Today marks another milestone in Chipley’s colorful history as the beloved water tower, which has served so faithfully, lies in a mass of steel on the ground after being professionally demolished last night.
Careful safety measures were in place with the closing of sixth street in the area and of the tower and provisions were made for interested onlookers to remain in a designated place to ensure safety while watching the dismantling of the historic landmark.
The longstanding edifice of Chipley’s heritage had not been in use for many years as the town’s source of water supply was moved to the Tommy McDonald Industrial Park when the new water tower was erected there. City fathers were advised a few months ago that the aging water tower was fast becoming a menacing safety hazard and plans were immediately begun for it’s safe removal.
The picture accompanying today’s article, also from the Kyle Ray album of old photographs, was made at the railroad and give the view of the town business district while looking south. The old water tank stands tall and proud at the time this picture was made and the automobiles, shown in the background, tells the viewer that the date was as early as 1933.
Denny Wright, Chipley resident, told the writer that he was born in 1936 and that the Chipley Water Tower has always been a landmark in his life.
Linda Hayes Cook, longtime Clerk of Court in Washington County remembers the tower all of her life while living in Chipley. She reports that her brother, Francis Hayes, a descendant of a pioneer Washington County Family, and the local barber who is still working, has fond memories of the old water tower: “He would walk to Chipley from our rural home to see his girlfriend, Mellie Lane. He would then go the water tank late at night to meet the Town Night Marshal, W.D. Sapp, as he completed his duties, and catch a ride home as the officer was our neighbor.”
Linda also confirmed, that at one time, some of the youths of the area would climb the tower, especially at graduation time and bravely write some crude graffiti on the tank, usually the initials of the school and the year of their graduation. Our son, Tim, commented that climbing the tower as youngsters probably brought the training for these young men to apply for a job with local resident, Robert Strickland, who headed the company of installing water towers and painting existing towers. Tim remembers that several local young men of that era worked for Robert.
Today also finds the local McDonald’s Restaurant missing from the landscape of Chipley as it, too, fell victim to the demolition wrecking crew early in the week. May 18 was the last opportunity for McDonald’s customer to eat their last Big Mac in the Chipley facility prior to its being razed for a much improved and beautiful structure.
The original McDonald’s eatery made its debut in Chipley in 1981 and was owned and operated by Cecil Sandifer, who also owned the Bonifay and Marianna stores. Don Barnes, Jerry Smelcer, Sr. and Paul Drayon are remembered as long time employees of the previous owners.
Two others owners followed Cecil Sandifer before Dennis LaRue and wife, Linda, Chicago natives, took the reins of the three business seven years ago. Dennis told me that he was in the banking business when the opportunity came to become associated with McDonald’s.
He reports receiving training in Los Angeles before beginning the businesses in this area. Harold Stansell, who built the original McDonald’s store here, will be the builder for the new facility, according to Dennis. The present owners are excited about the new building, which is to be immediately under construction. The new structure is designed for easier access to the two drive-through windows. There will also be provisions to exit the premises to avoid re entering Highway 77. There will be other improvement inside the restaurant, which will be beautifully decorated using historic pictures, and other items, depicting the heritage of the area.
Today also marks 31 years since the mammoth and historic two-day Railroad Centennial Celebration held in Chipley May 22-23, 1982. It was headed by Dick and Polly Kneiss, then relatively newcomers to our town. (The full story of this event is recorded in the “Heritage Book of Washington County,” page 76).
Also today, John Donald Brock and wife, Virgina of Panama City, could well be reading the above book as they purchased one May 7 while in town for the Vernon High School Alumni monthly luncheon. His family of Brocks was included in a story for the above book, page 158, written by his sister, Dorothy Brock Peters, of Marianna.
Also enjoying the above-mentioned treasured book is Joe N. Hays of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He called me after leaning of the book in “Perry’s Prattle.” This gentlemen is 89 years old and was reared on Brickyard Road in Chipley by parents Charley Hays and wife, Martha Jane Levins (Leavins) Hays. His book was mailed on May 8 and confirmation of delivery was shown as May13.
If the above Heritage Books needs any further promoting, I will report that copies can be obtained from both the Vernon and Chipley Historical Society museums. My “limited supply” is down to 35 books and I hope to close out sales by the end of June. Call me at 638-1016, or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t miss out on getting your copy. They remain at $64.20, or $72.00 when mailed.
See you all next week.