Entrepreneurs of the 1950s

Entrepreneurs of the 1950s

The Turners, a Couple in Successful Retail Wiley H, Turner, Jr., and Gladys Lyon Turner

By Becky Turner, wife of the late Dr. Wiley H. Turner III; author of Cooks Corner in the Edgefield Advertiser and active community volunteer.

Wiley H. Turner, Jr., and Gladys Lyon Turner, both citizens of Edgefield, began their ownership of Turners Corner Store from the previous owner, Wiley H. Turner (1864-1916), an Edgefield native. The store has occupied that corner of the Town Square since 1885-86. The previous building on that corner was destroyed in the fire of 1884.

“Nannie,” as her grandsons lovingly called her, once told me that she and her fifteen sisters and  brothers (their father lost his first wife in death and he married a sister of hers the second time) had made and sold hats and that she had hem-stitched items – all for sale. She then saved her money.  After assuming the business, she and “Mr. Bub” (as he was called by all) had pooled their savings and driven to the Atlanta Merchandise Mart.  They brought their purchases back to Edgefield and thus began “stocking the store.” Since there wasn’t enough merchandise to fill the shelves, she saved the boxes from which she removed the merchandise and placed them on the shelves to create the appearance of “filled shelves.”  Gradually, they were able to purchase much more merchandise and to expand the business. With great dedication and much hard work by both of them, they built and maintained a thriving business.

“Miss Gladys” ran the store with many good employees over the years and “Mr. Bub” took care of the books — accounting.   He had beautiful penmanship; some of his beautifully penned records remain in the family.

Turner’s Corner Store was a “one-stop shop” for clothing and gift items.  They carried the once famous Osh-Kosh begoshOveralls for men and boys, ladies dresses, sweaters, coats, clothing accessories, and shoes as well as table linens and many other gift items. Always at Christmas time one section was filled with toys.

Their son once stated that he was probably the only boy in school who disliked hearing the end-of-school bell ring – he knew he was expected at the store to sweep floors and take care of trash.  He also declared that he had put together more toys, especially bicycles, than any other boy in town. And it served him well – in his adult life he not only was able to “fix ailments and illnesses,” but was a real “Fix-It” of home appliance “ailments.” Turner’s Corner Store in later years opened a very successful Furniture Annex run by Miss Glady’s sister, Miss Margaret Lyon.  They sold furniture and accessories, baby cribs and mattresses, and were adept at ordering any item of furniture one desired from several books of selections.

After the death of her husband in 1959, “Miss Gladys” continued to successfully run the business until 1963 when she decided to retire.  She then gave the business to her daughter, Margaret Sue Turner Jolly and her husband, Clarence Jolly. They and their sons successfully ran and expanded the business (opening three additional businesses) until 1992.

The stately old building is now being beautifully restored by Donna and Alex Hamilton.

Reflections from the Community and Family

Memories from the Grandboys

The Entrepreneur Turner Couple’s Grandboys who were interviewed for this story spilled over to give the story more interest through their memories of growing up with their grandparents. Three of the five grandsons, the “Jolly boys”, offered these vignettes. The three are,  in order of age, older to younger: Daniel, Joel and Rankin Jolly. Their other grandsons are children of Dr. And Mrs. Wiley H. Turner III (Becky and Buddy): sons Wiley and Andy.

Like a chorus, the Jollys said that “she worked the front of the store and he worked the back office”; they worked six days a week,  and until 9 p.m. on Saturday.

One noted that Mr. Bub wore hearing aids, for he suffered deafness from a childhood illness.

They had longtime employees like “Miss Pearl” Swearingen. she had worked to support her family business known as Quarles Five and Dime which burned in 1972. Mrs. Swearingen then went into the employ of the Turners.

Mrs. Lyon, mother of Miss Gladys, lived with the Turner household until her death in the late 40s. “She ran the household,” said the Jollys, giving her daughter Gladys more time for the store.

Joel Jolly remembered his grandmother telling that she was able to get their money out of the bank before bank failures during the Depression. She liked to have cash on hand so they had a safe in a closet with a false floor to insure security.

One grandson noted: “I remember in his workshop (Mr. Bub’s) seeing balls of string and twine and asked, why?” Miss Gladys responded that he never threw away a thing.

On her headstone reads, from Proverbs: “Strength and honor were her clothing.”

A Memory from the Community

John Pettigrew, hearing that the third entrepreneur article would include Miss Gladys,  shared this story. As a child he loved to Trick or Treat at Miss Gladys’ house. “She had the greatest candy laid out on China plates on the dining room table.” Children had to walk around the table and choose what they wanted. “And they were big candy bars,” he noted.