On one of the hottest days we have endured so far this summer, I drove to Commerce with notepad, camera on my phone, and ideas I had gathered from research sources I had available at my house. The adventure did not start well. Campus police pulled me over when I parked in a No-Parking zone behind the goal posts at Memorial Field. The friendly policemen thought I was lost, but wished me well when I told them of my mission.
That was my first source for the survey. The stadium was originally built on that site in 1950. It was dedicated to the seventy-eight (78) students who lost their lived in World War II. Ironically, Professor Mayo who owned the college did not approve of football until his son wanted to play.
An old house at 1803 Live Oak has an interesting past. For as long as I can remember it was a fraternity house but now appears to be abandoned. A large For Sale sits in the front yard. From an old photograph in Pictorial History of Commerce 1885-2010 by Cheryl Westhafer and Dr. James H. Conrad, I learned that the house was built in the 1920s as a hospital/clinic for Dr. Clarence Allen, longtime doctor for the college, the railroads, as well as citizens of Commerce.
At 1509 Live Oak Street is an old gas station probably built in the 1930s or 1940s. It appears the owner or operator just locked up one night and never returned. I really wanted to see inside but I didn’t want to annoy the nice campus police.
A vacant lot is all that remains of Union Church at 1301 Live Oak. Most small towns had a Union Church in their earliest days for all worshippers to share church services. Later it was the home of William M. Rhew, an early photographer.
Across the Live Oak Street to the north was the first school in Commerce, built in 1910 also on a vacant lot.
Somewhere in the vicinity Live Oak Street and Pecan Street intersect. Very early Pecan Street was known as Buttermilk Alley. No reason found, but it could make a great tale.
A large Colonial Revival house occupies 1209 Live Oak Street. Built in 1940 it served as a family residence and funeral home. In 1942 it was sold to Houston Jones who turned it into a funeral home and moved his family elsewhere. In 1990 the Richard Ward family purchased it and members of the family still operate the seventy-seven year old facility.
My other street to explore was Maple Street, a short street near City Park with several fairly new apartment complexes. However, where Maple and Washington Streets I found a real gem, or gems I should say. Three “Shotgun” houses faced Washington Street, all in various conditions. The middle one appeared to be occupied. If you don’t know what a “Shotgun” house is let me explain like my father explained it to me. They were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. If you wanted to get rid of someone, you walked up on the porch, aimed your shotgun at the door, and most likely since the bullet went straight through the house, you killed that someone. Three small rooms made up the house, one behind the other. Railroad workers likely occupied these cottages since Commerce was a fairly large railroad town.
And my final find was not really a find. I knew an old 1950s era drive-in soda shop was there at one time; right across the street from the swimming pool in the park. Like the old gas station, the drive-in appears to have closed one summer, never to open again.