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Exploring the past off Laurel
Kona Kola bottle
Kona Kola was produced by Limerick Beverage Company. - photo by Photo provided

A few more businesses in Springfield during the years of the Mars Theatre not located on Laurel Street have come to my attention, so I dedicate this week to their story.

An appliance company operated just off Stillwell Road adjacent to what is now the senior citizens center. The small block building that senior citizens occupied when it began was the former appliance store. Earl Williams sold and repaired appliances for several years.

Before the days of restaurants, the Effingham County Courthouse had lots of business and nowhere for the workers, commissioners or jurors to eat. Judge Paul Shearouse and his wife Ralph Powers Shearouse lived at the corner of Pine and Crawford streets (now where the Effingham Courthouse Judicial Center sits). Their home was a large two-story wood frame house with porches and from my memory painted green. They had one daughter, Mary Ona, who married Howard Stephens. “Mrs. Ralph,” as she was known, served lunch for a fee from her dining room table. She was informed as to when the commissioners met or when court was being held.

After the days of “Mrs. Ralph’s table,” my grandmother Annie Mae Exley did the same thing. She was two blocks north with a two-story home facing the courthouse at the corner of Pine and Rabun streets (now the new judicial center). She had a very large dining table and always had plenty for everyone.

My grandfather Leon Exley was paralyzed for seven years from a stroke and died in 1954. She needed the income and was an excellent cook and baker. Homemade raisin bread, pies and cakes are some of the things I remember that she prepared. This time of year she would be serving fresh garden peas cooked in milk and butter and new Irish potatoes prepared in many ways. Fried chicken and roast beef were frequently on the table.

Nothing went to waste. She ground the scraps from cured ham and made croquettes that were delicious.

At other times, when court was in session, before many restaurants, a group of ladies at Springfield Methodist Church made lunch for the jurors to raise some funds.

At the corner of Jefferson and Pine streets, Frank and Wilton Arnsdorff built a wood work shop. They hired John Wilson, husband of my Aunt Rebecca Exley Wilson, to operate the shop. John had been trained in cabinetry in Savannah at Guerry Lumber Company. He had an apprentice, Guerry Arnsdorff, who got the training there under a GI Bill with John. They did custom work making furniture, cabinets, truck bodies, etc.

John made beautiful cedar chests as well as items made of oak and other wood. Some of the wood furniture that John and my father Arthur Exley made is still being used and enjoyed by our family.

By 1950 the wood shop had closed and Limerick Beverage Company occupied that spot on East Jefferson and Pine streets. According to research of Norman V. Turner, J. Lamar Limerick ran it until he sold the business to LeGrand “Preacher” Hodges on Oct. 10, 1953.

On Oct. 6, 1954, Hodges sold the business to J.P. Burns. No advertisements follow and there is no record of when it ceased to exist. In the sale with Hodges from Limerick the trade name “Kona Kola” and “Limerick Beverage Company” came with sale of the business. Hodges paid $10 for the business and assumed the bank loan. This included all equipment to manufacture and bottle sodas.

A truck with crates of drinks and a hand truck made deliveries on a route. Uncle Preston Exley (former magistrate judge) worked for Hodges and went on the truck with him. They delivered to all the grocery stores and filling stations in the upper part of Effingham one day. The next day, they finished the stores in the lower part of Effingham and went into Chatham County.

They served customers in Bryan and Bulloch counties the next day and then on another day made deliveries in Screven and Burke counties. The driver sold the drinks to the grocery store or filling stations and picked up the returned bottles to be refilled.

The late George Cooler was hired to produce the drinks at the plant. The products Limerick produced were a cola similar to Coca-Cola or Pepsi, and flavored drinks including orange, grape, strawberry, lime, ginger ale and sometimes chocolate. There was machinery that washed and prepared bottles, capping machines and much more.

The Casa Hotel operated in the middle of the 100 block of East Jefferson Street opposite what is now the Effingham County administrative building, the former home of Springfield Baptist Church. This building is still there today and is occupied. Operated by Lois and Pat Wisdom, the name of the hotel came from Lois’ nieces, Sandra and Kay.

Josie Lee and Lucille Thomas bought a home and ran a rooming house in the late 1950s on the corner of First Street and Railroad Avenue. She did not provide meal service at the rooming house. The four rooms upstairs shared a bathroom. There was a small apartment downstairs which was rented also.

Some of the families I remember in the area that sold dairy products (milk, cream and butter) for customers in Springfield were: Marie Hawk, Spurgeon Hinely, Sidney Bazemore, Carrie Mock and Sadie Little. A few may have delivered.

Next week we will see what businesses were on Laurel Street in the days of the Mars.

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact her at 754-6681 or