.

Due to the extensive loss of life two counties to the south of Lauderdale, perhaps many didn’t regard the true extent of damage to Florence trees and signage after the April 2011 tornadoes, but nevertheless many seemingly firmly planted objects were uprooted and swept yards from their original location.

If the City of Florence does own the sign by default after all these years, perhaps it could offer it to any collector with proper credentials and insurance who would remove the eyesore and sell the pole for scrap. Or perhaps one day the Shoals area will awake to read the headline: Unlucky Driver Beheaded by Flying Doughnut.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Gary Williamson, the sign officer for the Florence Building Department, is aware of the problem of the delinquent doughnut and should make a decision soon on its ultimate fate.

Bette Favor Terry holds a BA in history from UAH

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tuscumbia Lustron Home As I Remember It

I lived at 705 East 4th street at the time the house was erected. I was the paper boy to everyone in the east end of town so I thought I had to see and know about everything that was going on.

The Catholic Church was on the corner of East Street and 4th. In the earlier years there was a Catholic School and living quarters on the corner of Hickory and 4th.

Sometime around 1948 0r 1949, they decided to build a new Rectory behind the church. It was decided to be a Lustron House. At that time Lustron produced and shipped all steel enameled houses.

The site was prepared and the parts and pieces arrived. A wrecker came to unload the steel parts. They stacked the steel parts and boxes of screws, bolts, etc., along the curb in front of the house. Each part was numbered and much time was spent as they sorted and found the right pieces. Each part had a certain screw or bolt for that section. I was allowed to pick up these things at the end of the day and wish I had saved some of them.

As the house took shape, it was easy to see that once the last screw was in place, it would be ready to live in. Everything was enameled in the color that had been chosen.

I don't remember how long it took them to finish but it did not seem very long. One thing that stands out now as I look back is the fact that there were no fancy electric or air tools as we know them today. Everything was screwed or bolted by hand.

There was some discussion among the workers about not having a back door because of concern for the Priest. Access to him was very limited outside of the Church. I will drop by the site to check this out once the ground dries up and the weather gets better.

This type of house was supposed to be the next best thing to sliced bread as far as technology was concerned. Not only was it pre-insulated, it was designed to last a long, long time. This is evidenced by the one we see off of Woodmont Drive. Even though the years of neglect are showing, I am sure it is in a lot better shape than a wood-frame house would be after all this time.

I don't know the whole story of the company but there are references to bad business decisions and other problems. There does not seem to be problems with the houses themselves. Can you imagine what your house would look like 60 years after it was built had it been neglected and not maintained?

Thanks to Mary for finding it and to everyone for providing the opportunity to tell about it as I remember. Also, thanks to everyone who loves Tuscumbia as much as I do for your interest in saving and preserving as much of our history as we can.

THIS WAS ONE TIME WHERE A meets B and Y met Z that everything came together.


Colbert County native Jim Smith is the author of Walk Through Town (with me as a ten year-old boy). It can be found on Amazon and at several local book stores. Link

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Real First W.C. Handy Festival

When was the first W.C. Handy Festival? Many point to 1982 which began an annual tradition of a week long event, but the first Handy Festival was held 12 years before. The year 1970 saw the dedication of a reconstructed Handy birthplace accompanied by a two-day festival on November 22 and 23.

The 1970 festival featured a concert with such illustrious talent as the Olympia Brass Band, Maxine Sullivan, Blanch Thomas, and the immortal Eubie Blake and his song-writing partner Noble Sissle. The next day saw a parade and street strut down Court Street led by the Olympia Brass Band from New Orleans.

Attending this first festival were Mrs. W. C. Handy, Charles E. Handy, W. C. Handy Jr., Mattie Handy Robinson, and Catherine Handy Lewis. At the end of the festival, Florence Chamber of Commerce President Jim Odum announced the event would become an annual tradition, but it was not yet to be.

The next Handy Festival was in 1973 and honored Handy’s 100th birthday. The event was held November 17 and 18 and began with a parade on Court Street. Special entertainment followed at the halftime of that afternoon’s University of North Alabama ball game. The Handy family was honored with a reception following the game.

The next night a concert was held in Norton Auditorium. A sold-out theatre saw Thomas, Sullivan, and Blake return to the Shoals stage. Eubie Blake was then 90 and reportedly the highlight of the night. At the end of the festival, Jim Odum again stated the festival was to become an annual event.

Under the direction of Odum, both festivals were considered huge successes. Why a delay of nine more years before the third festival was held? A slow economy as well as the aging of Mr. Handy’s family and contemporaries may have been to blame. Nevertheless, the festival is now a permanent Shoals fixture each summer.

Bette Favor Terry holds a B.A. in history from UAH.