Thursday, June 18, 2009

Johnson's Fruit Stand

One of my favorite places to visit while on my bicycle was Johnson's Fruit Stand. It was an old wooden "hut/shack" that sat in the sweltering heat on the north side of town. Ez & Ada Johnson (who happen to be my great aunt and uncle) owned the fruit stand for years. I don't remember Ez at all, but no one could ever forget Aunt Ada. She was a wonderful woman who disguised herself as an intimidating, all business, stern and sometimes grouchy gal. The whole front of the fruit stand stood open facing highway 91. The tables were covered with bushel baskets (or boxes) of ripe fruit in need of a quick sale. The minute you entered the stand you could smell the sweet scent of apricots, peaches, plums, apples, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes and "spuds". Ada also carried a small assortment of candy--my favorite was "banana taffy" which came in a long flat slab wrapped in waxed paper (seems I'm always writing about candy . . . hmmm). The floor was cement, daily swept, with an occasional smashed raspberry or scattered fruit leaves. In the very front of the stand was an old chest-type pop cooler filled with the most wonderfully cold assortment of great pop! There was an assortment of "Nehi" flavors, grape, orange crush, wild cherry, lemon/lime, root beer, and of course 7-Up. And they all came in glass bottles. Once you purchased your drink for a total of TEN CENTS, you went back to the cooler where you popped off the lid on the bottle opener at the front of the machine. A little to the north of the fruit stand stood a couple of picnic tables where you could sit and drink your pop and watch the traffic go by. I didn't venture up to the fruit stand very often but when I did, I truly loved it.
As I got older and moved back to Firth, the Fruit Stand was still open for business. I remember one time I was looking for raspberries to make some fresh jam. The berries on the table appeared to be overly ripe and I asked Aunt Ada if she had any in the back that were fresher. She thought for half a second and said, "Well if you don't buy these--who will?" Who will indeed? I bought the raspberries, picked out the rotten ones and grinned as I made my "ripe" raspberry jam! She was one in a million!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ye Old Drugstore/Soda Fountain!

One of the "classier" stores in Firth was Warren's Drug Store. It sat smack dab in the middle of town and sported a large glass show window. I suppose it was as close to a "department store" as you could get, and still live in Firth. I never felt particularly comfortable in the drugstore for some reason. Mrs. Warren was an intimidating personality and always seemed to be watching me whenever I was in the shop--which was rare. The only time I ventured in was when it was my Cousin Karan's birthday and my mother gave me money to purchase a gift for her. I usually ended up buying her a bottle of finger nail polish or a small, blue, heart-shaped bottle of "Evening in Paris" perfume. But it was still fun to browse the shelves in the long and narrow shop. Mrs. Warren had a fondness for "crystal" and proudly displayed it in their drugstore and at home. Behind the shelves were mirrors which gave the crystal that extra sparkle.

There were a few mysteries for me in the drugstore. First, I don't remember ever seeing Mr. Warren--the druggist. I'm not sure if he was deceased by the time I shopped there, or if Mrs. Warren had him hidden away somewhere. I just don't recall ever seeing a druggist behind the counter. The second mystery--and it was a big one--was this: Just what were all those "gifts" wrapped in brown paper that lined the very top of Mrs. Warren's shelves--and who were they for? Each time I went into the shop I noticed boxes wrapped in brown paper and they were sitting on the uppermost shelves. I suppose you'd need a ladder to reach them. The mystery was solved years later when I myself was in need of the contents of those "gifts". They were items of a rather private nature and used only by women. It then became clear why those boxes were so discreetly wrapped (I wish we'd go back to that system today--I get sick of the barrage of "feminine" products that we see everywhere.) That being solved I must tell you about my most favorite part of the drugstore . . . the SODA FOUNTAIN!

Yes, Warren's Drug Store possessed an amazingly exotic Soda Fountain. I myself, was never able to sample any of the delicacies which passed over it's counter; I could only imagine how sweet and delicious they must be. At the counter there were silver bar stools which were attached to the floor. From the top of the counter I could see the soda fountain--a fancy spigot which spewed forth white, fizzy water. Mrs. Warren would fill the fancy stemware approximately 2/3 full with that fizzy water, then she'd stir in some red syrup, add a scoop of snowy white vanilla ice cream, which made that fizzy water fizz all the more! Soon there were bubbles floating up and over the top of the fancy glass! Mrs. Warren was a magician! The water at my house never fizzed the way hers did! In retrospect, it's funny! Never once did I ever expect to taste one of her amazing concoctions. It's like I always knew that those exquisite creations were only for others. Don't feel bad for me--I'm thrilled to simply have the memory of such a place, at such a time, as Ponce-a-Time.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Laundry Day

I grew up in the home of a liberated woman. Now, this was before the word "liberated" had meaning in regards to women. My mother was never one to let anyone tell her what to do. She worked outside of the home while all the other mothers I knew stayed at home every day. Consequently, she had to play "catch up" on the weekend. One of the things that stands out in my mind is laundry day. Mom had an old double tub washing machine with a ringer between the two tubs. The tubs were filled with water from a garden hose out the back door; in one tub she poured Borax laundry soap and the machine would "agitate" to clean the clothes. Then she fed the clothes through the ringer with a yardstick (yardstick being the machine's only safety feature. I was always cautioned to avoid getting my fingers caught in the ringer as it could "pull your arm off") to squeeze out any excess soapy water. Next the the laundry went into the tub with clear water for the rinse cycle. If the clothes were white, she added a touch of "liquid blue". This was a bluing agent that made whites appear whiter. I never could figure out how something so blue, could make something look whiter--but it did! Then the clothing was fed through the ringers to once again squeeze out the excess water. Since she used the same wash water for all the laundry, she naturally washed the whites first, then colors, and then darks. Once all the clothes had been washed, the plug came out of the bottom of the laundry tubs and the water drained through a hose running out the back door. The laundry was then loaded into a bushel basket and carted to the back yard where it was hung in the sun to dry. I loved to be with my mom while she did the laundry and thought the whole process was particularly fascinating. We chatted and played word games while mom hung the clothes. I pretended to be her best friend "Mrs. Peterson" and the banter continued. When the clothes were retrieved from outdoors they were stiff and maintained the same shape as they had held on the clothesline.

Years later my mother was able to purchase her first automatic washing machine. The laundry room was next to my bedroom and as I laid in bed at night I had a terrific view of the washroom. My mother stood at the washing machine and stared in amazement as the machine did all the work. A light in the control panel illuminated the small washroom and I was able to view mom as she admired the machine that was going to simplify her life. Even as a child I was happy for my mom. I knew she loved it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

You Can Trust Your Car . . .

Right next to Howard's Market Basket was the old Texaco gas station. It was located in the same building now occupied by Hard Times. In those days the gas stations were called "service stations" because you actually got service there. There was a long rubber hose that ran from the service station across the entire driveway. When you drove over that hose a bell would ring inside the station to alert the gas station attendant that someone was in need of assistance. In the Firth Texaco station that attendant was none other than Frank Lyon. He usually had his head under the hood of a car but would stop what he was doing, wipe his hands on a greasy rag, place it in his back coverall pants pocket and come outside to pump your gas for you. He would also check your oil, check the air pressure in your tires, and wash your windshield. It was all part of the service. You could take your car to Frank for small repairs, lube jobs, and to get your tires rotated. It was the only business like it in town. Others had tried and failed at sustaining a gas station in Firth; they just didn't quite offer the amenities that Frank did.

Now for me as a child, Frank's service station supplied something that no one else in Firth offered. In the front corner of his little shop there was a water fountain. The funny part about that water fountain was that it ran continually. I don't know if it was in need of repair or if Frank simply liked his fountain that way. But no matter how hot the day, you could always slip into the gas station for a "cool" (mostly lukewarm) sip of water from that never ending fountain. Having run continually month after month, the water bowl developed it's own fauna and flora--namely, green moss--and a lovely shade at that. It gave you something to look at while you stole Frank's water. It didn't take a rocket scientest to know that Frank was annoyed at supplying water to all of the kids in the neighborhood. Since we were not paying customers he likely considered us as pure nuisance. And most likely we were! In order to avoid Frank's wrath I usually tried to slip in and out very quietly so as not to disturb him. But others--ahh--they were much braver than I. Some of the kids would get their drink and on their way out they would jump on the rubber hose and run! From inside the shop we'd hear Frank yelling "You kids get out of here." Can you imagine? Frank went to the same church as I did and everytime I'd see him at church I'd duck. I didn't want him telling my mom what a rotten kid I was. He never did. It makes me sad that Frank is gone now, as is the big red shiny Texaco star. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

As the saying goes . . . "You can trust your car to the man who wear the star--the big bright Texaco Star". Quite a slogan!

Dee-Onn Mack-o-wacky!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Harold Brighton's Barber Shop

While Firth may have had a small population it supported several small businesses. One of those businesses was Harold Brighton's Barber Shop. Harold and his wife (can't remember her name) lived on the corner just through that old weedy, scratchy field. Their home was one of the nicer homes in Firth and I thought they must be rich. I played with their Granddaughter Michelle (who lived with her parents in a small apt. in the Brighton's basement) and I loved to play in their yard as they had the most amazing glider swing. We sat on benches facing each other and by pushing our feet could send the swing soaring. I loved it. Eh-hmmm . . . back to the barber shop.
When it was time for a haircut my father would walk to the barbershop to "get 'er done". Occasionally I got to go with him. Dad probably took me just to get me out of my mother's hair for a few minutes. Harold's small brick shop sported a handsome red, white and blue barber pole. He also owned one of the most elaborate barber chairs ever seen. The rich dark brown leather was surrounded by ornate, intricate silver work--it must have weighed a ton. As you entered the sunny barber shop you were treated to the sweet smell of shaving creams, cologne, and musty male smells. I sat in the waiting chairs and watched as dad, draped in a white cover, got his haircut. Snippets of Dad's dark hair soon covered the cape. Dad seemed to enjoy his time in the chair and there was always lively conversation which continued until we walked out the door. We weren't there for very long, but it made a lasting memory for me--one which included my father who died when I was ten years old. Even now, whenever I see a barber pole it takes me back to those treasured times when I alone, got to go with my father.
BTW: I was suprised years later to see that old barber chair sitting in the garage of my good friend Tonya. It was still just as big, just as ornate, as I had remembered it. I recently asked her what became of the chair. She thought for a minute, consulted with her husband, and said they had given it to their "hairdresser" daughter Wendy. Who knows where it is now?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Crime-fightin' Cowboys!

My cousin Karan (one year/4 months my junior) and I were joined at the hip as children. I cannot think of my childhood without thinking of her. She was my best friend, closest ally, and co-conspirator on a lot of adventures. She was born without a hip socket. Consequently the doctor placed her in corrective shoes which were attached to a board on wheels--the prototype for today's skateboard. I was extremely jealous of her unique mode of transportation and wished that I too had been born without a hip socket so I could could have my own set of wheels. This apparatus was supposed to force her leg into the hip bone in hopes of creating it's own socket. As an adult I realize that must have been painful, but at the time I thought she was the luckiest girl on wheels (pardon the pun).

Anyway, she and I used to gallop around the barnyard pretending to be Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. (For those of you too young to know--Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were the fastest husband/wife crime-fighting cowboys ever to blaze our old black and white TV set.) Karan and I would take turns being Trigger--a white and noble steed. Trigger naturally needed reigns so we would borrow twine from grandpa's hay bales and tie it around our waists. Two clicks of the tongue and we were off on our cowboy adventure. Naturally our cap pistols hung closely by our side just in case we ran into Indians--who always turned out to be my little brother Merrill, and Karan's little sister Connie. A cap-pistol battle would ensue and of course we won as we were Roy Rogers and Dale Evans--who always stood four-square on the right side of the law. Not to mention Karan and I were older and could probably "whoop up" on Merrill and Connie. Yep, for them it probably safer to loose!

De-Onn Mack-o-wacky

For those of a curious nature, Karan is the daughter of John and Loraine Chapman a.k.a. the best aunt and uncle in the world. Catch ya later!