By Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo’s Gloster Street, like many other streets in communities nationwide, has multiple, diverse personalities stemming from history and economics.
Tupelo’s Gloster, northbound, becomes Mississippi 145 north of Barnes Crossing Road.
To the south, it ends at the Tupelo-Verona boundary, where the street becomes Raymond Avenue.
Gloster has been Gloster longer than living memory – named for a Capt. Gloster, who was a design engineer for the Frisco Railroad in the 19th century.
The street divides itself, not surprisingly, into north and south addresses at Crosstown – Main at Gloster, where both streets intersect and cross the BNSF Railroad tracks.
The two ends of Gloster connect huge numbers of people with where they want to go, but going north or south in large measure defines what you’ll find and what you seek.
South Gloster long has been an overwhelmingly commercial street, heavily populated with businesses, cafes and restaurants, some retail stores and, for a major part of the 20th century and the early 21st century, new and used automobile dealers.
North Mississippi Medical Center’s landmark main campus faces west on Gloster at the crest of what’s often called “Hospital Hill” – and it’s been there since 1937, after relocating from downtown Tupelo on a lot that’s now part of the First United Methodist Church campus.
Jim High, who lived most of his 69 years one block off Gloster near Crosstown and has driven part of the street almost every day during adulthood, said South Gloster has basically had the same character most of his lifetime.
“ I wouldn’t say South Gloster was ever strikingly attractive, but when all the car dealers were on the street, except one or two, is was very busy, and of course the car dealers that moved to South Gloster mostly used to be downtown,” High said.
Some of the dealers have moved to North Gloster and the Barnes Crossing commercial area.
In some cases, brand-specific auto dealerships have moved within South Gloster.
“Billy Moreland’s Chrysler place was in the building that’s immediately south of Walgreen’s, and now the Chrysler dealership is Hoyt Sheffield’s farther south. Sheffield’s original car dealership was just south of what’s now Harvey’s Restaurant, but used to be the Coca-Cola franchise.
“The purple/pink-looking building that’s now a Cash in a Flash check cashing place was C-M-J motors,” High said.
Charles Johnston, whose father, L.A. Johnston, was the J in the C-M-J partnership, said the business first sold Studebakers, then Plymouths and DeSotos, beginning in the early 1950s.
In addition, L.A. Johnston and Pat Coley, the C in the partnership, owned Coley-Johnston, which was a John Deere tractor dealership in a building immediately south of the C-M-J headquarters.
Purnell’s Pride Chicken, a major regional processor with 500 employees, had its plant and headquarters one block south of Crosstown on South Gloster.
Big Four Motors (Dossett Big Four) has been a longtime fixture on South Gloster, where it remains and has expanded its original campus.
Hoyt Sheffield in 1972 relocated what had become his Chrysler Motors dealership farther south on Gloster, where it remains. Mazda, Ford and Toyota dealerships have moved to North Gloster near Barnes Crossing. A Volkwagen dealership on South Gloster changed hands twice, then closed.
The early years
High said two early South Gloster cafes, Chat and Chew and Whit’s, were popular in their time, as well as Dudie’s Diner, a famous eatery enshrined at Ballard Park.
South’s Gloster’s retail presence included The Gizmo, a large, upscale gift and decorative accessories store near where Atlanta Bread Company operates.
The Tupelo Mall, now Gloster Creek Village, housed Sears, McRae’s (now Belk’s at Barnes Crossing), a Reed’s branch, a cinema, Morrison’s Cafeteria, and dozens of other stores.
Even with the closings and relocations, about 30 cafes and fast-food outlets remain on the street south of Crosstown.
Much of South Gloster’s business history evolved on a two-lane street that also was U.S. Highway 45, a nightmare for pass-through traffic that always was busy.
Both ends of the long street connect with four-lanes highways, and within a few years, a third, Mississippi Highway 6, will connect to South Gloster from the west at South Green Street.
Contact Joe Rutherford at (662) 678-1597 or firstname.lastname@example.org.