Rupert D. Garnett worked in retail furniture for 25 years before building a new furniture store in downtown Summerville around 1956. The new 40 by 120 foot building was constructed adjacent to the Jordan Department Store. (The building is now just south of the First National Bank of Chattooga County.)
The following photographs are not dated, but were perhaps taken in the late 1960s or early 1970s.
The staff included, from left to right: (front row) Linda (Hall) Hill, Mrs. Rupert Garnett, Mr. Rupert Garnett, and Monnette (Gurley) Crabtree; (back row) Harry Brady, Alfred Crow, Kelly Tanner, Charlie Garnett, J.D. Holbrook, Wayne Rosson, and Tom Harrison.
Charlie Garnett stands with his parents.
The Garnett's furniture store was a downtown fixture for many years, but like so many "Mom and Pop" businesses once spread across the county, Garnett's is long gone.
Remembering Garnett's For Furniture
by Judy Brooks
by Judy Brooks
When I was a little girl, most of the businesses downtown were family-owned and managed, and many of those same families worked in their stores. Summerville’s downtown had stores for hardware, jewelry, pharmaceuticals, and clothing. There were 5 & 10 Cent stores, soda fountains in both drugstores, banks, and a couple of restaurants, but Garnett's was the only place downtown to go for home furnishings, including television sets, radios, and record players, along with home décor accessories like lamps and those kitschy standing ashtrays prized by so many collectors these days. It was a pleasure to shop there, and no emphasis on customer service was needed as most of the people who did business with Garnett’s were on a first-name basis with Mr. and Mrs. Garnett, Charlie and Nancy Garnett, Monnette, Linda, Alfred, and the rest of the store’s employees. They were all like family, and many of them worked there for years.
The years that Garnett’s was in business, you could probably have walked into any home in Chattooga County and found furniture, appliances, and electronics bought from them. Our kitchen dinette set, living room sofa and chairs were chosen from their downtown store, and the living room at my grandparent’s house held a vintage floor model radio that was my favorite piece of furniture. In their den, there was a large, brown, Garnett’s-purchased recliner that my Granddaddy Brooks and I would share when we watched TV together. Those days, television sets, record players, and stereos were designed to be pieces of furniture, and, unlike todays “take it with you” or “assemble it yourself approach,” Garnett’s merchandise was carefully delivered and fully assembled by pleasant and professional deliverymen.
One of our first television sets was bought at Garnett's, and we kept it for years. It was a large console model with angled legs and enormous speakers on either side. It was hooked up to an antenna that required two people to tune it properly – one to go outside and turn the antenna and one to stand by the door/window with one eye on the TV and shout instructions to the designated outside “tuner.” We sat on sofas, chairs, and recliners (also purchased from Garnett’s) while watching everything from Rawhide to The Ed Sullivan Show. My mother exercised every morning with Jack LaLanne, and we sat cross-legged on the floor to watch The Bob Brandy Show and the Mickey Mouse Club after school. My sisters and I did “The Twist” and “The Mashed Potato” in front of the tube during American Bandstand, and curled up on the floor with a pillow on Saturday nights to watch The Bat, The Leech Woman, or Tarantula on Science Fiction Theater or Dr. Shock.
A few years later, it was from Garnett’s that my father purchased a color television set, and we were thrilled to be able to watch some of the new fall shows in color. However, we soon found that it wasn’t easy to get the color adjusted correctly. As a result, we often watched Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, and other shows with either too much pink or too much green. At the time, I truly thought that the extra pink suited the costume Barbara Eden wore in I Dream of Jeannie, and the greenish tinge of the picture seemed somehow appropriate for The FBI, but as an adult I am grateful to have sets with automatic color adjustment.
Aside from the fact that our family dealt with the Garnett’s in a business capacity, I got to know some of them better when I was sixteen, as I had the privilege of babysitting for the third generation of the family. Charlie and Nancy’s little boy, known then as Chuck, was one of the sweetest kids I sat for, and I looked forward to those Saturday afternoons and nights. At that time, the Garnetts lived just a few doors down from the back of the old Summerville Elementary School, and when I arrived at their home on Saturday afternoons, Chuck and I would walk over to the playground and spend some time on the slide and the swings for a couple of hours before dinner. Nancy was one of my most thoughtful clients, as she always made dinner for me along with Chuck. After dinner, I would read whatever story Chuck wanted to hear, and he was off to sleep. He was never a moment's trouble, and was also a lot of fun.
I had moved away from Summerville when Garnett’s closed their doors, but I have many good memories associated with the store, the family, their employees, and merchandise purchased there. They and their employees, along with other local merchants, were an asset for Summerville and Chattooga County. They not only sold needed goods at a reasonable cost, but also invested in their hometown and its residents – something many companies don’t do today. They patronized other local businesses; bought yearbook ads; and supported churches, scout troops, and other non-profit organizations. Garnett’s was one of several stores whose presence helped to facilitate a thriving downtown business culture, and made them not only a successful business, but valued members of the community.
After graduating with the CHS class of 1973, Judy Brooks attended Berry College for a short while before beginning a career that encompassed a number of diverse positions, from bartender and directory assistance operator to office manager, and finally freelance writer. She lived in Rome, GA, Atlanta, GA, and Paducah, KY before returning to Summerville in September of 2010, and is quite content to be back among family and friends. In January of 2013, she established Pyewacket Publishing, and is currently working on several books written by her, as well as other authors. She would be thrilled to hear from friends, classmates, and other interested members of the community, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photographs by T. Emmett Nunn. Courtesy of Chattooga County Library. Thanks to Monnette Gurley Crabtree and Nancy Garnett for the names of everyone in the photographs.