(And, Bradberry’s and Dyas are Long Gone)
by H.Jerome Chapman
I could be wrong on this, as likely as that would seem to everyone. But, I suspect that most people under 50 years have not stopped to realize that there has not always been a UPS, a FedEx and certainly no Amazon dot com. Yet, people all over the country relied heavily on goods being shipped to them that they ordered from various catalogs like Sears and Montgomery Ward. Maybe you ordered some chrome parts for your ’50 Ford Flathead V/8 from the J.C. Whitney catalog.
People routinely ordered clothes, live chickens, machinery parts and furniture and just about everything, literally, under the sun without so much as a telephone. Yes, you could even buy live chickens from radio station WCKY in Cincinnati, Ohio.
While today we are hearing talk of drones delivering merchandise to you the same day that you order it, maybe within hours, back in Sandy Point Times that was not the case. In fact the process for ordering could take two to three weeks and even more, depending on where the shipper was located and where the recipient lived.
Let’s say you needed a new tractor tire and Sears had the size you needed in their catalog. We could talk a lot about just the Sears Catalog but just remember you could buy clothes, a house, a new shotgun, or an automobile from the Sears Catalog! You name it and they had it! They had really cool motor scooters and motorbikes that you could dream about while sitting in front of the fireplace looking at page after page. Your grandmother had her pages marked. So did you and your grandfather. It was called the “wish book”.
So you get the order form out of the Sears catalog and you fill out the blanks with all the details and who you are and where you live. You might get a money order from the postman because you had no checks. (People even sent cash in the mail). You fold that all up and put it in an envelope and the postman would pick it up the next day. The order was on its way to Chicago.
In about a week Sears would have your order and process it and now they had to decide how it was to be shipped based on size and weight. Items that were too big for the post office would be shipped by one of about four companies, but in our world that company was The Railway Express Agency. The Post Office eventually got into the Parcel Post business.
The Railway Express was started by the government around the First World War after all the railroads were taken over by them to insure that goods could get from one place to another reliably. It was owned by a consortium of the railroads. The REA served as the connection between the business, the railroad and the customer. Nearly everything was moved across the country by rail as trucking was unreliable and almost non-existent on any national scale except on a local level. You could even get stuff shipped to you COD.
Once the item was shipped, it might take two to three weeks to make all the connections to get to your local REA location. Not every town had one. They were in business until about 1975 but should have been closed sooner.
The people in Sandy Point could get their shipment at the Roberta train depot where the item would be unloaded. They would send you a post card in the mail telling you your package or crate was there for pick up and that you had a certain number of days to come get it or it was going back! I do not believe they had a delivery service at that location but they did in larger cities like Macon and then, they only delivered in certain areas from that location. And, the railroads served most areas in those days.
They also had the “rolling stores” that came by every so often with sewing thread, liniment, cold cream and treats. The Watkins man came by with all kinds of products, too. And, doctors made house calls!
There again, it is amazing how much the country depended on the railroads in days past. Over the years, I have traveled up and down Hwy 42 from Roberta to Forsyth and on to Indian Springs, Jackson, Locust Grove and Stockbridge areas many, many times. I would always notice this sign at the Monroe County/Crawford County line area near Tobesofkee Creek on what I thought was an old store. The faded sign said “Dyas”. I often wondered about it until one day I decided to look up the history.
I was amazed to learn that there was a railroad depot there for the Macon-Birmingham Railroad (also referred to as the Macon-LaGrange Railroad) and that in its heyday they shipped 25,000 bales of cotton annually from there! Courting couples would ride their buggies down to see the train come in. The boll weevil put it out of business and it was closed and grew over with weeds. The rails were taken up and now the old building with the sign has fallen down. No one passing by would ever guess that such commerce went on in that remote location where the cotton fields are now all oaks and pines.
Now, the rails are gone in Roberta, too. The depot was closed but rescued for other use and stands today as a reminder to a bygone time when railroads “ruled the road” and people would actually wait three weeks or more for a package and think that was just fine! I would guess many pass by it without a clue to why it is there.
In my area, bicycles now occupy the rail beds where the Silver Comet once ran. The last train ran on January 18th, 1969. The Nancy Hanks made its last trip from Macon to Atlanta in 1971. A trip to Atlanta on the Nancy Hanks to shop at Rich’s: now that was about as good as it got back when. That would be like someone going to New York, now.
There is a great story about the lady from Macon who took the Nancy Hanks to Atlanta and when she and a friend got there, they went into the men’s bathroom at the train station by mistake. The story made the Atlanta Journal. But, we’ll let that wait for another day.
To add insult to injury, they built that interstate highway and politics put it through Macon. The bumper to bumper lines of cars passing through town from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana are gone. The six or so thriving motels and three or four restaurants, like The Pine Lawn, Hortman’s and Bradberry’s that sat along US 341 and were full all summer long are nearly all gone, too. Only traces remain of them now. A lot of local people worked in the restaurants including my mother-in-law and my wife on occasion when she was a teenager.
No swimmers are in the Bradberry pool and there’s no good warm pie on Sunday night after church there, either. Ms. Annie Braswell is not playing the piano at the Baptist Church, where my wife and I were married and Bob Hill drew funny pictures, anymore. And, there are no movies up in the theater on the town square.
And, do you know what? Maybe that suits everyone just fine. “Let ‘em have the traffic, the noise, the crime and pollution somewhere else and just leave us the peace and quiet!”
But it was exciting when you went to the mailbox and there was your REA postcard stating that the new tractor tire or the plow parts had arrived, or the new Icebox. Let’s get in the truck and go! And there it sat on the dock!
After it was loaded, you could get an ice cream or cherry Coke from the soda shop at Dr. Johnson’s drug store where my future sister-in-law worked at times. You might stop in Bankston’s for a few things where I bought my first shotgun for $26.50 , window shop the new dresses at Seagler’s and pick up any grocery items over at John Hicks’ store while you were there. W.F Andrews and Sons was there for your farm supply needs.
Who knows? There may be a day when a train goes through Roberta again on overhead rails that make no noise and the train does not even touch and people will pass through from Miami going to Atlanta and Chattanooga and New York in a few hours at 160 miles per hour using Magnetic Levitation. Who knows? They do it all over the world, except here. And when they pass by Dyas, they won’t even know it because there isn’t a sign left standing. And, maybe things are the way God intended.