Every year about this time I start getting sentimental.
I recall how much fun it was to go to “town” at Christmastime. For us, going to Williamson, was going to town.
It was with wide-eyed amazement for a little kid from Nolan to go to the big city – our county seat – to see the multi-colored lights – blue, red, green and yellow – strung high across the streets on Second and Third Avenues in downtown Williamson.
When you went to “town” at this time of year, the sidewalks were lined with shoppers. People were elbow to elbow and they came from far and wide. Parking spaces in “town” were hard to find.
They drove in from every little hamlet, every long, narrow “holler” and every little small town in the Tug Valley area.
Williamson was the hub of shopping in the region with department stores, five and dime stores, clothing stores, shoe stores and restaurants.
What a thrill it was for a young lad like me to get a chance to walk up and down the sidewalks to many of the stores.
There were bright-eyed boys lined up watching the racetrack display at Sears. Or they might be just as amazed at the electric train tracks set up going around and around.
Kids of all ages and both genders would visit Murphy’s and Hobbs to see all of the new and old toys. Walking in Murphy’s you could smell the fresh popped popcorn and the roasted peanuts. You could eye all of the penny candy lined up in glass display cases. It made your mouth water and then you had to decide what tasty treat to spend a few pennies on.
For me, I would sell some pop bottles to get enough money to go to the Book Nook or (Fred) Mickel’s to buy comic books – Batman, Superman, Justice League of America and other colorful comics. (I sure wish I had some of those now. Some copies may be worth some money.)
If you were lucky enough, you might get to eat at one of the many restaurants. How about a delicious hot pepperoni pizza from the Walnut Room? I still say they had the absolute best pizzas I ever ate in my lifetime.
Or, you might get a hot dog with the world famous chili at the Brunswick. Or maybe you would grab a couple of slaw dogs, a bag of fresh Snyder’s chips or a cheeseburger and fries at the Smokehouse?
If you needed shoes, your parents would likely take you to Jimmy’s Friendly Shoe Store or the Cinderella Boot Shop (CBS) on Second Ave. How many times did Jimmy Davis greet you at the door when you went into Jimmy’s? Bill Rosen was the man at CBS.
There were so many clothing stores. For the women, they could go to Harvit’s, Brown’s, Schwachters, and many others. For the men, there was Robert Morris (Fred Hatfield measuring for a suit) and the Man’s Shop, Ltd. (with Charlie Maroudas working the floor). Then there were stores like Cox’s, Penny’s and so many more.
There was Cantee’s Department store. I can still see my friend Abe Cantees waiting on his many customers.
Maybe you wanted to check out the latest baseball glove or check out a basketball or football at Hatfield’s Sporting Goods on Third Avenue.
Christmas carols would be blaring out of the speaker outside the door from the stairs leading up the WBTH radio studio.
If you wanted a parking place, you may have to drive around the block a few times before one would come open. Traffic was bumper to bumper in downtown Williamson. Some people would park on the “Kentucky” side of Williamson and walk across the Harvey Street bridge just to get into town to shop.
Most everyone who wanted to Christmas shop, from far and wide, came to “town.” The younger generation has no idea of how busy and bustling downtown Williamson was every weekend, but especially during the Christmas season.
Back at Nolan, for whatever reason, there were always fireworks to be purchased. Every holiday season many of us would be shooting off bottle rockets, lighting up firecrackers and Roman candles. But, that’s another entire story.
Like many of you, I have so many fond memories of growing up in the Tug Valley.
These are just a few of the recollections I have from my younger years in the 1960s and 1970s.
I’m sure many of you have similar memories. I hope this column brought back a few cherished of those days gone by for you and took you down memory lane.
(Editor’s Note: This is a rewrite of a column from last year. And a reminder, the Great White Way Christmas celebration and parade is scheduled for this Saturday in downtown Williamson.)
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern)