GARDENDALE — Mark Cornelius is contributing to the history of Fieldstown by preserving the age-old grocery store of D. E. (Dock) Fields.
The city of Gardendale recently purchased the store and attached land to build a new fire substation.
Cornelius recognized the history of the building and the wonderful lumber it was built from. He grew up within rock-throwing distance from the store, where he purchased many all-day suckers and bubble gum.
Cornelius plans to reassemble the store on his home site. “It will be a smaller scale, but I hope to keep it as original as possible,” he said.
Cornelius lives in Fieldstown with his wife, Donna. He is the great-great grandson of William Alfred Fields, who founded Fieldstown in 1878. Cornelius is currently the girls’ basketball coach at Mountain Brook High School, and before that the boys’ basketball coach at Gardendale High, where he had been a star player years before.
The store first opened to the public in January 1938. At that time, Woco-Pep furnished the store with hand-pumped gasoline. Later, Pure Oil replaced them with electric pumps.
One could purchase most any item from kerosene to cow feed. Fresh meats, vegetables, eggs, bread, milk, cold drinks, cosmetics, nails, candy, tires, motor oil, roofing, sheet rock, batteries, toys and many other items were available.
It seemed to be a grocery/hardware store, and was really a small version of a huge grocery chain.
During those days, there were many coal and iron union strikes. The little store kept the families going until the strikes were settled. No one went hungry. At one point and time, Dock feared he would have to close up because of the strikes. Fortunately, once the men went back to work, Dock allowed them to pay off their debt as they financially could.