Pastime: More memories of ladies ready-to-wear on Main Street

This Pastime is another installment in the ladies-ready-to-wear shops that once proliferated along Main Street in downtown Warren.

By Maylon T. Rice

And a big Airstream trailer parked in the alleyway behind Main. The alley ran from Cypress to Church.

The shiny metal Airstream trailer was indeed, in its day, one of the snazziest travel trailers ever produced in the United States. 

It was, as my long-time boss and mentor Bob Newton at the Eagle Publishing Company would say drawing out the word into at least six syllables – “Fiiiirst Claaaaass.”

And it was. 

Not many of those shiny travel trailers were found in Southeast Arkansas

and none, I would bet other than theirs in Bradley County.

Most of the year the Airstream trailer was snuggled into a shed like covering behind Imogene’s.

The trailer and that business belonged to a couple Bill (whose given name was William) and Imogene French.

The French were quite a fashionable couple.  Both were always dressed to the “nine,” the absolute height of fashion.  

Bill, however, mostly wore gentlemanly tan khakis and often a very loud, but tasteful plaid shirt.  

He was known on occasion to wear a Hawaiian-like short sleeve shirt in the summer, especially after one of their frequent and colorful trips.

The French had ladies-ready-to-wear, a smattering of costume jewelry, handbags and accessories and quite an out-of-town clientele.  I can remember at the Eagle doing some very fine printing of sales invitations for their out-of-town customers of trunk shows and other sales promotions through the years.

Whenever the French family were about to take a trip, usually out west, or a once-a-year pilgrimage to Mississippi along the Natchez trace in mid-spring – just in time for the azaleas to bloom – out from under the shed-like covering came the Airstream trailer.

Hired workmen, always under Mr. French’s careful eye, washed and scrubbed down the trailer with long soapy brushes. The inside of the trailer, adorned with elaborate woodwork was cleaned as well.  Usually during this process, most of the alleyway was blocked off by the workmen.  As a snoopy teenager, I got a good look at the airstream trainer from stem to stern.

Ready to roll, the French pulled the Airstream with their big car – I think an Oldsmobile or Cadillac, I cannot be sure, but it was equally spit and polish for the roadway adventure.

Gone perhaps, a week, sometimes longer, and the Airstream was snuggled back into its spot in the alley way.

Usually both Bob Newton and Oscar Littlefield would compete to see which could get the travel details from the French’s.  It was always somewhere grand and usually without incident.

Another small ladies-ready-to-wear store on Main was Daugherty’s.  The store was small, and sold both dresses and some dressmaking material.  

The first wife of Richard Vance Warner Jr., and the mother of two of my school mates, Rick Warner III and Kathy Warner, was Shirley Daughtery, whose family had this small store.

When Shirley died, R.V. after a time, married a Warren lady, Betty Anne Hemphill Edrington, the widow of the late J. T. Edrington, the mother of another couple of classmates of mine Lou Anne Edrington Anderson and Mary Lynn Edrington Richardson.  R.V. Jr., and Betty Anne were married 38 years at his death in October 2018.

Each of these stores, Daughtery’s and Imogene’s, even until they closed, served a long-line of older women for fashion wear.

Mary Jo Reaves Wisener, who gave me loads of information about the Town Shop, to kick start these columns about clothing stores along Main Street, also gave me a fashion lesson in hosiery sales.

“One customer, an elderly lady, asked to see some stockings,” Mary Jo said. “We had boxes as sets, these were to be worn with garters, just plain hosiery.”

“The customer asked me if these stocking were “fresh,” I had to stop and excuse myself and quietly asked my aunt Christine, just what was the customer asking,”

“Pre-World War II most hosiery sold in fine clothing stores was silk – and silk had an expiration date when the hose would become brittle and have “runs” in it,” Mary Joe said.

She returned to her customer explaining that these stockings were made of nylon and not silk and the stockings would retain their “freshness.”

There were bigger stores, certainly the Edrington’s Department Stores and the longest lasting of them all Martin’s where several generations of Warren families shopped have stories to tell.

Those are future Pastimes I’ll soon write about, remembering a time when you could dress for success right there on Main Street of Warren.

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. Another article creating lots of memories of Warren’s Main Street during the ’60s and ’70s. My sister and I recently talked about Daughtery’s; our mother worked there for awhile in the mid-1960s. I loved spending time in the store! My favorite store was Ederingtons. It had everything! I recall trying on, and buying clothing and shoes, as well as buying gifts. The floors had a rather interesting creak and would change levels in places. The restroom was upstairs; I thought it was rather creepy and would hurry to get back down the creaky stairs. But now I bet the upstairs was full of all sorts of interesting goodies! It’s such a shame downtown Warren will never be the same as it was 40-60 years ago! What an interesting, busy place it was! Thanks Maylon for another great article!

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