About once a week I’d make the trip from E. VanTrees up N.E. Fourth, take a right, and there it was -- G.C. Murphy’s -- my favorite store growing up. Inside Murphy’s you could find almost anything, but especially a frozen Coke, some warm peanuts and Brach’s chocolate stars.
Along about Friday or Saturday morning, Mom would make out her weekly grocery list, scanning over the full-page grocery ads in the newspaper, jotting down what was on sale, and what she needed to make our meals for the next week. She didn’t usually need all that much, because we grew our own fruits and vegetables, raised our beef and pork, and even at one time milked ol’e Bessie. But there were always a few things she needed, and to Washington we would come. We’d load up the returnable 8-pack empty bottles of Pepsi or RC Cola, and make our way into town. All the way from Bogard Township, the trip in our old 1970 Ford Fairlane was typically dusty or bumpy.
Mom shopped religiously at Arnold’s Red and White on VanTrees (where the Security Center now stands), and I remember Rufus, with his splattered butcher-shop apron, greeting his regulars. My sister was lucky enough one year to collect enough Red and White labels to earn a free trip to California’s Disneyland, where she was accompanied by Rufus and his wife. We collected Red and White labels from all our friends and family so she could earn first place. I was too young at the time to compete, but I loved my trips to the Arnold store nonetheless.
Soon after our arrival at grocery, which was usually our first stop in town, Mom would allow me to scurry up Fourth to Main, giving me enough pocket change to purchase my frozen Coke and a few chocolate stars from the bulk candy row, which came in a little white paper sack. Mmmmm! By the time I got back to Arnold’s I was sure to have chocolate melted around my mouth and in my hands. Once in a while I’d just settle for an ice cold Coke in a bottle out of the machine right there at Arnold’s.
Sometimes we made the trip down Main Street to JCPenney’s on N.E. Third, where Economic Development now resides. I remember at least two full stories of the clothes and shoes I loved to browse. We’d visit with the nice sales lady in the fancy leisure suit who was my Mom’s friend, and then maybe just pick up the latest mail-order catalog and order by phone from home. For back-to-school, I remember getting to try on the new shoes at Penney’s. It’s kind of ironic how the mail-order business (by tapping a smartphone) has made a comeback. My favorite, of course, was coming home with the JCPenney Christmas Wish catalog, where I could browse for hours, dreaming.
Our last usual stop in town was Hersch’s IGA, where we wanted to get our card punched and hoped to win the bankroll, unless someone had a doctor’s visit or dental appointment at Dr. Roy Simpson’s down by the Eastside Park.
A few times we made it further down to Main Street to Paris Style and Kidwell’s, but not often. Mom sewed most of our clothes, but I remember her taking me there in search of a white blouse for a special occasion. My Grandpa Stoll and his brother, “John Gramps,” did buy their Sunday suits at The Bell from Ruby Wirts. It was about the only other clothes they owned, with the exception of their denim overalls and light-blue chambray shirts they wore all six other days. Those, of course, came from the Odon Clothing Store, which required another trip to town - just a different direction.
A few times we made it to Kramer’s for coneys or into Williams Brothers for a bite to eat, but those special occasions were few and far between.
As I reflected on my own memories about traveling to Washington as a child, I remembered that I am now helping to make childhood memories for my own daughters. They love to visit Indiana Theater since its re-opening, and are grateful for the free movie days these past two summers. They beg to eat lunch at the New White Steamer for cheeseburgers and chocolate chip shakes, and they like to browse the latest young adult styles at Bambini’s, and shop for decor and popular jewelry at The Lemon Tree and Wonderful Life.
I wonder how they will reflect on our times together when they remember Washington 50 years from now.
Melody Brunson just celebrated her 31st year at the newspaper, where she has been editor since 1989.