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Life and Times Series #1
Roger Hensley
Meridian 1956

Meridian Street Memories - 1956

April 24, 2002

I decided to take a walk down the main part of Meridian Street. I haven't been there for a while, so I drove to 5th Street and figured to park somewhere around 10th street and walk from there.

As I turned onto Meridian, I glanced at the new Kaufman's Hardware. They had just finished that. That was where the old White Frost Ice house used to be. I think that White Frost had something to do with the Pennsylvania Railroad next to it. I snuck a quick peek in the windows of Fred Welker Ford and then Hunter Chevrolet on the other side of the street at 6th looking to see what was new. Parking was already at a premium as I passed Gene and Brownie Automotive.

Crossing 7th, I could look into the Coca-Cola bottling plant on the corner and see the bottle line moving smartly along. I hear that they are going to stop bottling here and build a new warehouse out on 38th street somewhere. Across the street is the Railroad Salvage where Kaufman's used to be. Boy, do they get some really great things there. You never know what they'll have.

As I approach 8th street, there is Hart's hotel to the left and of course, the Courthouse sitting between 8th and 9th commanding the entire block. On my right is Liberal Furniture with that neat little shoe repair store just down 8th under Liberal. There's a beauty shop there, too.

Across from the courthouse are Gates and the Army-Navy Surplus. Wow, talk about a place with all kinds of things and stuff! Those folks have it! And then there is Hills Department Store on the corner. They have little trolleys that the sales clerk will put your purchase ticket and money into. It runs up onto overhead tracks and into a little hole at the back of the store. Pretty soon your change and receipt will come out of the little hole and make its way back to your clerk's station. Just the thing for a little kid to watch. Probably helps prevent theft, too.

Maneuvering through traffic, I can't help but notice the Anderson Hotel. It's the tallest building around except for the Tower Apartments over on Jackson. I understand that they have some pretty good entertainment playing in the lounge. This block is just full of places like Hoyt Wright where I have bought several things for dress and everyday. Hey, there's the Banner Store and Roth's Apparel and Vermillian's Jewelry with Anderson Bank on the corner at 10th.

Right around the corner on 10th in the Anderson Bank Building is Earl's Pipe Shop and Newsstand. That's where I buy my Science Fiction magazines and books. Earl also has a great selection of pipes and tobaccos. I've been thinking about taking up the pipe and if I do, I'll get them here. He only carries quality. Oh, and Earl has one of those light maroon 1954 Studebaker Coupes. You know, they look like they've hunkered down and are running a hundred miles an hour even while they're sitting still. Cousin's Jewelry is on the corner in the Anderson Bank Building. They always have those small intricate animated displays in their window. At Christmas time, they have a Santa's Workshop complete with elves coming and going as they make the children's toys.

I pull around the corner onto 10th just as someone is pulling out of a parking space. This is great! I pull in and get out of the car and cross the street and start walking South past Bing's Men's Wear. McCrory's dime store is across the street as well as the two Kressge stores. One was a 5 and dime and the other is a 25 and a dollar store. I really like the 5 and dime. They have more things at a price that I can afford. And then I am passing Woolworth's, Jane Lee and J. C. Penny's. Penny's is the place for the working person. I buy my work clothes there. They have entrances on both Meridian and 11th. Across Meridian is Elite Studio upstairs in one of the building. That's where I had my Senior picture taken. I was amazed when I saw that they hand tinted my large photo. I guess that I never really though about how portraits were done in color. On the corner is Walgreen Drugs. I have only been in there a couple of times preferring Dearing's North Side Pharmacy. But the best thing here is Hills Snappy Service where I ate lunch when I was at Anderson High School. It's just on 11th street to the East shoehorned into a space between two buildings.

Crossing 11th street, I check the time on the clock on the Citizens Bank across the street. Right down 11th to the West is Decker's. They say that they are something like 67 steps off of Meridian. Clair Call Men's Wear is right next to Decker's. They would have to be really short steps to be 67 steps. Across the street from Decker's is the Post Office and coming back across the alley is the Post Office Café. I've eaten lunch there several times.

I'm now in front of the Fair Store, which is in the Citizens Bank Building sometimes called the Union Building. The Fair Store is a very busy place. Also on the top floor of the Citizen's Bank Building is WHBU radio. Their broadcast tower is easily seen from all over Anderson. The Times Theater is across Meridian. I have seen a lot of neat westerns and serials there. The Times costs 15 cents to get in and their popcorn, candy and soft drinks are a nickel each. I spent a lot of Saturday's there. My folks would give me a quarter to go to the movies. I seldom went to the Riviera down the street because their popcorn, candy and soft drinks were a dime and the Times was a better deal for someone with limited means.

And then there is Williams Drugs with their soda fountain. It's just like walking back in time into the 30 or early 40s. Overhead fans and tables and chairs sitting around. All of this and a drug store, too. And now I'm in front of the Paramount Theater with Walker's Jewelry next door. Then it's Singer Sewing Machines and The Unique Shoppe with Kelley's Furniture and the Riviera Theater on the corner

I cross 12th and pass Anderson Camera with Rexall Drugs across the street. This is a busy block, too, with Leath Furniture, Miller Huggins and Lew the tailor upstairs. There are several businesses upstairs in most of these building. There are Realtors, Insurance Agencies, Photographers and even more. Sometime people forget that people also live up here. And then I find myself passing Sauter's Shoes, Kirkman's Jewelry, Foland's, Behren's Paint Spot and Haag's Drugs and I'm at 13th street.

I stop walking here as I look across to Schuster's Men's Wear and the State Theater. On my left is the Shamrock bar and down the street on the right is Montgomery Ward. I hear that they may move into the new Mounds Mall that they are talking about building and that Joe's Record Shop and Anderson Music Center may move in there. Just beyond 14th street is the Big Four depot. And my eyes fall on the other Hill's Snappy Service at the end of the block at 14th street. Hey, maybe I could grab a quick burger and coke before I go back to the car. I really would like to stop at both Ford and Chevy to see what's new. Dad is talking about getting a new '56 Chevy maroon and white 4 door. I think that I've got him talked into getting one with a V8 with a power pack. Having a lot of power at your call can help get you out of a tight situation on the highway.

And the bubble bursts and reality comes home. Who am I kidding? This is 2002 and not 1956. I walk along and stare at empty buildings and vacant lots. It is my mind that supplies the businesses that were there. More buildings are coming down even as I walk along the sidewalks. I retraced my steps and went into the Union Building where I had opened a business in 1970 in room 451. The lobby area has changed and looks very nice and open and airy with the fountain and new entrance. Taking the elevator to the fourth floor, I was not prepared for what I found as the door opened. It was 1970 all over again. Nothing had changed. I walked the circle of hallways. Oh, the Realtors and Insurance companies are gone as are the dentists and doctors, but the halls are the same. The rear stairs now stop on the fourth floor, but otherwise it was the same. The same, but different. The people are gone, the companies are gone and the years have not been kind to the building, but the builders built well.

As I returned to my car, this story began going through my mind. I can't say that the years have been kind to me, but they have been far better for me than for downtown Anderson. In all of those companies and places I mentioned, how many are still downtown? How many still exist? Better yet, all that I have mentioned wasn't 40 percent of what was there, but I'd bet that there were more businesses on Meridian Street from 5th to 14th than in all of Anderson today. Hmmm?

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