Not a Thursday afternoon: the optimism and dangers of the small town of Monticello
Submitted by Rebekah Sheats
About a hundred years ago, on March 27, 1925, two local banks (the Bank of Monticello and the Farmers and Merchants Bank) informed the public in Jefferson County to close at 12:00 “every following Thursday afternoon.
This opinion was not new to Monticello. Local businesses have been shutting down most Thursday afternoons since the start of World War I, and possibly even earlier. (During the war, members of the Home Guard had spent the afternoon free each week training for potential combat.)
After the war, businesses continued to shut down on Thursday afternoons, although that shutdown was generally limited to the summer months, which in Florida referred to April through September. The main exception to this rule was local pharmacies. By 1930, Monticello owned three: Johnson and Son, Simmons City Drugstore, and Hicks Drug Company. These three businesses have alternated their closings on Thursday afternoon, ensuring that a store remains open each week in case of emergency.
Thursday afternoon closures were a hallmark of life in the small town of Monticello. Optimism was another characteristic.
For example, in May 1930, the Monticello baseball team won their first championship game with a score of 11 to 1 against rival Valdosta. One enthusiastic fan noted: “Monticello was in his old form, playing a ball as high end as you see anywhere.”
The following week, Monticello lost to neighboring team Tallahassee. Will Bulloch, editor of the Monticello News, noted optimistically: âThe Monticello baseball team brilliantly won the game with Valdosta last Thursday, and lost the one with Tallahassee very brilliantly. Not so good. But stick around and they’ll win another one soon.
Baseball news that season took second place after the local election results. For months, newspaper pages had been cluttered with ads withdrawn by would-be state senators, county commissioners and school board members, hoping to win the next primary. When polling day finally arrived, the city filled with candidates and voters. âMonticello was a busy little town last Tuesday night,â it was noted in June 1930. âIt was difficult to find a place to park a car. “
Summarizing the results of the following week’s election, the Monticello News offered a little upbeat and old-fashioned advice to politicians, observing: “The election is over now, and everyone is happy, or seems to be, and could. . At least half of the candidates in each election must lose.
Optimism was in great demand at this time. It was also good hard work. Monticello had little patience with those who spent their lives demolishing others rather than building community. As Hicks Drug Company says:
“Real cities are not made
By frightened men
Lest someone else get ahead.
If everyone is working and no one shies away,
You can raise a city from the dead.
Hard work has often paid off, as in the case of an unexpected fire on May 28, 1931. On that fateful day, a fire broke out in Ruddy’s Bargain Store, a small local establishment on the east side of Cherry Street. (where TheFirst Bank currently stands). The fire, the origin of which has never been determined, broke out at the back of the store around 4:00 p.m. It would have been quickly located and turned off on an ordinary day, but it was a Thursday afternoon, and downtown Monticello was deserted.
The moment someone noticed the fire, smoke was billowing from either side of Ruddy’s small building and seeping through the ceiling into the adjacent dry goods store owned by Adolphus Bishop.
An alarm was finally set off, but (it was Thursday afternoon) the fire truck driver was not at his post. Unperturbed, several young men requisitioned the truck and rushed to Cherry Street to put out the rising flames. Their quick thinking and hard work proved to be fruitful, and the fire was put out before it damaged the structure of the building. Much of Ruddy’s stock (and Adolphus next door) was damaged by smoke and water, but the stores were rescued.
“The enthusiastic and willing young men did a good job preventing the fire from damaging other property,” the incident noted.
The names of the young men have been lost in history. But, because of its timing, the event has gone down in Jefferson County’s annals as a typical day in Monticello, a day characteristic of the city’s quaint business calendar.
In conclusion, Will Bulloch expressed everyone’s thoughts when he said: âThe fire happened at the most inconvenient time. “
The moral of the story? I guess there could be two morals to this story.
Moral # 1: If a job needs to be done, don’t complain because the other person isn’t doing the job. Get up and do it yourself!
Moral # 2: If a fire breaks out in your business in downtown Monticello, make sure it doesn’t happen on a Thursday afternoon.