Downtown … downtown …”
Petula Clark sang about it in 1965, the enchantment of downtown.
From 1949 to 1952, my dad and uncle shared a red-brick duplex, 329 Lincoln St., in Johnstown.
My parents and I, plus my uncle and his family, occupied the apartments above the medical offices.
The circle behind the former Lee Hospital marks the exact location today.
The duplex sat on the corner of Lincoln and the alley that separated the hospital from the Fort Stanwix, Johnstown’s ritziest hotel.
The hospital and the hotel both fronted on Main Street.
Mom, a city girl, missed bustling Philadelphia, but discovered a mini-metropolis a block away.
Linderman’s Candy Store made the best cherry Cokes on the planet. Yee’s Laundry kept us tidy. The Cookie Jar bakery offered irresistible, mouth-watering pastries.
Stella, recently emigrated from Greece, ruled “The Seafood” (Johnstown Seafood Restaurant) with an iron fist. No shenanigans were ever served with the fries ’n’ gravy.
Across the street, Morley’s Dog guarded a tiny patch of grass. Kline’s window displayed the latest fashions.
For teen gals, obtaining a DeRoy’s Junior Charge Card served as a rite of passage to adulthood.
I turned 14 in 1963.
City Hall stood impressively on Main Street, its landmark clock ensuring that commerce ran on time.
The City Hall restrooms were clean and safe! We’d hop off the transit bus and dash down the cement steps to touch up lipstick or tease another handful of hair.
After all, “Mr. Right” (or “Mr. Right Now”) might be standing across the street, gazing at a guitar or drums in the Weisor’s Music Store window.
Health problems forced my dad to reduce his office hours in the late ’60s. I served as his receptionist Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons. He insisted I wear a white uniform (ugh!).
But that never stopped me from bolting out the door at 3:01 to meet friends and catch a matinee at the Cambria (across from the Stanwix), the State (between the Stanwix and Stella) or the Embassy by the park.
Main Street stores held treasures … patterns to sew at Grant’s (think “Betsy McCall” … or not), trendy shoes at Paul’s and acres of cosmetics at Woolworth’s.
Mix well with fresh-roasted peanuts from Glosser Bros., and you had a recipe for
the kind of safe, carefree environment we fondly remember.
Where are Mr. Peabody, his “pet boy” Sherman and the Wayback Machine when you need them?
People dressed more discerningly. Men wore hats and tipped them to ladies.
Kids offered seats to grannies on crowded buses. (Now, there’s a concept: a crowded bus!)
I’d journey back to the warmth and security of Main Street. I’d join the crowd gathered at noon to hear Joe Cavanaugh’s “Man on the Street” radio show. Then I’d toss a penny in the Central Park fountain.
“The lights are much brighter there, you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, and go downtown …”
Indeed, everything’s waiting for you.
Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.
Downtown … downtown …”
- Michele Bender
Judge Judy’s tough in any language
In her relentless effort to “correct and serve,” Judge Judy Scheindlin is “on the road” promoting her new program, “Hot Bench.”
Twelve days of Christmas
“Ms. Bender? Are you awake?”
The guy sounded cute. I opened one eye.
“I’m Dr. S. I’ll be your brain surgeon.”
MICHELE M. BENDER | Shop until you drop
Is it my imagination, or have advertisers dialed back the Christmas hype this season?
A sonnet? Doggone it!
I’m a gal of many talents,
Though lots of folks don’t know it.
MICHELE M. BENDER | Not another ‘for sale’ sign
I suspect that goblins fly over Johnstown at night sprinkling “For Sale” sign seeds. Weather doesn’t seem to hamper the growth process; signs are popping out everywhere.
Clear the aisles! I’m back in the saddle again
Study this face carefully. If you ever … EVER … see me in your checkout line (with my walker or an electric cart), RUN … do not walk … RUN the other way.
MICHELE M. BENDER | What lurks in your closet?
Ladies wrote this summer reminding me that the struggle for brand-name dominance in fashion began in the ’60s and ’70s. Everyone knew that Audrey wore Givenchy. Brooke posed provocatively in magazines wearing “only her Calvins.”
MICHELE M. BENDER | Warm and fuzzy
Well, “we had us” a summer! Probably not the one most people waited for, but chilly temps won’t stop customers in relentless pursuit of that last pierogi, funnel cake or halupki.
MICHELE M. BENDER | Geezer justice rules
My car, Bailey Bender (a PT Cruiser), will celebrate his 10th birthday on Sept. 13. I’ve named almost every car I’ve ever owned.
Hearts, souls and rock ’n’ roll
When it comes to music, Johnstowners have passion! In July, I asked folks to select their favorite rock ’n’ roll love song. Your feedback overwhelmed me.
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- Judge Judy’s tough in any language