Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Memoir: Walking Down Memory Lane

When you live in a small town and everyone knows everyone, there is a sense of comfort you feel as you walk down the street. No one is considered a stranger. As a child that means you can pretty much go anywhere because you know if anything bad happens someone will be there to help. And it you do anything bad the news will make it home long before you every do. Growing up in Green River gave me this mentality at an earlier age. 

I recall on several occasions I would ask my Grandma (Marsing) if I could go visit Aunt Bess and Grandma (Thompson) who owned and lived in the Midland Hotel. She would dial the hotel and usually Grandma (Thompson) would answer. They would work up a plan and soon I was on my way walking through what we called "the flats." It was property that had nothing more than weeds and bushes grown wild on it. My sisters and I would make the best forts ever out of tumbleweeds. Walking through the flats was my least favorite part of the journey to the hotel because I always knew a snake was waiting for me right around the corner. I usually ran as fast as I could to get out onto the road.

Once I cleared the flats and was on the road it was an easy walk down to Broadway. This street and Main street were the two busiest streets in town. As I neared Main and Broadway I would see Grandma (Thompson) standing there waiting for me on the corner. A few times they would trust me to walk across Main street all on my own. On the corner of Main and Broadway was the bank, and yes it was just like out of the movies. Every inch of the bank was covered in dark, mahogany wood even the walls. The dark wood dimmed the inside of the bank so there were several desk lamps all around, just like the one's you would see in a library. It was wondrous to a child. You would have thought it was more like a fancy hotel. I always enjoyed going to the bank with my Aunt Bess. Now if I ever come across that same smell of wood it instantly takes me back to my childhood and I imagine myself standing in line at the bank waiting our turn.

Once I crossed the street there was a Phillips 66 Gas Station on the corner and next to it was the drug store. It was the most popular store in town to visit. The entrance door had a bell that jingled as you stepped inside. The store owner would greet you by name and ask how you were doing. The drug store had a large variety of items, everything from candy to toys (the important stuff) but for me it was the comic books. There was a large rack of every comic book imaginable. I would stand there look through every comic until I found that perfect one I could read over and over again. Along with every good comic book comes a candy bar and that usually took just as long to decide on. However, when I went to the drug store with my Grandma (Thompson) or Aunt Bess we by-passed all this and headed straight for the soda fountain.
First Drug Store in Green River
It was just as you are imagining only better. It took me a minute to situate myself on the stool as it was quite high, but once there my smile could not get bigger. The popular soda drink back then to order was a flavored malt with a good amount of carbonated soda water. I detested this drink first of all because I do not like the taste of malt and carbonated water has no flavor it just makes you burp. I opted for my favorite which is still my favorite today- root beer float. They were the best. The ice cream was smooth and creamy just like it should be in a float. Your soda was always served with a long-handled spoon, a straw and a cherry. Life couldn't be better.

When we left the drug store our stroll on Broadway took us past the rock shop which was always a fun shop to peruse. This shop always reminded me of my other Grandma Thompson (my Grandpa married twice) who collected arrow heads most of her adult life. After she polished them so they glittered in the sun she would place them in a frame and hang them on the wall. I cannot tell you how many framed arrow heads she had there were so many. I was always amazed how she continued to find them when clearly they were all hanging on her walls. I still wonder whatever happened to her rock collection long after she passed away. It was truly wonderful to look at.

The next store was the cutest little dress shop that had almost everything a woman needed. The owner Charlotte was a sweet lady that loved to chat up a storm with my Aunt Bess. As you walked into her shop it was like you had entered a floral shop and the scent of lavender hit you. I loved the smell but there were some days it was a bit overwhelming. There was only one window at the front of the shop so it was always a little dim which I thought added to the ambiance of how a ladies dress shop should be. While Charlotte and my Aunt Bess would chat I touched every beautiful dress in her shop. Her shop was always busy and we never went inside if there were more than two people because my aunt could not talk to her for what seemed like hours on end. One time they chatted for so long I fell asleep under the long gowns. The dreams I must have had amongst all those dresses.

As we continued down Broadway the last stop was Peacock's Grocer. It was one of two grocery stores in town. It was a very dark store, with narrow aisles that very likely could have lead you to the depths of your despair because the further back you walked, the darker it became. I never did like to go back beyond the front register. No matter the candy was at the front of the store and there lay my favorite Charms suckers. A few select of these suckers held a special surprise when you took off the wrapper just like Willy Wonka.
If there was a gold sticker that meant you got another free sucker. However, the free suckers came with a price, meaning you had to be sneaky as you unwrapped each sucker without the store owner seeing you. The key was to look casual and the second he turned his back you madly unwrapped one after another. We always managed to win and the thrill of having two of these suckers was worth the price.

As I think back my mind is flooded with all the wonderful memories I had walking down Broadway with my Grandma (Thompson) and Aunt Bess. I couldn't be happier as a kid growing up in a small town that actually didn't seem so small. I thought we had it all right there in Green River. Who would have thought it could be any better than this.

A NOTE TO ALL: This is my 100th post!