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Jolly Cholly

While we are accustomed to Main Street being home to a string of businesses all the way to Montevallo High School, both sides of the street past the Dari-Delite and the Hoffman Funeral Home heading east were residential well into the 1960’s. The house you see above, on the lot next door to Hoffman Funeral Home, was the home of Montevallo Mayor W.M. “Mack” Wyatt for about a dozen years until he and his wife moved to a new house in the Arden subdivision around 1962. The house sat vacant for several years until local realtor, Victor Scott, bought it and had it moved a few hundred feet to the lot on Bloch Street where the apartments across from Luma Dentistry are today. Once Scott got the house to its new location, he took advantage of its “dog-trot” layout and divided it right down the middle to convert it into two apartments that he then rented to college students.

When Scott moved the house, around 1970, he was also making way for Montevallo’s first new fast food restaurant since the Dari-Delite came to town.

Two men, Charles Hollingsworth and Jack Owen, both originally from Centreville in Bibb County and classmates at Auburn, had recently opened the new “Jolly Cholly” in their hometown. It was the first of what they hoped would become a thriving chain of Alabama burger joints of the same name. Mr. Hollingsworth was well-known as “Charlie,” which often sounded like “Cholly” when his name was spoken by his dyed-in-the-wool Southern accented friends. The two partners took this familiar way that Hollingsworth was often referred to and came up with this unusual but catchy brand name for their business.

They wanted to capitalize on the college student market in Montevallo, so they worked with Mr. Scott to acquire the lot where Mayor Wyatt’s house had been and succeeded in opening a carbon copy of what they had built at the intersection of Highway 25 and old Highway 82 in Centreville.

Mr. Hollingsworth had moved his family to Montevallo years before when his wife took a job teaching Home Economics at Montevallo High School. He edited and published from his home two government-related magazines that appealed to a state-wide audience of public servants. One was entitled, “Mr. County Commissioner,” and the other was the “Alabama Peace Officers Jounal.” Both publications were printed in Montevallo by Times Printing Co. and mailed from the Montevallo post office.

His partner in the hamburger restaurant, Jack Owen, had been a losing candidate for Alabama Governor in 1952, but later succeeded in being elected to multiple terms on the Alabama Public Service Commission. We have encountered Mr. Owen previously in the Throwback Thursday series. He’s the gubernatorial candidate who flew into town and landed a “whirly-bird” helicopter on Main Street right in front of the First Baptist Church (see “On the Corner, Part 3”).

Both Mr. Hollingsworth and Mr. Owen developed a sense of adventure, activism, and involvement as prominent students on campus while at Auburn. They graduated together in 1939. In their final year, Mr. Hollingsworth was president of the Senior Class, while Mr. Owen was a political figure and served as the campus-wide entertainment director for the student body.

At the time Jolly Cholly came to Montevallo, the restaurant resembled the familiar Birmingham-area burger chain known as “Jack’s Hamburgers,” and the ambitions of the owners seemed to mirror those of the owner of the Jack’s chain, who had strategically placed numerous branches of the business throughout central Alabama and succeeded in making this local fast-food brand a household name. By contrast, Jolly Cholly did not earn or enjoy enough customer interest and support at either of their small-town locations to trigger the wave of additional restaurants that its owners hoped for. The Montevallo location folded after nearly ten years in business, with Centreville following not long thereafter.

Jolly Cholly’s demise was not the end of this spot on Main Street as a source of fast food for the community. It was not long before a franchise of the old “Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken” came to town, demolished Jolly Cholly’s simple metal sided building, and quickly put up and opened one of their familiar fried chicken outlets, complete with images of the Colonel himself plastered across the front of the building. KFC, as it’s known today, remains in the old Jolly Cholly location, following a recent sprucing up of the exterior, and appears to be in fine shape to continue to serve it’s chicken-loving clientele indefinitely.

Thank you Clay Nordan, Vice President of Montevallo Historical Society, for this information!

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