This photo taken in 1948 was probably a publicity shot for the local Richmond Coca-Cola bottler, who may very be the gentleman with the nicely shined shoes and an overcoat standing on the side of the truck and above the water. There were seventeen floods recorded in Richmond in 1948, but by far the highest water in the city that year was in early December. Judging by the clothing, this photo was probably taken during that December flood, the severity of which inspired the photographer to illustrate the urgency of Coca-Cola being delivered, no matter what.
In the background is the Manchester Cafe, which had been here at 109 Hull Street since the mid-1930s. It was operated for many years by a Mrs. Harcelia A. Zaharies, who lived across the river at 2416 West Main St. It was later run by Louie Zaharies and his wife, Hercela. Louie and Hercela were apparently pretty successful with the Cafe during the mid-1940s, as they lived at a more fashionable address on Davis Street.
The Richmond City Directory notes Frank Snipes was a black man who lived in North Church Hill with his wife, Lillie, in a home on 25th Street whose site is now occupied by Mt. Olivet Church. Snipes was listed as “laborer” in the 1940 Richmond City Directory, but by 1946 had become the operator of the gas station at 101 Hull Street, whose canopy is on the right in the photograph. Snipes’ Amoco gas station, although subject to flooding, was nevertheless in a good location. There, almost on the river bank, his was the first business at the south end of the Mayo Bridge probably a good place to gas up before forging out into the wilds of Chesterfield.
Both Snipes’ gas station and the Manchester Cafe were typical of the small businesses that sprang up among the industries and factories of Manchester. Workers at the nearby Crawford Manufacturing and the Sampson Paint Company would have known both establishments well. These small diners and service companies that once filled in the gaps of the Manchester cityscape are all gone, and are being replaced by a new generation of amenities among today's condos and studio spaces. None need fear the James River as did the Zaharies family, who could only empty their cafe and hope for the best as the river approached. Now, the area is protected by the 1995 Richmond flood wall, whose enormous gates are only a few yards from where the gas station and cafe once stood.
Today, the residents of Warehouse 201 (itself the former Cauthorne Paper Company) look out on an amazing vista across the James. Below them, two muddy vacant lots and a small park mark the stretch of Hull Street where a boat once met a Coca-Cola truck to stage an amphibious delivery.
That location today.