This has turned out to be an interesting exercise for me. I wanted to go through town and describe the businesses and their locations, but the important part was to be the people we met and remembered along the way. I’m looking at about a 15 year span of time, and I can’t always recall who was in what location first. It doesn’t really make any difference. The people themselves are the story. As a kid, I wandered in and out of every store in town and was never growled at and wasn’t refused access to any establishment.
Let’s get back on State Street and on the east side we will cross 6th and continue south.
The first building is the Penley Building, occupied by Penley Hardware. I first met Ernie Penley when I was pretty small. My Great-Uncle, Dave Peebler, was going to run some errands and invited me to tag along. He and Mr. Penley were good friends, and after buying what he needed, they visited while I looked around the store. Mr. Penley was deaf and used an ear trumpet to aid his hearing. I also met Mrs. Penley while visiting with my Aunt Rachel at the Penley home on Clark Street. For several years, local Elks Lodge 1462 met on the second floor, above Penley Hardware.
The next place was the P & G Bakery, operated by Harry Patterson and Bernie Govenius. The spelling may be wrong. It was pronounced “Go-vee-nus.” Besides selling baked goods, they had a soda fountain, booths, a peanut warming machine and display cases for pipe tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes. I used to check the alley behind the bakery in hopes of finding discarded cigar boxes. One that I found, a Mississippi Crooks box, I sold on e-bay to a collector just 15 years ago. The big draw at the bakery was what they called a “malt.” It was a soft ice cream dispensed from a machine into a cone. My favorites at the bakery counter were Long Toms (maple bars), apple fritters, and those delicious cream puffs. Several of the men’s relatives worked in the bakery. He didn’t work at the bakery, but I believe that Chuck Patterson, a cool guy who was 4 or 5 years older than me, was Harry’s nephew.
Next door was O’Brien’s Furniture. I never had a reason to go in there, but I recognized the O’Brien’s when I saw them. They had a son, Mike, who was several years older than me.
Between the Bakery and O’Brien’s there was a stairway that led up to some meeting rooms. I think Uncle Dave went up there for Odd Fellows, and Aunt Rachel went for Eastern Star and Soroptomist. I think they both ended up as 50 year members of their clubs.
Also upstairs was the dental office of Ralph Brandt, D.D.S. His wife, Helena, managed the office. Doc and Helena had two boys. Dolan was 4 years older than I was, and Kermit was 2 or 3 years younger. Dolan married my cousin, Joyce Wilson.
Next up was Western Auto & Supply. For me, this was like going to the candy store. Western Auto had bicycles, bicycle parts, tools, rods and reels, fishing lures, guns, and all the other stuff that boys get excited about. When I was 10, I was having trouble with the nuts on the front axle of my bike coming loose. My Dad didn’t have any tools except a pair of pliers, so with them, I deformed and chewed up those nuts pretty bad. I saved my money and went to Western Auto and bought a pair of Vise Grips that I still own to this day.
Next, I’m seeing Skaer Drugs. I don’t know anything about it, so I guess I was never there.
Next, I see Bowman’s Market, owned and run by Charles and Marguerite Bowman. They were super nice old people, and I’m sure that their grocery store was the busiest in town at that time.
Next is Fowler’s News Stand, run by John and Lucille Fowler. I was a regular customer, buying comics in the early years. As I grew older, I enjoyed Western Horseman, Popular Mechanics, Mechanics Illustrated, Popular Science, Hot Rod, and Motor Trend. I never felt like I had the money to buy more than two magazines a month, but I could usually find the others at the city library or at school. After we got into high school, a friend and classmate, Gena Hulvey, worked after school and evenings at the news stand. You weren’t supposed to just stand there and read the magazines, and good manners dictated that you just lightly peruse the magazine in order to make a decision about buying. If there were no other customers, Gena would let me read a little. One day at school, I saw her in the hall. She came over to me and said, “Stop by the store when you get a chance. We’ve got a new magazine that you will enjoy seeing.” I stopped by the news stand that evening. There were a couple people looking at magazines. When they left, Gena beckoned me to where she was standing beside a door. She opened the door to the utility closet, reached in and got a magazine which she handed to me. “Check this out,” she said, and I looked at what was a copy of the first issue of Playboy Magazine. As I thumbed through the pages, completely surprised, I said, “Are you actually going to sell this in the store?” She said, “Yes, but for now, we have to keep it in the closet.” Times change and evolution is the name of the game.
The next place was a photographic studio. The only name I can think of is “Breck’s.”
Next, we have the Cash Insurance Agency, operated by Clovis Cash. I knew Mr. and Mrs. Cash because their daughter, Carolyn, was a good friend of my sister.
Next is the Prairie State Bank. At one time it was managed by Mr. Haines and later by Noah Morris. Mr. Morris had a son, Maynard, who was a year younger than me. Another employee of the bank was Dixie Wismer. She and her husband, Ivan, lived across the street from me. They had a young daughter whose name I can’t remember.
Next was Stephenson’s Men’s Clothing. Paul Stephenson and his wife ran the place. When I got old enough to earn my own money, I bought a suit from Paul, and Mrs. Stephenson explained the magic of lay-away. They had a son named Dick who was a classmate of mine. In one of my seaplane stories, I told about bumping into Dick on the island of Guam, 7,000 miles from home.
Next was Hall’s Book Store, operated by Mamie Hall. That’s where we ordered our school books every year. Mamie also sold wallpaper and was the franchise for Pittsburgh Glass and Paint. My Mom worked for Mamie for a few years. She enjoyed the books, as she was an avid reader, and she also enjoyed framing pictures. She loved mechanical gadgets, too, so the paint shaker was right down her alley.
Next was the office of Lionel West. I don’t know what he did, Guess he was an investor. He always brought his St. Bernard, Major, to work with him. He never minded if you stopped in just to pet the dog. I think that later on, he and Mamie, next door, got married.
Next up was Allison’s Barber Shop. That’s where I got my haircuts until I was 20 years old and joined the Navy. Burl Allison, Sr. was joined by Burl, Jr., and they always had a busy shop. They were both talkers, and quite often men stopped in just to chew over the news of the day. Prior to joining his Dad in the Barber Shop, Burl Jr. was a letter carrier/mailman for the Post Office. More often than not, he could be seen standing and talking to a resident rather than moving down the street. That was Burl. I don’t intend this in a mean way. Burl loved to talk, and people enjoyed talking to him. He listened, asked questions, and really engaged in conversation. After retiring, Burl Jr. wrote a terrific book chronicling the history of Augusta. Each page is crammed with facts about the people and the businesses of the town. Burl Jr. and his wife, Lois, had a son, Stephen, who was a good friend and a classmate of mine. Steve married Sue Smith, another friend and classmate. Steve also had a younger brother, Mike, and a younger sister whose name I can’t remember.
Before Allison’s Barber Shop, I think I should have listed Oklahoma Tire & Supply Company. It was managed by John C. Calhoun. I knew the Calhoun’s because their daughter had married Jack Guest, a nephew of my great aunt, Rachel Peebler.
Next is Leben’s Jewelry. It was owned and operated by Ted and Archie Leben who I think originally came from El Dorado. I got acquainted with them because they would let me stand and watch as they worked on items at their work bench.
There is only one more building on the block, but the entrance for it is around the corner on 5th Avenue, so I’ll save it for the next story.