W. H. E. Terry Comes to Ray City

William Henry Edward Terry was born August 26, 1890 in Madison County, Florida. His father, Zachary Taylor Terry, was from Alabama, and his mother, Mary Virginia Pert, was a Florida girl.

In 1900, at age nine, little Willie Terry was living with his family in Macedonia, Madison County, FL. Willie’s father was a farmer. Willie had attended school for two months that year, he could not yet read or write.

About 1910 W. H. E. Terry  came from Florida to live in the new town of Ray City, GA.  At the age of twenty-something, he was tall and slender young man, with blue eyes and black hair. An entrepreneur, W.H.E. Terry became one of the young businessmen of Ray City, building one of the first brick buildings in the community (W.H.E Terry’s Store at Rays Mill, GA). His brother, Charles Oscar Terry, became the town pharmacist, and their cousin Harvey Terry, became the editor of the Ray City  newspaper.

In Ray City, William Henry Terry met Nebbie Luckie. She was the daughter of William F. Luckie, a successful businessman and a big sawmill operator of Ray City, GA (see William F. Luckie ~ Luckie Lumber Mill). On August 23, 1913 William H. E. Terry and Nebbie J. Luckie were joined in holy matrimony. W.C. McGill, Minister of God, performed the ceremony.

Marriage certificate of W. H. Terry and Nebbie Luckie, August 28, 1913.

Marriage certificate of W. H. Terry and Nebbie Luckie, August 28, 1913.

On March 8, 1916 Nebbie gave birth to their first son, whom they named after his father.  A second son followed, Charles Herman Terry, born October 24, 1917.  With a young family to support,  William Henry Terry went into the drug store business with his brothers.

In the meantime, the United States had entered World War I, declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917.  William  Henry Terry  and cousin Harvey Terry, registered for the draft on June 5, 1917.

1918 Draft registration of W. H. E. Terry.

1918 Draft registration of W. H. E. Terry.

In 1920, William H. Terry lived in a home on Main Street, Ray City, GA. Just a few doors down the street was the home of C. Oscar Terry, proprietor of a drug store.  William H. Terry was working as a retail drug salesman. Effie Guthrie Knight, subject of previous posts, became one of his employees in 1923, hired as a saleswoman at a salary of $150.00.

By 1930 W. H. E. Terry had moved to Quitman, GA where he continued in the retail drug trade. His brother, C. O. Terry, had acquired the drugstore in Quitman (see Ray City Soda Jerk).

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Ray City Soda Jerk

When Ray City, GA became incorporated in 1909, among the earliest businesses to be established was the drug store. In those days,  the soda fountain was an essential element of the drugstore trade.  The  National Druggist trade magazine, in 1911, published The Practical Soda Fountain Guide  in which they advised drug store owners, “you have a soda fountain, because every druggist is supposed to have a soda fountain.”

In their heyday, soda fountains flourished in pharmacies, ice cream parlors, candy stores, dime stores, department stores, milk bars and train stations. They served an important function as a public space where neighbors could socialize and exchange community news. In the early 20th century, many fountains expanded their menus and became lunch counters, serving light meals as well as ice cream sodas, egg creams, sundaes, and such. Soda fountains reached their height in the 1940s and 1950s. With the coming of the Car Culture and the rise of suburbia, they began to decline. Drive-in restaurants and roadside ice cream outlets, such as Dairy Queen, competed for customers. North American retail stores switched to self-service soda vending machines selling pre-packaged soft drinks in cans, and the labor-intensive soda fountain didn’t fit into the new sales scheme. Today only a sprinkling of vintage soda fountains survive.

The  1910 census of Ray City  shows seventeen year-old Lutie Fender working as a “soda fountain salesman” – a soda jerk. Lutie was the son of Ray City hotelier, Wilson W. Fender, and nephew of Lon Fender, turpentine operator and builder of the Patterson Hotel in Valdosta, GA.

The Fender Hotel was was one of the historic businesses of Ray City. It was located in a wooden building on the northeast corner of Main and Paralleled Street in Ray City, just across the track from the train depot of the Georgia & Florida Railroad.  The hotel was operated by Mrs. Lena Fender. This building was destroyed by fire in 1913 or 1914.

City Drug Co., Ray City, Georgia circa 1912. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Society, http://berriencounty.smugmug.com

The soda fountain became a long-time fixture in Ray City,  as in small towns everywhere.   By 1916,  C.O. Terry was in business as a retail druggist in Rays Mill, GA (nka Ray City).  It may be that he had assumed operation of the City Drug Co. at Ray’s Mill by that time.  He later operated Terry’s Drug Store in Quitman, Ga., which became known locally for its soda fountain, among other things.  In his  book, My Whole Life and 48 Years of Small Town Family Medical Practice, Paul Tanner Jr., MD describes the work of a typical soda jerk, working in Terry’s Drug Store around 1940:

 “I went to work at… Terry’s Drug Store, down the street. I was a full fledged Soda Jerk, working in afternoons after school, and Saturdays. They had sandwiches made from ham boiled in the back of the store, boiled peanuts, boiled in the back, pimento cheese mixed in the back, with lettuce and tomato. I went to work after school each day and left after closing at 9 PM. All the soda fountain was my specialty, too. On Saturday I worked from 10 am until closing at 11 PM. I was paid $2.50 a week.  I continued working at Terry’s Drug Store off and on until I graduated from high school.”  – Paul J. Tanner, M.D.

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