Monday, June 4, 2018

Pelham As We Knew It in 1985

We moved to our first house in Pelham in 1985, and as you might expect I've written several postings on this blog related to the city or Shelby County. Historian Bobby Joe Seales and his wife Diane are currently working on Pelham Memories: A Pictorial History that will be available in November 2018. This forthcoming book made me think about the ways Pelham has changed since we moved here and what relics of that time are still around. So I made the rounds one day and photographed some places that were here in 1985 and how they look today.

Pelham is actually very old as towns in Alabama go. The town was established as the first seat of Shelby County in 1818 by the Alabama Territorial legislature. In 1826 county government was moved to Columbiana. Originally known as Shelbyville, the place changed its name to Pelham to honor John Pelham sometime in the 1870's. The population remained small for many decades even though the community was located on US Highway 31 and incorporated in 1964. By 1970 just 931 people lived in Pelham.

During that decade the suburbs of northern Shelby County began to boom, and in 1980 Pelham reached a population of 6759. In 1990 it was 9765. The 2016 estimate was 23,050 people. So when we moved here in 1985 there were probably around 8000.

Despite its long history, Pelham has few buildings that are very old. The Fungo Hollow area along Shelby County 35 has some older houses and other such residences are scattered around the city. Very few commercial buildings predate the 1970's, however.

More comments are below the photos.

This goal post in the trees is very close to the house we moved to in 1995 and currently occupy. Someone told Dianne not long after we arrived in the neighborhood that the owners of this property once had a son who was a kicker on the Pelham High School football team

A Food World operated here from January 1974 until a few years ago. Son Amos worked there for a while in high school. 

When we first moved to Pelham the town had few restaurants. None of the many eating places now at the I-65 and Alabama 119 interchange and elsewhere were available then. Sometime in the late 1980's China One opened in the Food World Plaza. We ate there many times when the kids were young. The restaurant has been known as China Cafe for some time; we haven't eaten there in years. Tao long ago became our go-to Asian place in Pelham. 

A Winn-Dixie was located here on U.S. 31 when we moved to Pelham in 1985. This commercial strip, which also houses Cozumel restaurant, is very close to where we used to live. The store closed a few years later, but one reappeared in another place in town as noted below.

Now an Italian restaurant, this building housed a Shoney's when we moved to Pelham. At that time one of the few restaurants in town, the Shoney's moved near the I-65 and Alabama 119 interchange when it began to develop. That location eventually closed; the building was demolished sometime before 2010, and a Burger King is located there now. The Shoney's sign on I-65 did not come down until late 2013. 

We used to really enjoy the breakfast buffets at Shoney's. 

When this commercial strip on U.S. 31 was built, Winn-Dixie was the anchor store where Gold's Gym is now. The grocery store closed a few years ago. 

This building on U.S. 31 near the IHOP has been Riverchase Carpet and Flooring since 1995. Yet it began life in the early 1950's as a Pan American Oil Company gas station. That arrangement didn't last long; although founded in 1916, Pan American had merged with Standard Oil in 1954 and became part of the Amoco brand.

The station was owned by the Acton family for many years. Built soon after U.S. 31 was widened to four lanes, the place offered a stop for travelers heading south from Birmingham. As seen in the photo below, the station had two service bays. The section on the left was a restaurant; the office was on the right.

At some point the station closed and an RV business operated there for a while. I seem to remember that place. When Clyde Pearce bought the building in 1995, it was dilapidated and part of the roof had caved in. Now it's a showplace, and I presume the oldest commercial building in Pelham.

Source: Shelby County Reporter 22 June 2011

This building On U.S. 31 was a bank when we first moved to Pelham, but I don't remember which one. 

This building sure looks like a former Waffle House or Omelette Shop. 

Until recently this building was Valley Elementary School. Our children Amos and Becca both went here and then on to Riverchase Middle School and Pelham High School. The Pelham school system has removed its identity, but the building remains. VES opened in 1964 and lasted until about 2016 with some expansion along the way.

This residence is known as the Lee home and sits on Lee Street near Donut Joe's and just across from the railroad tracks. Built in 1895, the house is one of the oldest structures left in Pelham. The photo above is taken from the Pelham City News, October/November 2010, page 5. That article gives more history of the house. At one time the tiny Pelham Depot was located across the street, but had no bathroom facilities. Passengers waiting for a train would instead come to the Lee home.

Pelham United Methodist Church originated on this spot at the corner of US31 and Shelby County 52. On November 19, 1898, the first sermon by Rev. Felix A. Vann was heard at the New Methodist Episcopal Church South. The church was the first to be located in the city. The sanctuary building was constructed in the 1940's. The Doc Martin Family Life Center behind it opened in 1988.

In October 2006 the church moved to new property on Shelby County 11. An auction of this site was held in April 2007. The sanctuary has been demolished and the photo below shows what remains today on the 4.5 acre site.

This Boggs Pottery business was located on US 31 across from the current Wal-Mart but closed a few years ago. The Boggs family began its pottery business in Prattville in the 1890's and continues today. They were among a number of folk potters active in the state well into the 20th century. The article "Boggs Pottery Shop Has Long History" by state folklorist Joey Brackner can be found in Alabama Folklife 5(1): 6-7, spring 1998.

This structure across US 31 from the old public library and City Hall probably originated as a residence in the 1950's or a bit later. The city has several such buildings from the 1960's and 1970's that have later been put to commercial use at one time or another. The city also has a number of houses in the Fungo Hollow area around Shelby County 35 and 72 that date from those decades. 

This location of the library closed on April 23 so that its contents could be moved to the new library at the city park. When we moved to Pelham the police department was located here; the library was on the first floor with the entrance around back.

A K-Mart was located here in 1985.

Pelham's original WalMart on US31 in the southern part of town is now the home of MasTec Network Solutions

Some other businesses in Pelham that I remember include Fran's Restaurant on U.S. 31. Oddly, even though the place opened in 1961 and operated until September 2013, we never ate there. The place was a popular spot, though. Owner Fran Driver passed away in February 2012. After Fran's closed, a couple of other eateries tried the location. The small commercial strip once housing Fran's was demolished earlier this year. The article "Remembering Fran Driver" can be found in the Pelham City News April 2012, page 7.

Another business was the Command Post, an Army surplus store owned by Jennifer and Nick Bondi who were from Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Son Amos and I visited a couple of times when it was located behind Anthony's car wash. The store had opened in a first location in 1984, moved in 1996 and operated there until 2011. 

I also remember several visits with Dianne to the Gift Bag, a boutique with clothes, jewelry, purses and such. I remember the place on Belcher Drive vividly because it was small and so packed there was barely room to move around in it. Sarah Higginbotham opened the Gift Bag in March 1978 and operated it until November 2007. For more about the shop, see Jeremy Gray's article, "Failing Health Causes Boutique Owner to Close Shop after 29 Years" in the Birmingham News 7 November 2007. 

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