By P.J. Gossett
The Ancestry research tool Newspapers.com has struck again. For those unfamiliar with it, it is a paid subscription service to historical newspapers from all over the world. Right here in the northwest corner of the state, newspapers on that site begin in the 1880s usually and stop in 1963. The best thing about it in my opinion is the ability to search by just typing in what one is looking for. Newspapers are available for not only Marion but Winston, Walker, Lamar, Fayette, Franklin, Lawrence and many other counties. In fact, Lawrence County’s newspapers begin in 1867.
While doing a quick search one day last week on Newspapers.com, I came upon my great-uncle, James David Gossett, in Marion County. He was the oldest of four boys, and the only one still alive when I was born. He was born in 1916, most likely around Hackleburg, but lived in Winston, Mobile and Tuscaloosa counties throughout his life.
He married Roslee Thomas, whose brother was Roy Thomas. Both Roy and J.D., as he was known, were state troopers and were posted here in 1957. Both of them and their wives owned and operated the famous Campus Inn Cafe in 1957, located on Military Street across from Hamilton High School, almost viewable from where I sit typing this.
It is not known right now when the Campus Inn began, but it was listed with new management on July 1, 1937. At this time, it had groceries, gas, candy, ice cream, drinks and was a sandwich shop. It also had school supplies, which makes sense. The manager was Murray Ballard. In 1940, the new managers were Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Killingsworth, formerly of Tupelo. By 1947, the owner was C.W. Emerson and was managed by John Gann in 1950. At the beginning of 1951, the store was sold once more and operated by Ruby Shotts. In a few months, in May of 1951, the cafe was run by Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Sanderson. In June of 1955, the Sandersons were selling the store, though it remained in their care until J.D. Gossett came along and purchased the business by February of 1957.
When the Gossett and Thomas families operated the cafe, it was open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.
In July of 1957, a short mention in the newspaper told of how antique guns had been seen around town lately.
“J.D. Gossett has some unique firearms in the Campus Inn Cafe here,” the article said. “One of Gossett’s is a double-triggered Civil War ball and cap rifle.”
The store was listed for sale once again in October of 1957, along with the house they lived in on Cotton Gin Road. Within four months, he was already living in Mobile.
In April of 1958, the business being run in the “old Campus Inn” was Glenn Radio and TV Service. The building still stands today and is the former television station located next to Gasco Auto Parts.
I had just turned seven when “Uncle Jim” passed away on the first day of 1988. His was the first funeral I attended where a rifle salute occurred.
I was surprised by learning he lived here and even owned a business. You never know what you will find looking through old newspapers.
See complete story in the Journal Record.