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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Salem merchant revives old tradition

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The crowd begins gathering 'round at the Trading Company on Saturday, Feb. 4, as Rex Bowers (behind counter) gets ready to begin the drawings for two preliminary prizes and a $425 grand prize. Twenty-eight Salem merchants made contributions for the first of a series of monthly drawings, reviving a Salem square tradition that was popular in the 1950's and 60's.
It was a new promotion firmly rooted in the past.

On Saturday, Feb. 4, about 35 people gathered at The Trading Company on the Salem Square for the chance to win $425 cash and other prizes in a drawing, sponsored by Salem merchants and businesses.

The drawing awarded a candle set, a dozen doughnuts and a set of coins before the big cash prize drawing.

Fred Whitman of Salem was the winner of the $425.

Whitman, who often visits the Trading Company, was happy - and surprised. "I've never won nothin' in my life!" Whitman exclaimed.

Paula Bowers, owner of the Trading Company, says the monthly drawing idea grew out of a music trivia contest she started in January on her Facebook page.

"I have had good luck promoting my business through Facebook, and have a lot of regulars who visit my page," Bowers said. "I got the idea to post a weekly music trivia question on the page. The question is supplied by Jerry Bone, a well know musician around here, who has opened a recording studio in Hardy called Bare Bones Recording."

The trivia questions have been a hit, and those who leave an answer are eligible to win a weekly prize donated by businesses on the Salem square. So far, winners have received a gift certificate from the Ozark Bead Company, a dozen doughnuts from the Bakery on the Square, and a free back adjustment from Dr. Guy Smith, chiropractor.

"The square merchants have been awesome in supporting the trivia question, and then I got the idea to expand it a little bit," Bowers explained. "Everyone who enters the music trivia contest is eligible to win cash at a monthly drawing. The winner must be present at the drawing, so it brings people to Salem."

That may sound familiar to "old timers." For years, area residents flocked to the Salem square on Saturdays, to shop and visit with people. Years ago, many rural families only went to town once a week, but the Saturday crowd grew when businesses on the square banded together to hold a weekly drawing, awarding prizes and cash, at a ceremony on the courthouse grounds.

"I didn't grow up in Salem, but I saw an old black and white photo taken at a Saturday drawing, and the square was packed," Bowers said. "It was amazing how many people showed up each week. It was a big event."

While the first Trading Company drawing drew a more modest crowd, Salem businesses like the idea. 28 local businesses chipped in to fund the first drawing prize, and Bowers hopes it will become a monthly tradition.

"All the businesses I contacted were real supportive," Bowers said. "I hope the drawing gets so big, we can move it outside to the gazebo at the courthouse, like in the old days. Maybe by working together, we can bring more people in to look around and see what Salem has to offer."

People eating lunch recently at the Salem Senior Citizens Center had fond memories of the old Saturday drawings.

"Saturday was a big day on the square," Artis Owens remembers, both as a citizen and a merchant. "People would come from all over. The drawing caused a lot of excitement."

"I won once," Judy Floyd added, smiling at the memory. "The prize was a pant suit from one of the merchants. People made sure they got here on Saturday for the drawing. You could hardly find a parking place, if you got here late."

The music trivia contest on the Trading Post Facebook page demonstrates the modern way of getting together to visit- online.

The Jan. 26 trivia question was: What was Elvis' first number one hit on the U.S. Billboard chart? It drew 64 responses. While many just listed the answer, "Heartbreak Hotel," others added to the fun by including their own editorial comments.

Cindi Poulson wrote: "Heartbreak Hotel. First album I ever got when I was four years old. I begged and begged for any records of Elvis, and mom and dad worked extra hard just so I could get one. Times were hard. Love me some Elvis."

Anna Young Matlock excitedly wrote, "Since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell! It's down on the end of Lonely Street...sing with me Y'all!" Matlock was so excited, she wrote some of the words to "Heartbreak Hotel," but forgot to actually give the answer.

"Word about the music trivia is spreading," Bowers said. "I used to have about 150 friends on my Facebook page and, since trivia started, its grown to about 450 friends. I've also had people come in complaining that they want to play, but don't have a computer. So, we have a box set up at the counter to let people answer the question in the store."

To participate in the music trivia contest, you need to go to Jerry Bone's Facebook page and ask to be friended. Once that's done, you can see the question on Paula Bowers' Trading Company page, and enter your answer for the chance to win a weekly prize, or the monthly drawing.

"I've never owned a store, so I'm just kind of making it up as I go along," Bowers said. "I think, if you've got to go to work, it should be fun. The music trivia contest and the drawing are a lot of fun, and people seem to like them."

Spectators at the Saturday drawing agreed.

Pointing to a list of merchants who sponsored the drawing, Chuck Kristopeit, of Cherokee Village, told others in the crowd, "Let's give them a hand for this. This is a great thing they put together. It's a fun situation."

A hearty round of applause followed, with Kristopeit saying he was looking forward to next months' drawing, and expected the crowd to grow.

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