During the 1950s and 1960s, there were plenty of surplus military firearms to trade on. Government 1911s went for $15 to $25 apiece. At the same time, the Marshall-Plan restored industries in Germany were cranking out cheap handguns that went for $10 - $12 apiece. All this in addition to the genuine antiques that could be found in the rural areas, and that would sell for premiums at shows our founder attended with the likes of Vince Shiel, founder of Dayton Gun Headquarters, ancestor company to Jerry’s Sports Center and AcuSport; Mr. George Hoferkamp of Louisville, Kentucky; and Mr. Turner Kirkland, founder of Dixie Gun Works. Perhaps the most important association during those years was with Mr. Saul and Mrs. Lois Eig, founders of Eig Cutlery in Miami, later F.I.E. Corporation, immediate corporate ancestor to European American Armory. There is a discernible shift in 1959 in our advertisements from antiques to straight firearms sales. That exact period saw a drastic increase in white and black civilians arming themselves in Mississippi and also the election of Governor Ross Barnett, whose ambition appeared to be, at one important level, to turn the State of Mississippi into a rogue nuclear state. That happened also to be the same year that our Proprietor Emeritus experienced surrender and salvation, and was baptized by Rev. A.D. Gurley, the very minister who had been so instrumental in procuring the three gubernatorial pardons for him. It has been demonstrated by professional historians that Southern Evangelical white leaders and lay people prevented folk who were most vulnerable to incitement to violence from becoming violent people. A. D. Gurley and most of his Pentecostal colleagues in the South directly confronted the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Councils in their communities and from the pulpits. We can never stress how important this was in maintaining a sane and responsible set of gun dealers before there was a Federal Gun Control Act. And no example we know of supports this more than the life of our deceased Proprietor Emeritus, Fred Robertson.
By the end of 1968, the Gun Control Act was law. Carmack Robertson had a great personality, but simply lacked interest in keeping federal records. That lack of interest put the Church Street Trading Post out of the Gun Business. Ironically, Fred Robertson’s meticulous attention to record keeping, and those skills he applied to firearm records began in the Texas State Prison, as he details in his autobiography. We have a few records from 1958, and fairly comprehensive records, such as they are, from 1960 on. We have on many occasions assisted law enforcement in traces and criminal prosecutions with transactions completed before the 1968 Gun Control Act was law. We are always willing and ready to assist law enforcement, especially the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, in their work of assisting gun crime prosecution and generally in keeping bad people from getting guns.
By 1975, Fred Robertson turned more attention to his farm in Finger, Tennessee, back in Northeast McNairy County, ancestral home area to his wife. The elder son, Wayne Robertson, ran the business from 1975 until 1985, when he enrolled in the Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis. A considerable amount of credit during those years goes to our Aunt Lorene Lewis Latham, one of two women in our family who serviced in the Women’s Army Corps honorably during World War II. Wayne Robertson was the first in our extended family to practice law, which he did until his untimely death in 1995. We still recall Aunt Lorene holding forth in her lectures to us about the proper ways to enter firearms in our record books, ways to avoid slop, and the correct way to style an invoice and label a package so that (1) it won’t get stolen, and (2) it complies with the law and with carrier regulations.
Our present proprietor is glad to be alive, glad to be happily married, and happy that we have fire-resistant buildings on Front Street now. We are grateful to the men and women of the Henderson Police Department, Chester County Sheriff’s Department, and Henderson Fire Department for their vigilance and tireless service to us and our fellow citizens.
We are grateful to have honorable and credible competitors. We still grieve the loss of Mr. Marcus “Wink” Winberry of Jackson, Tennessee, and Mr. Don Harville of Corinth, Misssissippi, proprietors of Wink’s Old Time Sporting Goods and Don’s Pawn Shop, respectively. We believe they were the best two among all of us, some 150 dealers in Northeast Mississippi and Southwest Tennessee, and they both were tragically killed in the line of duty – just waiting on customers and going about their business, by the scourge of our nation, young gang members, in Spring of 1996, each of them less than a month apart. These two deaths are the reason that all of us stay armed at all times on our premises. If the best two among us can be killed with impunity, those of us who are of lesser stature than Don and Wink have to be especially careful.
We lament the loss of many of our good old country traders and colleagues over the past few decades. Mr. Dewey Barnes, Mr. Robert and Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, and Mr. Dave Lloyd, all of Corinth, Mississippi, who were all so profoundly and positively influential upon our present proprietor. Mr. Raymond and Mrs. Lorraine Davis, who helped raise us from infants and taught us the virtues of good citizenship. Mr. Buddy Matthews of Sadie Lou Sport Shop, the only storekeeper we know where the burglars called the police under attack from the shop owner who apprehended them on the scene. Mr. Joe Thurman, Mr. Harry Keeton, and Mr. Joe Gallien, all from Middle Tennessee who taught us the art of trading, sometimes at considerable expense to us. Mr. Ross Parker of Lexington, Tennessee, who taught us about knives and people when we were too young and dumb to be very teachable. Mr. Hugh Witherspoon, who told me once when he got the best of me on a knife trade, “son, you’ll outgrow it.” Mr. Henderson Lott, Mr. Monroe Connor, and all the old traders around the Court House in Henderson and Corinth. Mr. Finley Gillham and Mr. Tom Cook from Clifton, Tennessee, who could beat you a little on a trade but still make you like it, and like them, despite them being die-hard yellow dog Democrats. Mr. C.B. Keathley and Mr. Ralph Keathley of Dyer, Tennessee, who taught us on the fine points of old Winchesters. Mr. Jim Clements of Savannah, Tennessee, who taught us the potential of the .32 Caliber Revolver long before anyone conceived of a .32 H&R Magnum or a .327.
Most important, Fred Robertson very naturally taught us that nobody owes us anything. We are not entitled to anything. He knew that, of course, from his own life. He was only here, out here free, trading on firearms of all things, because, as one of our Roman Catholic teachers once said, we serve a Jewish God who has a sense of humor. First and foremost, what we owe our customers is truthfulness. The customer, by the way, isn’t always right. He taught us that, too. We are not salesmen. We are buyers and traders. The merchandise sells itself. It is what it is, and we do our level best to let buyers and consumers know precisely what they are getting. And we do our best to let them know exactly what is going on with their orders and purchases. I always tell employees, “these people may not know us. We have their money. We owe them to let them know what is going on.”
With all the positive influences, we are thankful to the Good Lord that He has helped us keep a lid on negative tendencies and vices. There is a cumulative effect where the Lord has used Pentecostal and Church of Christ Preachers on the one hand, and law enforcement on the other hand, to put the Fear of God into us. With the blessings that all the influential customers, colleagues, and regulatory people have been to us, we feel grateful and honored to be in this business, and we have only named a few who’ve helped us in the past. While we don’t hit the ground running as much as we probably ought to with our religious beliefs, we believe this is important when people consider doing business with us: We believe that there really is a Hell, and we don’t want to go there. Especially over a gun or coin deal.
John P. Robertson