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Two downtown merchants in the 1920s and 1930s were dear to me and to my family. Both of my grandfathers operated businesses during this time, and both made their marks on the community.

Claud Pemberton McGirt opened his general merchandise business in Fairmont in 1916. He came from Rowland and grew up in the Cotton Valley section near there. He was employed by the Curtis Company as a salesman and many of his first Fairmont customers followed him from the Rowland area.

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C. P. McGirt with employees Damon Floyd and Durham Mitchell in late 1920s. Photo credit: McGirt family archive.

Finding a suitable location on Main Street beside P. R. Floyd Co., he purchased the building and remained there until his death in March, 1941. He sold farm equipment, farm supplies, fertilizers and household items. He also sold sewing fabrics since "readymade" clothes were a luxury for many families. Several older ladies told me of standing in line for the new cloth shipment that had just arrived. "Mr. McGirt," said one lady, "always had the prettiest fabrics and the widest selection in town."

The depression hit him hard as he did quite a bit of business on "fall terms." My dad told me that many days the total cash receipts would be 50 cents. Much of the credit business died when he did. Little, if any, money was collected by his estate. Sadly, this was typical of the times.

Robert Oscar Floyd opened a stable on Center Street in the 1930s. He was a mule trader, just one of several in the immediate area. He and his brother Fred operated Floyd Dairy and he also farmed. In the late 1930s he opened a grocery store on Iona Street a block from the bank.

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Robert O. Floyd in his Center Street stable, 1930s. Photo credit: Floyd family archive.

He did all of this to take care of his growing family that eventually became eight children. My mother was the eldest girl. The Great Depression made him very frugal, a trait which was inherited by mom. In 1949 he established Floyd Memorial Cemetery, which became Fairmont's primary cemetery during the 1960s.

Both of my grandfathers were active in community and church affairs, each serving when called upon. Their legacy was one of quiet service to the community.

In July of 1932, when times were hard and getting harder, two young men put together $60 to open and stock a small grocery store on Center Street. Willis and Pittman Fisher struggled at first and survived by selling hot dogs and cold drinks from the front of the store. From these humble beginnings Fisher Brothers Grocery grew to become one of the largest groceries in the county and was able to compete price-wise with the chain stores such as A&P.

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Willis (Wick) Fisher, about 1935. Photo credit: Times-Messenger archive, used with permission.

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Pittman (Pitt) Fisher, about 1935. Photo credit: Times-Messenger archive, used with permission.

Two years apart in age, Willis (Wick) and Pittman (Pitt), ages 27 and 25 respectively, became dominant players in the highly competitive grocery business in Fairmont, which had ten to twenty grocery stores operating through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. From their opening in 1932, the business doubled in volume in 1933, doubled again in 1934 and defying all odds, doubled again in 1935. Their motto was "short profits and quick turnover."

The rapid growth was facilitated by the many services that they offered to their customers. They sold both retail and wholesale groceries which enabled them to expand their reach to a fifty mile radius of Fairmont. They sold coal and wood for heating homes, selling 24 railroad carloads of coal and several hundred cords of wood during the 1935-35 winter. They were dealers in fertilizers, cowhides and ice and were the first grocery in town to offer a home delivery service.

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Interior of Fisher Brothers Grocery, 1936. Wick Fisher in far left foreground. Photo credit: Times-Messenger archive, used with permission.

Their meat market, managed by Guthrie Floyd, was the most extensive in town. Not only did Fisher Brothers offer name brand meats such as Swift and Armour, they also sold locally-purchased beef, pork and poultry. In 1935 they purchased more than $18,000 worth of local produce including 20,000 pounds of chicken from local farmers.

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Fisher Brothers storage building located near a railroad siding, 1936. Photo credit: Times-Messenger archives, used with permission.

As the business grew it provided both Wick and Pitt the chance to get involved in community affairs, which will be the subject of another article. It continued through World War II and the Korean War and into the post-war prosperity. In 1961 Wick died of kidney disease. Pitt continued the operation until 1970 when his health deteriorated. On September 14, 1970 the fixtures and merchandise were auctioned off and Fisher Brothers Grocery was closed after thirty-eight years.

Since the village of Ashpole incorporated as Union City, there has always been two or more barber shops in town. Early records are sketchy at best. J. H. Floyd, Jr. had a barber shop on Main Street but his shop burned in a huge downtown fire on January 15, 1902.

By at least 1910, People's Barber Shop was opened on Main Street. W. J. Hammond was the owner and barbers were Lenard Sweat, Nola Cummings, Percy Locklear and Peter Lowery. A haircut was 25 cents and a shave was 10 cents.

W. Norman McLean was a Fairmont barber in September, 1905 but sold his shop in January, 1910. His shop was located adjacent to the post office (site unknown) but it is not known to whom he sold.

Misters Jessie Prevatte and Bullock were barbers in 1922 with a Center Street location. In October, 1922 they moved their shop to the Floyd building on Main Street.

In 1921 Dr. John P. Brown built a building for a barber shop adjacent to Pittman Drug Company. Many barbers have practiced there including Sandy McCormick, R. J. Sessoms, Marshall Smith, John Musselwhite, Harold Lloyd Musselwhite and David Musselwhite.

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From inside the Fairmont Barber Shop, 1929. Far left is Sandy McCormick, far right is John Musselwhite. Two of the middle three are Red Holt and R. J. Sessoms, the third is not identified. Photo credit: David Musselwhite, used with permission.

There have been as many as four barbers working there at one time and as few as one. David Musselwhite retired in July, 2017 after a barbering career of 65 years, all in that same shop. He sold the business to Ricky Brown, the current operator.

Star Barber Shop was located in the R. L. Pittman building on Main Street, across from Waccamaw Bank. Owned and operated by M. D. Smith and J. L. Prevatte, it also employed John Musselwhite and C. L. Leggette as barbers. It had been in business for 7 years in August, 1934.

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Steve Teal, son of FHS Ag teacher Vernon Teal, getting a haircut from John Musselwhite. May, 1951. Photo credit: Times-Messenger archive, used with permission.

Sessom Barber Shop, R. J. Sessoms, proprietor, was located across from Capitol Theater in August, 1935. Its advertisement promised "guaranteed sober service" and said that it had been serving the community for 15 years. In addition to Sessoms, it also employees Red Holt and R. A. Lovett as barbers and Jim Pittman, "the world's best shine boy."

North Side barber shop for Indians, operated by John H. Sampson of Pembroke, was opened in February, 1937. It was just north of Fairmont on the Lumberton Highway adjacent to G. E. Spaulding's North Side Service Station.

Seth Kinlaw operated his own shop in Fairmont for many years in several Main Street locations. In the late 1940s A. C. Bracey worked with Kinlaw before eventually opening his own shop in Lumberton.

Many years ago it was fashionable to get one's hair cut every ten days to two weeks. Now most men get haircuts just once a month or less. The business certainly has changed.


Note: If anyone has other barber shop photos made in any of the above-mentioned shops, we will be happy to include them here if you will use the contact form on the right of this page.


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