PETE STROUPıS BARBER SHOP, A FAVORITE GATHERING SPOT
By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian
The morning started out muggy. It was to be another typical south Georgia summer day when it was impossible to stay cool. A.L. Kilbury, Folkston's barber for four years, was anxious to get out of the hair cutting business and move to his small farm near Boulogne. The barber shop's new owner, 31 year old Clarence Eugene (Pete) Stroup, came in and accepted the door keys from Kilbury. It was Tuesday, June 11, 1914.
Folkston, struggling for so many years without substantial growth, was at last beginning to show signs of progress. Ben McDonald's new white brick hotel on Courthouse Street was almost finished. The Central Hotel, across the street from McDonaldıs hotel had been renovated, inside and out, and the city fathers were promising to clay Courthouse Street from the courthouse, half-way to the Homeland Colony.
Pete Stroup was delighted to see the growth. He had operated his barber shop in several towns during the twelve years since leaving his native Ohio as a 20-year-old in 1902. Now 32, he wanted to settle down.
His parents, Samuel and Cecilia Stroup still lived in Springfield, Ohio, but Stroup had an overriding reason for coming south. He was in love with Ocie Elma Smith, who along with her family had departed Ohio earlier to make their home in Jacksonville, Fla. Pete Stroup's affectionate name for Ocie was "Peggy."
On May 11, 1904, Clarence Eugene Stroup and Ocie Elma Smith were married at her parent's home on Park Street in Jacksonville. The y young couple returned to live in Columbus, Ohio where Stroup opened a barber shop. There on May 17, 1905, the coupleıs only child, Richard Bernard, was born.
Stroup and his wife had learned to love the south in the years they spent away from Ohio earlier. Peggy Stroup's parents, Arthur and Sarah Smith, in the interim, had moved from Jacksonville to the bustling colony of St. George, Ga. where they opened the Smith Hotel, an impressive white two-story building on the townıs main thoroughfare. Pete and Peggy Stroup wanted to move back down south.
The young couple and their son Richard, who was nicknamed "Dick", moved from Ohio to St. George, and soon on to Palmetto, Ga. After only a few years in Palmetto, Stroup became dissatisfied with life there, and the family returned to St. George.
Pete Stroup visited Folkston often during his stays in St. George, and had made many friends in the growing little town. He learned that Kilbury wanted to sell his Folkston barber shop near the Scott building facing the railroad tracks. The opportunity to live near his wife's family persuaded Stroup to buy the Folkston shop, a decision he never regretted.
Stroup's earlier memories of Folkston were not overly favorable. While living in St. George, the impatient Stroup found it necessary to go to the Charlton County Courthouse in Folkston to attend to business. The circuitous train trip left a negative impression on the Ohio native.
He caught a train from St. George to Jacksonville, Fla. In Jacksonville, he caught another train on to Folkston. His business finished, the trip back to St. George was a reversal of the first: back through Jacksonville and another train into St. George. The entire trip took nearly 16 hours. When his friends in St. George asked him what he thought of Folkston, Stroup replied, "I wouldn't live there if they gave me the whole town."
The Folkston opportunity came so suddenly that Pete Stroup did not have time to find his family a place to live in Folkston. Peggy Stroup and nine-year-old Richard stayed with her parents at the Smith Hotel in St. George while Pete began cutting hair in his Folkston barber shop. Two weeks later Mrs. Stroup and Richard joined him in Folkston.
Katherine DeGraffenried, the editor of the townıs weekly newspaper, The Charlton County Herald, at Folkston, in her June 11, 1914 issue had this to say about Stroup's Folkston arrival: "Mr. C.E. Stroup of St. George has purchased the barber shop of Mr. A.L. Kilbury and assumed control Tuesday morning. Mr. Stroup is well known in this county and doubtless will do a good business in his line."
Two weeks later the newspaper followed up: "Mrs. Stroup and son have joined Mr. Stroup and all are now housekeeping just beyond the Central Hotel. The Herald extends a cordial welcome to this family."
With those words of welcome in the countyıs newspaper, the three Stroups began the rest of their lives in Folkston, among friends and neighbors who learned to care greatly for them.
Pete Stroup- was a talented amateur baseball player and an avid fan of the game. In St. George he played second base on the town's team. Four weeks after opening his Folkston barber shop Stroup was playing second base for the Folkston team and earning the admiration of the town's baseball lovers with his antics on the baseball diamond.
Peggy Stroup was charmed by a new home in Folkston facing Courthouse Street occupied by its builder and owner, W.W. Bauman. Next door was the spacious home of Lawrence and Agnes Mallard. Both homes were within a block of the county courthouse. Pete Stroup bought the home from Bauman and moved his family into it. Mrs. Stroup was a meticulous housekeeper and gardener and the Stroup home soon became a showplace of the town.
The town's Courthouse Street was changing too. The post office had just moved from the Arnold Hotel building into Jack Davisı new building and Arnold Scott had converted the vacated post office space into the new Scott Drug Store.
Stroup's love of baseball won him friends quickly. He absorbed every newspaper story he could find on baseball's major leagues and its players. His ability as a second baseman and a hot bat with the local team earned him instant hero status in his newly-adopted hometown.
Stroup's fascination with baseball never diminished. When age made it necessary for him to step aside as an active player for the locals, Stroup became the team's manager and a good one he was. His team right away earned a reputation throughout the area as tough competition. More often than not, his players came away from the games wearing a victory grin across their faces.
Peggy Stroup and her husband were charter members of the embryonic Folkston Baptist Church. Their lives revolved around the church located just blocks from their home. In 1914 worship services were held there only on the second Saturday and Sunday of each month. Pete Stroup became a member of its Board of Deacons while Peggy Stroup took the leadership role in women's activities.
On Sunday, July 11, 1915, Pete and Peggy Stroup led a meeting in the church building to organize the church's first Sunday School classes. The intimate relationship between the Stroups and the Folkston Baptist Church continued until their deaths many years later.
Stroup's early barber shop became a popular hangout for the men of the town. The benches which lined the walls filled as men traded tales of interest to each other. As the sweet odor of hair tonic permeated the air, the absorbing Stroup would keep the conversations going, often with baseball talk, as cigarette and cigar smoke drifted to the shop's ceiling. Years later Stroup moved his barber shop into quarters in the Rodgers Building adjoining the Folkston Pharmacy drug store.
Pete Stroup continued to operate his barber shop until retirement beckoned in February of 1953. He had been cutting hair in Folkston for 39 years. Now it was time for him and his beloved Peggy to enjoy their twilight years. Two years earlier Stroup had moved his barber shop into a new shop built by Francis Murray in the Joe Prevatt Building. His former quarters were needed as a prescription department for W.D. Thompsonıs Folkston Pharmacy. Donald Prescott bought Stroup's barber shop equipment and business as the likable Stroup closed his shop for the final time.
The world of Pete and Peggy Stroup was shattered on May 8, 1962 by the unexpected death of their son, Richard. He was only 57. In addition to his parents, Richard Stroup's survivors were his wife, Juanita Stokes Stroup, a daughter, Peggy Stroup Jones and a son, Robert.
On September 27, 1963 Pete Stroup died of complications following a broken hip. He was 81. His wife, Ocie (Peggy) followed him in death six months later, on March 10, 1964. Funeral services were held from their beloved First Baptist Church. They are buried in Folkstonıs Pineview Cemetery. The community mourned their passing.
Pete and Peggy Stroup were pioneer proponents of culture and refinement as they lived their lives out in the little town they loved so dearly after leaving Ohio at the turn of the century. The Stroup family wrote a stirring and unforgettable chapter in the history of Folkston and Charlton County.