Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Betigheimer Store, Edwards, Mississippi

Country stores in Edwards, Mississippi. Map drawn with ESRI ArcMap software.
The Betigheimer country store on Betigheimer Road and MS 27.
The previous two blog entries dealt with Margaret's Grocery. These small rural stores are cultural elements of the southern scene that are rapidly disappearing. They are fascinating photographic subjects and I will show more examples in the future. The subject of this essay is the Betigheimer store, formerly located at the corner of Hwy. 27 and Betigheimer Road, near Utica, Mississippi. The first time I photographed it was in 1986, when it was being used as an antique store.

A coworker who grew up in Utica told me he used to shop there as a child. He remembered buying his first cookies there, two for a penny (I didn't ask what century this might have been). He was intrigued by the fact that Germans ran a country store in a rural African-American community. How did they end up in a place like Utica? At the time, it was a classic country store, selling hardware, seeds, food, tools, nails, and useful supplies. He could not remember when it ceased business as a general merchandise store. The Betigheimers lived in a large wood house just east of the store, but it was struck by lightning and burned down sometime in the 1980s. A modern house is on the lot now.

When I returned in 1997, the antique business had closed, but there was a lot of old-fashioned machinery (junk) strewn about the yard. Nice stuff, but not much was happening.

The store burned sometime around 2000. I rarely drove on Hwy. 27, and one day in the early 2000s, it struck me that the store was gone. Sad, another piece of our heritage gone.
1986 Tri-X photograph of the Betigheimer store taken with a 4×5" Tachihara camera and 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens.
The first color photograph above is a Kodachrome 25 transparency taken with a Rollei 35S camera with f/2.8 Zeiss Sonnar lens. The next three are Kodachrome 25s taken with a Leica M3 rangefinder and 35 mm f/2.0 Summicron-RF lens (the famous 8-element version with the finder goggles). I scanned the transparencies as TIFF files with a Nikon Coolscan 4000 film scanner.

Update June 2020: the last photograph is a black and white Tri-X frame from a 4×5" camera.

Friday, February 11, 2011

More Views of Margaret's Grocery, N. Washington Street, Vicksburg

I found some more old photographs of Margaret's Grocery at 4535 North Washington Street that I wanted to share with you readers. The first is another April 1996 view of the north end of the complex. Notice the bus is already in place. I had not noticed it before and am not sure when this acquisition was added to the collection.

Here is the bus in March 2002, with its checkerboard paint motif. I took this late in the day, when the light was fading. This is a Kodachrome slide taken with a Leica rangefinder camera and a 20 mm Russar lens.

Finally, here is the unique doorway with newspaper clippings from around the country describing the Gro. It was an amazing place and I wish I had taken more photographs back in its prime.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Margaret's Grocery, Vicksburg, Mississippi: the Early Days

Margaret's Grocery at 4535 North Washington Street is an amazing piece of folk art crafted by the Reverend H.D."Preacher" Dennis. Many people have photographed the site, including the talented local photographer Marty Kittrell (see his blog), but I would like to add some photographs from my 1980s and 1990s archives. This first photograph is from December 1985, soon after H.D. married Margaret Rogers. At that time, it really was a local grocery store catering to nearby residents from the Kings neighborhood. There were just a few of the hand-crafted decorations that later transformed the humble shop.
By 1988, look at the brickwork! Reverend Dennis is the tall gent framed by the brick arch. He was proud of his work, and as many locals know, once he started talking about his love for the Lord and his temple, he went on, and on, and on... He told me that at the end of World War II, he worked as a prison guard for German prisoners and learned his brick skills from them. He said they were the best craftsmen anywhere. Germans had an affinity for Rev. Dennis because many German tourists visited, as proven by testimonials in German in the guest book. The photograph above is a scan of a 4×5-inch Fujichrome transparency.

You can see how brilliant the colors were when fresh. It was a difficult site to photograph because you needed to be there in the morning when the sun shone on the front. (The two frames above are from Fuji Reala film exposed with a Rolleiflex camera.)

Here is a 1990 detail of one of the towers.

Here is an April 1996 photograph, with a yellow motif along the roof line. The Coca Cola signs along the awning have been painted over.

Along with the exterior, Rev. Dennis was working on the inside. He eventually covered almost the entire ceiling and most of the walls with flowers, clocks, paintings, crosses, and things I can't name. This was a badly underexposed Kodachrome slide from 2002 that took some effort to scan and bring out details from the darkest areas.

I am not sure when the famous bus appeared on the property, but it was there in 2002, already decorated. This was another difficult Kodachrome to scan because the windows were overexposed while the ceiling was dark. Nowadays, digital imaging handles the exposure range much more gracefully.

Margaret passed away in 2010 and the Rev. Dennis had to move to a nursing home. Since then, vandals have stolen art and architectural features, and rain and weathering are taking their toll. In a later blog I will show readers what the Gro looks like today. The Vicksburg Post has featured Margaret's Grocery several times over the years, with the most recent article on 15 August, 2010.

Back in the 1980s, North Washington Street had a number of odd places to see. Here is a former Corvair junk yard. I wonder where they all went? People restore Corvairs now.