A Bloody Incident
in Competition Alley

By William F. “Bro” Overbey, 2009.
Competition Alley, Chatham, Virginia

The freight elevator door opening in the old J. I. Overbey Hardware building has been covered with siding. (Photo by Henry Mitchell.)

The pictures of Competition Alley brought back a vivid childhood memory.

My Grandpa Jesse I. Overbey employed for many, many years a very special black man named Doc Grubbs. He was a loyal employee at the hardware store or at any other task that Pa would assign him. His wife Mattie worked in Dr. John Anderson's office for years as his receptionist. Everybody in town held Doc and Mattie in high regard. After the death of my father (Thomas Moore Overbey), Doc would often take his time to spend a few minutes with my brother Tom and me. There was a very strong bond of friendship that was formed over the years. I would often accompany him as he drove Pa's A Model truck around town.

In the alley was a rather large door (see photo at right) that entered onto a hand-operated elevator, used to transport hardware up to the storage areas upstairs or the basement of the building. Doc had brought down a Majestic range (the Cadillac of cookstoves) and placed it on the truck that was parked at the door. As I was going to accompany Doc on the delivery, I jumped from the doorway down to the body of the truck. I didn't see the stovepipe standing upright in the back…and of course the stage was set for an injury to take place. I sliced a 6-inch piece of flesh from the calf of my leg.

As the Lord would have it, Gray Sours (who worked for Dave Jefferson next door at Chatham Furniture and Undertaking) was close by and got me up to Dr. Coleman Bennett's office quickly. The cut was shallow but wide, so that Dr. Bennett couldn't sew it, therefore he used tape to let it grow back (pretty good technology for that day!).

So I still bear the long scar and and will always remember “Competition Alley.”

Incidentally, the spot where the alley met the little dirt road (now Carter Street) that ran from Depot Hill up to the side of the Baptist Church was the location of Bealy's blacksmith shop, another one of my hangouts. Bealy Hurt was also one of my childhood confidants. We used to watch him shoe the horses and mules in the afternoons. This is where I got my first (and last) dip of snuff…but that's another story!

— Just 'Bro!

This guide to Chatham, Virginia is sponsored by Mitchells Publications.