On the square | Mark’s Remarks

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I wrote a couple of feature stories for this newspaper a few years back, talking about what life was like on Main Street in our surrounding small towns.  When I look back on those stories, I get a little lost in my mind’s eye as I bask in the simplicity of what life must have been like back then.

I started getting a magazine called “The Good Old Days” and I think it’s a gift subscription from the car dealership we got our last car from. I enjoy reading the stories – even though many of them are of time periods before my life began.  

There is a section of the magazine entitled “Bits and Pieces,” a place designated for small little snippets of letters and emails sent to the magazine. At the top of this featurette section is a depiction of some Main Street – probably based on a real little town – circa late 1940s.

In the illustration, it is clearly late winter, with a few trees barely starting to bud and men and women dressed in winter clothing.  Men wear long overcoats and hats. Women also wear hats, gloves and dressier ensembles than we are used to these days.

A solid crowd seems to be traveling up and down the street. Shiny automobiles with curvy backends are parked here and there. I recognize an old Packard, looking pretty new and spiffy, painted a shade of gray with what appear to be yellow, wooden doors.

I read a story from my hometown a few years ago in which an old-timer reminisced about Friday and Saturday nights uptown. It seems uptown was so busy that some folks would come to town early just to find a parking spot for the evening. Unbelievable.

The majestic courthouse sits in the upper part of the picture, suggesting this scene is the more modern part of Main Street or simply part of the bigger picture on the courthouse square. Behind these Main Street buildings, one can see shadows of tall buildings. There may indeed be more action going on a block over.  

We just can’t see it.  

There is a corner of a tall, yellow brick hotel, flanked on the lower right by a service station in which well-dressed attendants come out and fill your tank, check your tires, and wash your windshield.

A mother holds tightly to a lad’s hand as they run into the modern bricked supermarket on the corner; probably just built and much to the chagrin of the smaller neighborhood corner shops.  

The tallest building besides the hotel is the Main Street department store, which most likely has several departments on each of its three floors. Next to the department store is a nondescript building, probably more space for additional departments. 

One can almost imagine a sign on this smaller annex that reads “Please use main door for entrance.” A still smaller door on the side of this building leads to the upstairs bowling alley, right above the tobacco shop.

A rather fancy, homey looking building stands next to the tobacco shop and reads “Restaurant.”  Blue awnings frame the large picture windows. If one were to peer through the venetian blinds, you would probably have a hard time finding a man without a tie.

For those without a tie who might want a quick bite to eat or ice cream, the red bricked drugstore stands next door, advertising a soda fountain. After your soda is finished, head to the movie theater for an afternoon matinee. 

Later tonight, Ted Mack himself will be in attendance to host the Old Gold Amateur Hour, recently brought to television but still on radio and in person. One can almost hear the wheel spinning to see which amateur act performs first. 

“Round and round she goes. Where she stops, nobody knows.”

Maybe that’s why Main Street is so busy today.

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era, and perhaps people who actually lived during those times would say we young’uns are romanticizing everything. Probably so.

When I was in college, I lived in an attic apartment very near the town square.  I was lucky enough to be there when there were still a few vestiges of the past around; the art deco movie theater, built in the 1930s; a couple of small shops that had been around a long time. A drug store. Even a tiny shoe repair shop.

Not the same as living it, but maybe a slight glimpse of yesteryear.

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