Recalled by Lenard Richards, Al Lawson, Donald Jenkins, Robert Samuel Stewart III, Angie Russell, Neil Kalmanson and Anthony Faris

Recollection by Lenard Richards

Growing up in Emanuel County as a child, I did childish things. I also did good deeds. I vividly remember one Saturday morning I agreed with an elderly white man to sell boiled peanuts on the Boneyard for 25¢ per bag. I was to get 5¢ of every bag. I sold 22 bags of peanuts and only received 66¢. I was 44¢ short. I thought since I could not make him pay, I would spend my money at the Bakery (Mrs. Bazemore’s Bakery) and go to the Dixie Theater.

Mr. Tom Kell was in charge of the Theater at that time. I thought that he was the tallest man in the world. As the big boys bought tickets and went to the movie upstairs, I chose the biggest boy I could find and as he opened the door to go upstairs, I snuck in beside him. He was so huge, he pressed me against the glass door and popped me on my head and called me a bad boy. I could not enjoy the movie that Saturday ( Burt Lancaster  in Apache). I was so afraid that he was going to tell my mother or Mr. Kell, the tallest man in the world.

Recollection by Al Lawson, Former City Administrator

When I think back about some of the fondest memories I have of Downtown Swainsboro, there are a few that always stick in my mind. When I was a small boy I remember my mother taking me to the soda fountain at Black’s Pharmacy, located where the Emanuel County Tax Office is today. We would get to sit on the stools at the fountain but my mother had to lift us up since we were so small. She would let us order a milk shake or a sundae. I also remember going to the Dixie Theater, located where Rainbow Antiques is today, just to get a popcorn, a coke and maybe watch the movie. In today’s world of TV, movies, play stations, microwaves, and hurry up everything, these memories seem so insignificant, but to a boy of 8 it was GREAT. Swainsboro has seen many changes over the last half century that I have lived here. Who would have imagined that many years later I would have the privilege of running the city that I grew up in and love so dearly. I think one of the most defining moments in our city in the last century was when Swainsboro was chosen as a 2004 City of Excellence by the Georgia Municipal Association and Georgia Trend Magazine. This prestigious award was only given to ten cities in Georgia that year. We already know what a great city we have but it means a lot when others recognize what a special city we have as well!

Recollection by Donald Jenkins, Former City Council Member and SHS Assistant Principal

Having grown up in the fifties and sixties, I have many vivid memories of some of the commerce and sights in Downtown Swainsboro. Cultural mores of the time withstanding, I remember the excitement I experienced in coming to Swainsboro that once-a-week on Saturdays since I lived outside the county. Many memories of the stores that were there flood my mind. I think back on Darling’s and United Five and Ten cent stores, Allied, Levins, and Maxwell’s, Erlich’s and Subotnicks clothing stores. Who can forget Dolores and Woody’s seven-shops-in-one? The Citizens Bank was in the present City Hall, and the Police Station was a little booth right across the street. Central Bank was around the opposite corner. I remember Davis and Black’s Drug stores, Smith and Spivey Hardware and a few other mercantile establishments I can’t bring to mind. This little square surrounding the Courthouse was a “hub-bub” of activity in those days (many ads mentioned the location as “Courthouse Square”). Although the flavor is radically different today, it is good to see the Square still maintaining through the combined efforts of local government, business owners, and the private sector over recent years since the expansion move much of commercial Swainsboro away from the Square. 

Recollection by Robert Samuel Stewart III, Owner of Stewart’s Jewelers

Stewart’s Jewelers opened in 1949, the same year I was born. I believe the first store was in a building that doesn’t exist anymore but stood where Buckley and Associates parking lot is. After we moved, I think Lucile’s Hamburger Joint opened up. The only thing I really remember about the first store is that there were double doors in the entrance. The second Stewart’s Jewelers building I remember a little bit better. We moved across the street between the old Dixie Theater and Dolores and Woody’s. My father and mother eventually built the store we are in now on Green Street. We’ve always been on Green Street.

 I sort of grew up in the family business. I began working here even before I finished school. I started out repairing watches and worked my way up to jewelry repair. Most of the family owned businesses Downtown are gone but back when Stewart’s began, every business was family owned. The only Downtown business I can think of that is still family owned, besides us, is Maxwell’s. Stewart’s is the only the place I have ever worked and in the late 90’s my sister and I began to take over the family business. My mother still comes in to help and my sister’s children and my children all work here off and on. We’ve been committed to Downtown for almost 60 years and our family plans to keep Stewart’s Jewelers going for years to come.

Recollection by Angie Russell

Growing up, “the Downtown Square” was the heartbeat of Swainsboro. Some of my fondest memories include going to the movies at The Dixie Theater, shopping with my mother at The Children’s Shop in Dolores and Woody’s, getting to go to Darling’s or McConnell’s 5 and 10 and best of all, sitting at the counter of the soda fountain at Harrison’s Drugstore or Davis Drugs and having a coke float. When I got older Saturday mornings meant going to Maxwell’s, Levine’s Department Store, Mary’s Lady’s Shop, and Dolores and Woody’s where you could try on clothes and even take them home on “approval” so that your parents could help you decide if you should keep the clothes or not. Everyone always gathered with excitement for special events and Parades Downtown. “The Square” was the heart and strength of our Downtown. Now that I run my own business on the Downtown Square, I look forward to being a part of bringing back to life the Downtown that held such special memories for me. 

Recollection by Neil Kalmanson, Retired East Georgia College Art Professor

Although East Georgia College’s campus is a great asset to our community, our first year as Emanuel County Junior College, in the center of downtown Swainsboro, had many advantages and provided many fond memories. While the campus was being built, many of our classes were taught in the Armory building, but we also had a strong presence downtown. Our administration offices were housed on the first floor and basement of the Coleman Hotel on the corner of Highway 80 and US 1 (where main streets meet!). The division offices and art studio were one block south, over what was Davis Drugs. Mr. Baker’s Biology classroom and the library were across the street.

Our presence downtown established a positive relationship with the Community- we were right there, not an “ivory tower” away. I had quarterly student art shows in the three local banks, displaying our students newly acquired aesthetic skills. When we went out for coffee, it wasn’t in a college café, it was in the restaurant that was also housed in the basement of the Coleman Hotel. As exciting as it was to eventually get my own modern art studio in the new physical education art complex on campus, it wasn’t any “better” than the studio that I had in that wonderful room over Davis Drugs. The high ceilings in patterned tin were complimented with tall windows, oak floors and a mantled fireplace giving the room the light, texture and atmosphere of an artist’s atelier of the past. 

Recollection by Anthony Faris, Former Director of Downtown Development

In 2005, I was just returning from two years of traveling across the country. I was in New Jersey when I began to get home sick for the South and in July I finally drove back. I moved to Swainsboro shortly after returning and settled into my house on Church Street. I still remember the feeling I had when I first drove through Downtown Swainsboro. The architecture of the old buildings, the square in the middle of town, the pavilion on Green Street were all reminiscent of the things I had seen in small towns across the U.S. but there was something unique about Swainsboro, it felt like home.  

I remember walking through a labyrinth of antiques at Rainbow Antique Mall, seeing a show at the Kalmanson Gallery, and having dinner in the window of 114 West Main Restaurant one evening with a friend from out of town (Years later she too would move to Swainsboro). The owner of the restaurant sent over a dessert as a “Welcome to Town” gift. I had friend from Indiana visit one time and he called me on his way back to say that he had just seen a sign that said “If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home” that reminded him of Swainsboro. I think that sign about sums up the community. In 2007, I started a business Downtown and in 2008 took a position as Swainsboro’s first Director of Downtown Development. I’ve heard stories about what Downtown has meant to other members of the community throughout the years and each day I come to work I am thankful that I have a chance to be a part of the future this Downtown. I hope it always offers those who live here and visit a meaningful experience that reminds of them of home.