Riding Academy thrived during WWII rationing

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This week Reflections looks back at Sumter during World War II and how people coped with the restrictions placed on the mode and method of travel.

Because of the tremendous need for the nation's resources for the war effort, the government was forced to limit the number of cars, public access to gasoline and the number of tires people could purchase for their vehicles. These restraints led A. Moody Mims to open an equestrian academy to reconnect the populace to the time-honored tradition of riding horses.

"Realizing that the conditions placed on the citizens of Sumter because of the war, and that people were not able to drive their automobiles and enjoy the other diversions as in pre-war days, A. Moody Mims went to considerable trouble and expense to open one of the largest riding academies in the entire state. The fact that people loved horses was effectively demonstrated by the instantaneous success which greeted this new business venture."

The academy featured the finest horses found in this section of the state. These horses were procured by Mr. Mims, an accomplished equestrian as well as a successful business man. He was kept busy managing Orange Crush Bottling Co., one of the city's largest and most progressive soft drink firms. Orange Crush Co. was at 328 S. Main St. and had the capacity to produce 1,200 cases weekly though the rationing of sugar curtailed the bottling of that many cases. Mr. Mims managed the plant; however, before he assumed control of the facility, he was engaged in a dry-cleaning business in Georgetown. His business interests were considerable; in addition to the bottling plant he owned two grocery stores, one caf and an auto dealership while still finding time to personally supervise the operation of the Riding Academy, which he located at the fairgrounds behind the armory.

The stables were well constructed and were designed to be "large, clean and airy." Many types of horses were available. The experienced horsemen could find the mounts of their choice, as could the beginning riders who were eager to find gentle steeds. Ponies were available for young riders, and trained instructors were available to provide those interested with riding lessons.

"The new riding academy was an example of a man turning a hobby into a profitable business." A substantial number of Sumterites frequented the academy and were generous in their praise for this new enterprise. The opportunity for frequent customers to purchase a book of tickets made the cost very reasonable. Others who desired to ride occasionally could take advantage of the hourly rates at $1.25 an hour. The land surrounding the fairgrounds was ideal for riding because there were several country lanes in the vicinity of the stables.

Upon the conclusion of the war, the shortages of automobiles and gasoline were eased, and it is thought that most participants returned to the pre-war use of motor vehicles, and a decline in the usage of horses for transportation was experienced.

However, in September 1949, The Pines Riding Academy announced its grand opening in Sumter. "Located five miles from Sumter on Catchall Road, just 100 yards off the Columbia Highway, the academy featured private equestrian instruction, a stable of fine thoroughbred gaited saddle horses and one Tennessee walking horse. The horses were brought from Pine Lake stable at Myrtle Beach. One of the quintet of gaited horses was a trained jumper. Rates were two dollars per hour, and there was an additional charge for private instruction." John R. Moseley operated the academy, and instruction was given by Mrs. Doris Russell of Sumter, who won numerous blue ribbons in competitions and was a graduate of Hartsville Academy.

The information and photos used to complete this article were taken from Sumter Item archives.

Reach Sumter Item Archivist Sammy Way at waysammy@yahoo.com or (803) 774-1294.