Broadway is Still Downtown to Me
by Sandra Waldrop Doolittle
Liza with a Z has her Broadway in old New York. I have my Broadway sometimes called Broad in Columbus, Georgia. Broadway was where you met family, friends and neighbors going and coming. Broadway goes back to the day you walked to the right. Once you had passed someone on the left you right away moved back to the right. Always on your left were the people walking to their rights. You go to the mall nowadays and you will be walked over if you stayed to your right. When you shop at the mall like Peachtree there is still breathing space between the people. But, when you walked down Broadway you were shoulder to shoulder with kids in the front and back and people speaking to one another. When people wanted to enter a store then everyone walking on the inside would stop and let them cross thru. Today some people at the mall think you are trying to offend them by sticking to the right, not knowing and being taught this is the proper way of walking together at a mall.
Years and years ago when my now grown nephew was three and a half maybe near four and I was a young teenager just driving, we went shopping for a Roy Rogers stick horse. Here I am walking in my three inch high hells with ankle straps holding the hand of my nephew and walking out the door of Woolworth five and ten, I am holding his little hand merging into the crowd so we could enter and turn to the to the right, then all of a sudden he pulls from my hand throws his leg over the stick horse and takes off. I take off after him. I can see him thru the crowd holding on the rope around the stick horse’s neck and slapping himself on his little hips believing he is on a real horse. I am chasing him praying he wouldn’t get to the corner where Silver’s five and ten was and try and cross the street. After I had chased him about a half of a block someone in the crowd was able to run after him and pick him up by the seat of his britches. He was in his make believe world and had no intentions of stopping for red lights nor stop signs. This little run a way grew up to work for the Columbus Police Department, Georgia IRS and plans to retire from the FBI.
Broadway had other memories for me. After Church on Sundays we would eat dinner, clean up and get in the car with friends and family and go window shopping. Window shopping is where you park the car and get out and walk. If you were lucky enough to get there early enough you could park on Broadway and not have to put money in the meter. You could either get out and walk and look into the windows of Kirven’s Department Store, Kresse, Newberrys, Silvers and Woolworth five and dime store. You could see what you wanted and come back and buy next week. There was not shopping on Sunday. Some of the people would walk from one end of Broadway to the other and shop at each and every window. There was also the side street stores. Kirvens opened in the front on Broadway and also in the back where in the winter time we would all walk around and looked into the windows that were decorated for Christmas. We would stare at the Christmas trees, moving trains, dolls, wagons and listen to Christmas music. There would be people standing from the windows back to the curb and as long as the windows were. Those who were in the back visited with one another until the ones in the front moved on when finished looking and made room for them. It was always worth the wait.
Some of the people parked their cars and window shopped, there were also as many that stayed in their cars and watched the people walk by to see who they knew and hadn’t seen in a while or at least the last time they were down town and parked on a Sunday afternoon.
About five thirty p.m. everyone would start to leave for it was time for everyone to go home and grab a bite to eat and start getting ready for Youth meetings and Sunday night Church.
When the little ones became teenagers they would no longer go with their parents to window shop on Sunday. The teenagers were busy heading out for Idle Hour Park, Stripling Pool. Calaway Gardens or the Liberty Bell swimming pool at Pine Mountain.
I can remembering leaving for Ida Cason Beach and my dad was sitting on the front porch reading the Sunday newspaper. I ran by with a bathing suit and one of his long sleeve shirts on my arm when I heard , “Sandra” and I turned around and with his thumb he motioned me to go back inside the house. I didn’t question him, I knew my bathing suit was a little snug, but knowing I had been busted, I turned around ran back inside and left the Church group outside waiting while I changed. I ran back to the front porch and over my shoulder with the screen door open, I said, am I okay now daddy?” he nodded his head yes and I ran on with the Church group. It never crossed my mind to question daddy or tell him every body else’s suits looked like mine. I knew if I wanted to go to Ida Cason’s Beach I had better do as he said. My parents were strict on me, but it was because they loved me and it was their way of protecting me.
I look back at the picture of Broadway and I see the Metcalf sign. This is where most of my friends bought their blue jeans and their shirts to wear on the week ends when we rode our bikes and roller skated. Jeans were also for hay rides out to Juniper Lake, Tom’s Lake and Hardaway Hall. Mr. and Mrs. Hett (Ma and Pa Hett) lived on the grounds at Hardaway Hall in Midland Georgia and the Church group was invited out often on Hay Rides for cooking hamburgers and swimming. At the time Hardaway Hall seems like half way to Atlanta, but now it’s just out Warm Springs Road
Back to Broadway, I still remember the Transfer Station in the middle of the Broadway where the Busses pulled up on each sides where they picked up and left off passengers. From our house in the Rose Hill Jordan-Johnson area we rode the Rose Hill / Alexander Street Bus. The bus would pull up to the bus stop and if daddy had taken the time for a second cup of coffee, the bus driver would blow the horn and wait for him, then let him off at the front of Southern Bell Telephone AT &T which was where Hardaway Ford Company was and where Total Systems has now taken over.
To ride the bus to Church we would have to ride the Rose Hill / Alexander Bus down and transfer to the Wynnton Bus and get off at Wynnton Methodist Church on Wynnton Road where the Bus turned to make a loop and go back to town. We had to walk a few blocks to Church. It wasn’t a hardship. while on the Buss we met up with our own Church families and as a group we would all walk to Church which was on the corner of Macon Road and Dixon Drive. Parents would talk and we children would walk ahead and skip and run to Church. In the winter time and on the days it was raining we would take our cars otherwise our parents saved money by riding the buses.
I remember another family business, Chancellor Company. Its founder was Alexander C. Chancellor. Chancellor remained in the same block of Broadway since its establishment and essentially in its original location. I can remember mother going into Chancellor’s shopping for cloths for daddy. Even when I was young the business was already very old.
Another Broadway store ( 1136-1138) Was Kirvens Department store. J. A. Kirvens in 1876 purchased a notions and dry goods store which became a well known and well loved Department Store that was on the lips of most of the families in Columbus. Kirvens carried just about everything you needed. The Kirvens men were always in and around the store in case they were needed. Most everyone knew them by name and the Kirvens made you as a customer feel special and they wanted to please everyone. I’ve never heard anyone talk against Kirven’s Department store. I can remember sitting and eating on the second floor in a little restaurant and there was a tree that went straight up the middle of the building. Seems like it came up from the first floor and went thru the roof.
Davidson left downtown Broadway and went out to Cross Plaza for many years. I can’t remember how long Davidson stated in Columbus. Most families in the area stayed with Kirvens. Kirvens finally moved out to Columbus Square, but it was never the same.
The Kiddie Shop owned by the Pomerance family also moved from next door to Kirvens on Broadway to Columbus Square.
Sooner or later most of the Downtown Business moved out to Cross Country and Columbus Square. For many years Macon Road seem like the place to be. But it wasn’t. People moved into other areas in Columbus and even into Harris County.
As with Humpty Dumpty, when Downtown fell, no one was ever able to put her back together again and Broadway went with her. I don’t know what it would take to make Broadway’s side walks full of happy people again. As for me and this is my opinion, it will take more than pubs and after dark bars for our Broadway to come alive again.
But my Broadway and her memories will live in my heart and mind forever. The days of cruising down Broadway, the Christmas Parades, sitting on the curb drinking hot cocoa huddling under a blanket and waiting for the Jordan High School Band to come marching down the street dancing and playing Christmas songs, Horses and then Santa Clause at the end throwing candy and the children running in towards him.
Broadway was a place to go on a date and go to nice places to eat and take in a movie.