December 31, 2012

Newman Avenue through the Years

Like every other community, the village known as Sicily Island has seen its share of changes in the landscape, buildings, and businesses throughout the years.  Newman Avenue has been known for some time now as the "main street" of the tiny village and it is here where most of the dramatic changes have occurred. 

The photographs below are posted in an attempt to preserve a portion of the history of this tiny village.  Most people refer to this village as Sicily Island or by its former name, Florence.  

Newman Avenue, 1927 (LtoR):  Yancey Brothers (later C. S. Montgomery), Drug Store with Dr. Gordon's office on back, Variety store (originally the T. J. Chisum store), J. W. "Wes" Ogden Grocery (originally the I.A. Steele Store; later, O. G. Wynn Grocery, then Gordon's Grocery), O. G. Wynn Grocery (later, Blacksmith Shop, then Pool Hall), and Woodman Hall. 

Of the stores listed above, the only buildings still standing are the old Variety Store, the I. A. Steele Grocery and the Pool Hall. 

Newman Avenue, 1927 (Stores on Right in older photo - Foreground to Background):  Saltzman General Merchandise (later, Friley Guice Merchandise), Old Post Office, Richard Iverson "I-Bo" Harris Hardware and Pool Hall, and Buck Smith Grocery.  As the recent photograph on the right shows, none of the previous buildings remain today.

Newman Avenue, 1960s - Stores on Left in older photo - Foreground to Background:  C. S. Montgomery Store, Drug Store, Bumpers, O. G. Wynn Grocery, Pool Hall, Jack McNair's Saloon. Stores on Right in older photo - Foreground to Background:  Crawford's Barber Shop, Saltzman Merchandise.

Newman Avenue, 1970s - The Sicily Island branch of the Catahoula Parish Library and a small Insurance business are the only structures still standing on the north side of Newman Avenue.

Newman Avenue, circa 1938-39 - Originally this grocery store was built and operated by Isham Alfonso "I. A. or Al" Steele around 1917-1918.  His son-in-law, J. W. "Wes" Ogden, later owned and operated the store and was the proprietor at the time of this photograph.  One of Wes and Lucille Steele Ogden's daughters, Virginia, is seated on the far left.  Also in the photograph are Catherine "Kitty" McNair Nolen (2nd from left) and Barbara Jane Peck Gilbert (center).

Mr. and Mrs. O. G. Wynn, Sr. as well as Gordon Higgins and Mary Nell Benge Higgins have been previous owners of this same building and business.

Newman Avenue, 1960s - Photograph of a patron of Jack McNair's Saloon.  Today, the building houses a small barbeque cafe.

Newman Avenue, 1960 - Vernie Robertson and wife standing beside a cafe (later known as Langston's Cafe) that is now the location of a mini-storage building.

Newman Avenue, late 1960s - The Sicily Island First United Methodist Church building (pictured on the left) was constructed in 1910.  There were seventy members at that time.  Classrooms were added along the back in 1945.  In 1965 a new sanctuary was built and the previous sanctuary was used as the "Sunday School Building" for about 10 years until it was torn down to build the new educational building (pictured on the right) in 1975.

Perhaps the most difficult change for me was the destruction of the old sanctuary.  Some of my fondest childhood memories include the time spent in the little white church building with my family and friends.  Whether it was time spent attending church as a family on Sundays, M.Y.F. with friends on Wednesdays, Vacation Bible School in the Summers, getting all "foo-foo'd" up for Easter Services, or the always reverent Christmas Eve Candlelight Services, all continue to hold a special place in my heart.

Below is a photograph taken of the painting that once hung behind the pulpit of the Sicily Island United Methodist Church that was built in 1910.  This painting is now on display in the Educational Building constructed in 1975.

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