Aldren Sadler Sr. recalls learning the art of debate in his grandfather's shoe shop in Olde Town Conyers.
I remember in Conyers when the police and fire station were in Olde Town Conyers and the fire department was a volunteer fire department. There was a siren on top of the building, and people from the stores would jump on the back of the fire truck and they would go out and put out the fire. Today, that would be unheard of.
There were three grocery stores downtown: Coopers, Freedman's, and the Colonial store.
There was one bank. Rockdale Bank, right where that pawn shop is on Commercial Street and Center Street. What was interesting was most of the people knew the people in the banks. Back then you didn't have to fill out a credit report. You just went in and talked to Hope Ivy about a loan. "How much you need?" Then you get a check or a deposit in your account.
There were three black businesses in Olde Town Conyers, right across the street from what used to be Still Lumber.
A taxicab company called Miller's Taxicab, Smith Scaffold Café - a grill, where they also sold fish and cooked fish there. And then there was the shoe shop. It was three buildings connected together.
The shoe shop was Williams Shoe Shop, owned by my grandfather Robert Williams.
I don't know when my grandfather opened that business. We always had the shoe shop when I was young. When I was 12, in 1962, he taught my cousin and I how to repair shoes. That's what I did until I graduated from high school.
If you watched the movie "Barbershop," I experienced a similar kind of thing at my grandfather's shoe shop. It was a gathering place for black men, especially on a Saturday.
It was an ongoing conversation all day long.
This place was a place where a lot of politics was done. I learned to debate from my cousin challenging me. He would ask me a question and he'd say, "How could you prove that?" He taught me how to think about what I was going to say and back it up with facts, not just shoot from the hip.
I think it's been lost. I don't know that there's any place that African-American men gather like that. It was not a place where there was any drinking or cursing going on. It was just a wholesome discussion going on.
It closed around the mid '70s. The city was going to condemn the building. The building was in such poor shape. The city bought it because they wanted to use it as a parking lot.