Ledger Inquirer: Historic group wants to rescue old store

We're back out in Fortson this week, revisiting the old dilapidated general store and post office at the intersection of Fortson and Almond Roads. And we have good news to report.

Elizabeth Barker, executive director of the Historic Columbus Foundation says that organization is working with the owners of the property to see if it can be restored.

You may recall that I was unable to determine who owns the land last week. I got an email from a city employee saying he'd determined that it is owned by The Concrete Co. Then I got a call from Barbara Fortson, who said it's owned by the Columbus Quarry Co. Then Barker tells me it's owned by Florida Rock.

Turns out all of the above have been correct at some time or another, but Florida Rock is the one HCF is negotiating with, so we'll go with that.

Meanwhile, I learned some interesting things about the place.

After it closed down as a store, it was the site of some light manufacturing. Dr. Haywood Turner, father of the late Municipal Court Judge Haywood Turner, used the place to make the Inertia Nutcracker, his own invention, I'm told.

Ken Jordan wrote to say he remembers going to the store with his father, then working as a youngster in the nutcracker business.

"I worked there weekends and summers, doing whatever I was told, for 50 cents an hour," Jordan wrote. "That was a lot of money for a 13-year-old boy in Fortson, Ga."

Tony Johnson, 68, lived near the old store in 1953-54.

He remembers in addition to the general store and post office, it had a single gasoline pump in front, the kind with a glass canister at the top.

"You turned a crank that pumped the gas up into the top," he said. "The glass had lines to tell you how many gallons you had."

Then you put the hose into the tank and gravity did the rest.

Johnson said he remembers the old men of the area congregating in front of the store to play checkers or to toss horseshoes beside the building.

There was also a homemade barbecue grill beside it, made up of concrete blocks with a metal grate on top.

"Now and then they'd cook a goat down there," he said.

So how was the goat?

"Well, it wasn't bad," he said. "But I wouldn't go out of my way to get some."

Jim Lett, 87, grew up near the old store and went to the Nankipooh School with one of the Fortson boys.

"When I was little, they had a special lollipop that had coconut in it, but you had to get through the hard part to get to it," he said. "And there was an old lady who lived across the street who loved children. She would make homemade candy and give it to us kids."

Lett said if you didn't have a whole nickel for some stick candy, sometimes Mr. Fortson would cut a kid some slack.

"I used to walk barefoot down to the store in the summer, because no one wore shoes in the summer," Lett recalled. "In the winter, that's when your Daddy would buy you some shoes."

At the old general store, I'd imagine.

Seen something that needs fixing? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquirer.com.