THOMASVILLE — With fond remembrances of things past, and some laughter, the history of “The Bottom” came back to life Friday night at the Ritz Amphitheater as the city premiered its documentary of the area.
Though the amphitheater is itself a very recent addition to the city, its name harkens back to the time when “The Bottom,” a couple of blocks of Jackson Street just west of Broad Street, was a bustling business district. For a few decades, it was the home to many Black-owned business and some Jewish-owned businesses, along with Greek-owned and other white-run enterprises.
Many of the Black-owned businesses catered to Blacks during the days of segregation.
Kha Thomas McDonald remembers leaving her father’s insurance office and smelling the chicken and rice she loved so much. She also espoused her love of black walnut ice cream from Dockett’s Pharmacy.
“It just tasted so good from the pharmacy and no matter where I’ve been, it just doesn’t taste the same,” she said.
Andre’ Marria said the Tasty Shop had the best hot dogs in the world, but her favorite memory was of the band making its way down Jackson Street for a parade.
“I don’t care what you remember,” she said, “the most important memory is the Douglass High School Band coming down Madison Street, making the run, coming straight down Jackson — and the real show was at ‘The Bottom.’ Those were the most wonderful times for me, to be in ‘The Bottom.’”
The Ritz Theatre was one of the many flourishing enterprises during The Bottom’s heyday. It was a meeting spot, along with a source of entertainment, for kids of the day.
The Ritz Theater was torn down in 1995, and The Bottom’s decline actually had begun in the 1970s.
There are now plaques on the sidewalk along the 200 and 300 blocks, identifying which businesses once called “The Bottom” home. James Wyche, a Navy veteran of World War II who is now 96 years old, got to see the plaque for his former shop The Busy Bee earlier this year.
There are now 38 plaques along both sides of Jackson Street.
“It’s a memory lane to walk down,” said Jack Hadley. “It’s an important part of history. If you’ve never been down there, you need to walk down one side of the street and come up the other.”
Hadley implored the younger generation to help preserve the history.
“We’ve lost so much,” he said.
Editor Pat Donahue can be reached at (229) 226-2400 ext. 1806.