208 Main St. in Union wasn’t always vacantBy TERESA BLOUNT,
Today as we ride down Main Street in Union, we see only one vacant lot, that being at 208 Main. Occasionally, it is used on Country Day or for a benefit cookout or to display political signs on election years; but primarily it sits with no activity. However, it has not always been that way. In the past, it was the location of two active businesses.
The first store went into business before the first edition of the 1910 Union Appeal, therefore leaving no documentation of its beginning. However, we do know that brothers J.B.
and R.A. Pool moved to Union and built a general merchandise store, which they named J.B. and R.A. Pool, on this vacant lot. Shortly afterward, J.B. died in 1911, leaving the business to R.A., who quickly changed the store’s name to R.A. Pool. The store burned in the big fire of July 1912, but R.A. immediately rebuilt it. R.A. then died in Nov. 1914.
On June 19, 1915, R.A.’s store went up for public auction. Yet on April 13, 1916, Sam A. Pool, another brother of R.A. and J.B. Pool who had bought the store, came from Ludlow in Scott County to operate it himself. He then changed the name of the store again to S.A. Pool. In 1919, he built the house located on the SE corner of Pine and Main Streets, where he lived and also rented rooms. His store remained an active business in Union until January 1935 when it burned. Sam did not rebuild, but the good location did not go vacant for long.
The business that followed S.A. Pool offered a completely different opportunity for Union’s townspeople. The first Lions Club organized July 5, 1935. As their first project, they planned to bring a moving theater to Union. By September of 1935, they had raised $560 by subscriptions, secured the property, and called J.W. Wofford from Eupora to come to Union to open a theater. Work began immediately, and Wofford’s Union Theater opened in 1936.
Up to this point, Union’s previous theaters had been silent moving theaters with local musicians playing instruments to accompany them. Wofford introduced his patrons to a different type of movie and modern conveniences. In 1941, he began showing 3-D movies. He also remodeled by adding 225 upholstered chairs and a new sound system. He continued to make periodic improvements until he finally closed his theater in 1972. Renters re-opened it in Feb. 1980, but Mr. Wofford took it back over in April and ran it for only a short while before closing it for the final time. After his retirement, Mr. Wofford and his wife Edith spent their days at the Union Golf Course, where he worked as manager of the course and she play
The abandoned building was eventually purchased by Mark Herrington, who had it demolished in 1992. Union has since been without the entertainment of a theater, and the lot at 208 Main St. has remained vacant.
Anyone who ever entered the doors of the Union Theater can without a doubt recall special memories. Matinees on Saturday afternoons often featured cowboy shows that ran several times over. Mothers who paid only one fare had a full-time Saturday afternoon babysitter. One of the boys enjoying the series was a young J.G. Alexander, who remembered spending his Saturday afternoons there while his parents worked at the drug store. Once when his mother came for him, he told her that he wasn’t ready to go. He had seen the movie only four times.
Many couples spent their first date and then future ones at the “picture show.” It also gave young people a place to meet on the weekends since going out of town was not the norm in earlier days. Whether it was throwing popcorn or dodging popcorn thrown from the balcony or waiting in the telephone line to call parents when the movie ended, each person can reminisce when he/she hears the words Union Theater. If you have memories you would to share, contact me and I will add them to the list.
While I have concentrated on buildings and businesses in this column, many people who read them have told me that they begin to reminisce, and that is part of my purpose in writing these articles. Memories are important.
Last week I asked questions about Ivy Miller’s Barber and Beauty Shops and about the Compress, but I failed to include contact information. Here are this week’s questions:
• When did Little Learners on 5th Street open?
• When did Myrtle Majors take over as manager of Dot’s Shoppe?
• When was the old Time Saver building on Decatur Street torn down?