Bluefield Daily Telegraph
I received an email last week from a gentleman who provided a digital photograph of an old A-Mart sticker and package containing 12 needles. He said he still uses the needles from time to time to sew on buttons.
When I posed the question a week ago to my fellow staffers of what was the name of the old department store located directly adjacent to the Acme at the Westgate Shopping Center, most of them were stumped. Bill Archer was not here, I might add. He probably would have immediately known — and I say that meaning no disrespect to my fellow co-workers. It’s just that we all know Bill is a walking history book — and he is the first person we normally ask when an obscure history question arises.
Being the guy who grew up in McDowell County, I kind of felt odd being the only person who remembered the old department store as being the A-Mart. And so that led me to doubt myself, and my own memories. Sue Richmond, the veteran newsroom employee, couldn’t remember the name of the department store, and obituary clerk Barabara Lewis also wasn’t sure if it was the A-Mart or Heck’s.
Later, veteran Daily Telegraph correspondent and Tazewell High School teacher Larry Hypes also confirmed that the store in question was the A-Mart. Larry added that both the Acme and A-Mart chains were founded by Sid Peery. And the e-mail photo helped to erase any doubt that was left in our minds. It was definitely the A-Mart, and a reader had old A-Mart stickers to prove it. The reader went on to add that there was once a Heck’s on Bluefield Avenue many years ago at the site where AutoZone currently stands. A Big Lots also was located at the site several years ago.
I had a couple of other calls about last week’s column, including a reminder of the fact that an old Acme market was once located at the current site of the Daily Telegraph — a fact that I actually knew but failed to mention in the earlier article. Another caller went into details about the old Kroger at Coney Island in Welch. I do clearly remember Mom taking me as a kid to Kroger in Welch, and Dad also used to work at the old Deskin’s in Welch, so naturally I did frequent the old Deskin’s more than I did Kroger. But it was sad to see Kroger close in Welch. Just as it was sad to see the Cumberland Road Kroger close in Bluefield last year. And of course I loved the old Big Lots in Welch. I also was reminded of the old JcPenny and Montgomery Ward stores in Welch — although I oddly have a better childhood memory of the old JcPenney in downtown Bluefield than I do of the department store in Welch.
It’s funny how mentioning something as simple as the old A-Mart can open up a floodgate of memories for folks. We’ve lost a lot of good stores over the years. Perhaps the new Ollie’s Bargain Outlet opening today in Bluefield, Va., will serve as a catalyst or spark to additional growth in the area.
Do you know what today is? For local history buffs, it is the 20th anniversary of the Great Blizzard of 1993. If you lived in the area 20 years ago today, this is something you will probably never forget. More than two feet of snow crippled the greater Bluefield area two decades ago today. It was a snowstorm unlike any our region had seen in recent history. And it was a day when the National Weather Service got it right.
They predicted a massive blizzard, and the monstrous storm arrived right on schedule. Between a very long Friday night and Saturday morning, the region was buried under more than 32 inches of snow. It was the great blizzard of 1993, a historic snowstorm that left the entire region crippled for days. Roadways were closed, and putting out a daily newspaper proved to be a unique challenge for those of us at the Daily Telegraph. I remember my little vehicle on that fateful morning being completely buried under snow. You couldn’t even see it. I didn’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle back then, but even if I did, it may not have done a lot of good.
Flash forward to today. Spring is now only eight days away. But are we finally finished with snow for the winter of 2012-2013? I hope so, but I also doubt it. In fact, it is supposed to snow today! And it always does snow in March, and usually in April. More times than not the Easter weekend is cold, and I do remember a past Easter or two when it actually snowed. But ultimately spring, and the warmer weather, will win out. And I’m ready for spring.
While the winter of 2012-2013 wasn’t very bad when compared to what we’ve seen in the past, we still had our fair share of snow. And for those of us who live in the mountains, and along snow-covered secondary roads, it’s enough to make us long for spring. There is now light at the end of the tunnel. It’s eight days and counting before the spring equinox — and not a looming blizzard in sight. Just some annoying upslope snowshowers for today.
Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s Assistant Managing Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @BDTOwens.