Mountain View on a Saturday
Thu, 05/14/2020 - 12:42pm admin
Mountain View in the 1950s bustled with activity on Saturdays. It seemed the town doubled in size. Farm families from the surrounding countryside showed up to do their weekly shopping and socializing. Women in freshly-ironed, cotton dresses and men in clean jeans, or even khaki work trousers, usually reserved for Sundays, strolled the sidewalks stopping to chat when they met a neighbor or an old friend.
For me, it meant a 10-mile trip on old Highway 60 from the Montier farm. With Grandpa driving his 1948 Mercury, it took most of an hour. The blacktop was hilly and curvy, and Grandpa seldom drove faster than 40 miles per hour. If he saw someone driving faster, he would proclaim, “That guy’s in a hurry . . . in a hurry to get to the undertaker.”
And he wouldn’t pass another car, except on the straight stretch near Teresita, where he would invariably pass any vehicle in front of us. He’d clinch the turning knob on the steering wheel, which he said was required for one-armed drivers, and whip out to the oncoming lane, with the foot-feed (accelerator) to the floor.
Grandma, a stout five-footer who could barely see over the dashboard, sat patiently on the passenger side, while I squirmed in the back seat in anticipation of the excitement ahead. During the week they might drive a mile to Welsh’s Montier Grocery, for animal feed or bread—Holsum or Colonial, white only—but on Saturdays, they stocked up with supplies “in town.”
With no parking meters in Mountain View, cars and pickups occupied spaces along the sidewalks for extended periods. I don’t recall the constable, Pete Thompson, ever writing parking tickets. Grandpa usually parked on a side street near Duncan’s Funeral Home, situated at Second Street and Elm, which intersected with Main (First Street) a block south.
This parking spot was strategic because it was only a block from Garrett’s store, which sold groceries and work clothing, and would be the last shopping spot of the day. Garrett’s was important for another reason. Because Grandpa only had one hand, his right hand, buying gloves was a problem—they come in pairs—but Garrett’s would sell him a single glove. A man, whom Grandpa never met, was missing his right arm and would purchase the other glove.
Main Street, then a Monopoly board of merchant stores, ran east to west, north of the Frisco railroad tracks, with a gravel parking area in between. Most of the businesses are gone, but they remain vivid in my memory.
Padgett’s Hardware anchored the corner on Elm, next to Ray Tackitt’s Western Auto, the source of my first non-hand-me-down baseball glove. Castle’s movie theater always warranted a stop to check out the movie posters, but I don’t recall ever going to a Saturday movie—a matter of time and expense. I had my first cherry coke at the soda fountain in Heuer’s drugstore. And Grandma always shopped at Penninger’s grocery, in part, because she liked visiting with one of the proprietors, Brownie Penninger,
After Grandpa parked the car, and Grandma provided instructions about my deportment and the frugal use of my pocket change, I was like a dog off leash. My usual first order of business was to find my best buddy, Larry Stover, a Montier school chum, and a likely spot to find him was outside the pool hall on Oak Street between Second and Main. We were both too young to go inside, but we would stare through the front window at men chalking up snooker cues, and if we were lucky, see our teacher Mr. Shockley playing pinochle with men at tables in the rear.
A half block south toward Main, N. Frank’s used book and oddities shop was a regular stop, mainly, for the discounted comic books, which had the title on the cover stripped off. I was always curious why the titles of the covers had been removed. In later years, I learned, at least with paperback books, a stripped cover is returned to the publisher evidencing the book didn’t sell and is being destroyed.
Another thing I remember about N. Frank’s is that’s where I perused a copy of Buck Nelson’s paperback booklet, My Trip to Mars, the Moon, and Venus. Buck Nelson, a bib overall-wearing farmer in his sixties, had a farm northwest of Mountain View and claimed to have been visited by extra-terrestrial aliens (from Venus) who took him on an interplanetary trip in their flying saucer.
Buck started having Spacecraft Conventions during the summers that attracted several hundred people. In fact, my mother, stepfather, and I went to one in 1958, but to my chagrin we did not see a spacecraft. Now, I wished I had bought his book, but I had other plans for my fifty cents.
For Larry and me, a Saturday trip would not have been complete without browsing at the Ben Franklin 5&10, just a around the corner on Main. The dime store sold glassware, sewing notions, games, yo-yos, penny candy, and school supplies, including Big Chief tablets. Fifty cents could stretch a long way at the dime store. What could possibly go wrong there? Answer: The dime store sold peashooters.
Pea shooters are toy blowguns, basically, hollow plastic tubes the size of a large drinking straw, through which dried peas, twice the size of a BB, are projected. Just put a few peas in your mouth and blow them out through the tube at a target. They came without an operator’s manual or regulatory warnings, but farm kids raised with .22 rifles and common sense understood safety. We took seriously the proverbial admonition, “You could put an eye out with that . . ..”
Armed with blowguns and bags of peas, and proud as Amazon warriors, we left in search of targets. Weaving in and out of sidewalk traffic to the end of the block at Padgett’s, we crossed Elm diagonally past Richard Brothers feed and grocery store, and continued a block south to a weeded area behind the sale barn.
In the rafters of the covered livestock stalls, we spotted a target. I’ve heard it said that a hornet’s nest isn’t interesting until you poke it. We were about to test that theory on a wasp nest—gray and paper-like, loaded with angry-looking reddish-orange wasps.
At first, we fired a series of single shots from a distance, without much success (a poor choice of words). Feeling braver, we moved closer and commenced a salvo of peas that must have connected . . . because it got very interesting. I still recall the pain from the sting on the top of my head, as I ran away from the vengeful swarm. Our gallant assault ended in a hasty retreat.
However, I recall happier times at the sale barn. With Grandpa’s assistance, I got to bid for and buy Henrietta, a Plymouth Rock hen, for less than a dollar. Henrietta came with a cage, so I kept her in my lap on the way home.
Henrietta may have been past her prime, but since I claimed her as a pet, she did not end up as Sunday dinner. I was quite proud, when to my grandparents’ surprise, Henrietta actually laid an egg. That, I am sure we did eat.
Now, three decades have passed bringing inevitable change, but time has not passed Mountain View by. It has doubled in population and continues to be a commercial hub for the area. While Walmart and McDonalds on the north part of town have taken some of the bustle from Main Street, the buildings look much the same and provide nostalgia for those who remember the way they were.