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Thankful for Bricks-and-mortar Stores of Earlier Decades

November 21, 2018


A Month–Not Just a Day–of Thanks


Part 4.  Thankful for the Bricks-and-mortar Stores of Earlier Decades


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On this Thanksgiving Eve of 2018 and in this fourth part of my 2018 WORDWALK series of “A Month–Not Just a Day–of Thanks,” I am not just thinking of good food and shopping, I am remembering the stores of Main Streets of small towns and larger cities around the United States.  If “Big-box stores” and shopping malls brought the demise of downtown stores along too many Main Streets, will online shopping eliminate a substantial number of big-box stores and shopping malls?  Is a land of only online shopping really what Americans want?  I hope not.


I fondly recall, in the 1950s and 1960s, walking down Main Street of Clinton, Indiana (then, with a population of approximately 7000), and looking in the shop windows.  Additionally, I remember the years when absolutely no store was open for business on Sundays; in those earlier decades, Sunday was a family day.  I am happy that for most of my life, no thought was given to any store being open on Thanksgiving Day; and I do hope that store owners come to their senses and return to a “Closed” sign for all of Thanksgiving Day in the near future.


Yes, I am thankful to have enjoyed the bricks-and mortar stores of my youth.  Clinton, seven miles from my hometown of Blanford, had a Main Street which was still bustling in the 1950s and 1960s.  When I was a child, I went shopping with my mother at Baker’s Dress Shop, where our cousin Martha Lanzone and her sister Gracie worked.  In this store, the display of many hats always caught my attention.


Walking north down the west side of Main Street, one would have encountered Rosenblatt’s–a department store with clothing for men, women, and children.  Throughout the years, this store did some changing with the times.


During my high school years (1964-1968), I most enjoyed shopping in Kirkman’s Fashion Shop, owned and operated by Mrs. Ruth Kirkman, who was always so helpful and kind.  For special occasions, I was very pleased to purchase a dress from this shop.


After the big fire that destroyed the hotel on the corner of Main and Blackman Streets, a J. C. Penney Store became another shopping opportunity.  When I was still doing some sewing, I spent time going through the large books of patterns that were located in the back corner of this store.  The wife of one of my seventh- and eighth-grade teachers (Mr. Donald Kemper) worked at this Penney’s for a number of years.


Besides the clothing stores, this block of Main Street included a Rexall Pharmacy where friends and I sometimes had lunch during high school years.  Although I rarely ate at Dagley’s restaurant, my older sister and her friends often had tenderloin sandwiches at this diner during high school lunch breaks.  For both lunch items and ice cream treats, we enjoyed going to Gillis Pharmacy, located in the next block.  From Gillis’, I especially recall the orange phosphates.


Between Blackman Street and Mulberry on Main, I fondly remember G. C. Murphy’s ample candy counter from where my purchase of caramel rings with cream centers were placed in a small paper bag.  During the holiday season, I most enjoyed perusing the Christmas aisles at G. C. Murphy’s and at Horney’s Variety Store.  Deciding which ornament or other Christmas decor to buy frequently took pleasant time.


Two jewelry stores, two hardware stores, a bowling alley, two banks, and Harris Food Store were among the other buildings on the west side of Main Street.  On the east side of Main were the Palace Theatre, the Wabash Theatre, the American Legion, restaurants, office buildings, and The Daily Clintonian (newspaper building).  Of course, other Businesses lined the side streets that flowed west and east into Main.


When I was around eleven or twelve, my dad and I went to Harris Food Store (on the corner of Main and Vine Streets) and selected two evergreens and a little blue spruce tree, all of which my dad and I later planted at the northeast corner of our yard in Blanford.  The blue spruce grew into a spectacular tree which we loved.  Of all the purchases we made along Main Street of Clinton, I am most thankful for the Colorado blue spruce which was the purchase that endured the longest and that most warms my memories of those years of shopping on Clinton’s Main Street.


Enjoy a very happy Thanksgiving, and then have fun shopping!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


November 21, 2018, Wednesday




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  1. Dear Alice,
    Thank you so much for the walk down the Memory Lanes of Clinton, Indiana! I enjoyed all of the places you described. In retrospect, I especially appreciate how the sales people often knew us by name and always treated us as welcomed guests in their businesses. These same people also were very familiar with their merchandise and readily shared their knowledge. Back then, shopping was a delightful experience, which I looked forward to with excitement.

    Best wishes to you and Willow for a very Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Hi, Mary–Thanks for your comment.  Yes, I can still picture in my mind many of the owners and employees of these stores in Clinton.  They certainly did know their merchandise and practiced customer service.

      Talk with you soon–Alice and Willow

  2. Sue McKendry permalink

    Happy Thanksgiving Alice & Willow! Thanks for the tour of Clinton and a reminder of the joy we had shopping in a bygone era. And for all of the years I have known you, this posting revealed another surprise — the Colorado Blue Spruce that you describe as being a favorite memory. Blue spruce trees have been my favorite (well, tied with weeping willow) trees, and we are so lucky to have quite a few on our property. They were about three feet high when we moved here and now they tower high above our roof top level. So, you just reminded me of another thing to be thankful for this day.

    • Hi, Sue–Thanks for your nice comment with the note about your blue spruce trees.  I forgot to mention that the blue spruce which my dad and I planted was only about two feet tall.  In the book THE CHRISTMAS TREE, by Julie Salamon, I learned that a blue spruce is never used for the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.  At the time of the writing of this bestselling book, the tree of choice was the Norway spruce.

      Hoping you had a nice Thanksgiving–Alice and Willow

  3. Carole permalink

    Thanks for more hometown memories, Alice! Yes, Clinton was quite lively in the days of our youth. I also remember the downtown stores of Italian families: Bonacorsi’s Grocery, Fenoglio’s Shoe Store, and Ave’s Flower Shop. Sadly, with more fires and the change of times, the four full blocks of retail, restaurants, and multiple businesses are just happy memories, along with the bus service of the Ricauda family.
    And yes, I wish more families and friends could be home together, celebrating the blessings of the holiday!
    Wishing you and Willow a Happy Thanksgiving Day!
    The Morgans

    • Hi, Carole–I hope that you and Tim enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving.

          One of these days, we will need to make a map of all the stores and buildings of Clinton’s downtown of our youth.  Then, we could also do 9th Street–especially Blake’s which had the best soda fountain/ice cream treats and candy counter.  The Jack-and-Jill sundaes made with Borden’s ice cream were special treats after piano lessons.

      Talk with you soon–Alice and Willow

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