Historians talk business at sesquicentennial event

Parsons historians Dave Mattox (left) and Mike Brotherton led a presentation Monday about the city’s businesses in the 1800s and 1900s.

 

In the early to mid-20th century, department and clothing stores as well as barber shops lined Main Street in Parsons. 

In 2021, it looks different from what it did 100 years ago, but signs of the past still live on. 

Residents stepped back in time Monday as Parsons historians Dave Mattox and Mike Brotherton led a presentation on Parsons businesses in the late 1800s into the 1900s. The presentation was part of a series of talks on Parsons history for the city’s sesquicentennial celebration this year. Over 20 people attended the talk at the Parsons Historical Museum. 

At one time, there were about 10 barber shops in downtown Parsons, where people could get their hair cut, a shave or even take a hot or cold bath. 

Several restaurants, such as the Crumpet Hut, Don Divine’s Restaurant, Hot Pup Shack, the Tower Cafe, Richard’s Drive-In and others, attracted patrons to eat in the middle to late 20th century. 

Richard’s Drive-In featured a specialty named “Amanda fried chicken,” but Mattox said he wasn’t sure what that meant. The presenters and audience Monday wondered if Amanda was the name of the person who fried the chicken. 

“I have no idea,” Mattox said. “So anyway, that’s a mystery to be solved later.”  

Don Divine was 16 years old when he opened the Crumpet Hut, Mattox said. Divine then moved on to open Don Divine’s Restaurant later. Crews constructed the restaurant building at 1000 Main in 1967; it cost $100,000. 

“He went from a 10-foot by 10-foot hut to a 4,800-square-foot building that had seating for 192,” Brotherton said. 

“Sophisticated chicken” was the specialty offered at Don Divine’s Restaurant. The name was copyrighted, Brotherton said, and referred to the special and secret preparation of the meat. 

“I guess this was the place for high school teams that were coming into town,” Brotherton said. 

As a Columbus High School basketball player, Mattox said he ate there often. 

“Every time we went to the north, we had to stop at Don Divine and eat supper after the game,” he said. “And there were always buses there. ... We’d always get chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. Every time.”  

The Hot Pup Shack featured Parsons’ “original sandwich on a stick.” People could buy one for 15 cents. The shack opened in 1950. 

Mattox and Brotherton will host a presentation in October for the sesquicentennial. The duo have hosted six presentations so far in honor of Parsons’ 150th celebration.

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