The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 17, 2013

Remember downtown Danville in 1960s?


I resume my little stroll through downtown Danville in the 1960s …

— Poor souls. There were three beggars. One blind man had a dog and played the accordion. The other blind man wore a long wool coat and a stocking cap, year-round. A third man was legless; he sat on a wheeled platform and pushed himself with shovel handles.

— Elliott’s Coins, Stamps and Candy. Gene Elliott sold me a Civil War saber, an 1854 penny and lots of toffee, chocolate and caramel corn that he cooked in a shiny copper kettle. The back room was filled with antiques; he once had a bookcase from Uncle Joe Cannon’s home.

— Carson, Pirie, Scott & Company. My grandmother rented sleeping rooms, so on Dollar Days she’d go to Carson’s to buy a year’s worth of bathroom soap for 10 cents a bar. I loaded and unloaded.

— Walgreen’s. The southwest corner of Vermilion and North was always busy. Everybody stopped at Walgreen’s to eat, buy candy and tobacco, have film processed and prescriptions filled. Bee-Line passengers waited inside for buses to Westville and Georgetown. Dad told the story of the guy who tried to saw through a Walgreen’s steak and wound up with his lunch on his lap.

—  “Old” Deutsch Bros. Deutsch’s was known for fine men’s clothing and superb customer service. I remember Dobbs hats, Pendleton shirts, silk ties and cashmere coats … set like jewels amid wood paneling, stained glass windows and elegant showcases.

— Meis Bros., southeast corner of Main and Hazel. Meis was THE department store. I always headed straight to the Boy Scout department, or ran down the long ramp to the toys. Adults went there for appliances, dishes, blankets, clothes, china, cuff links and other boring grown-up stuff.

— Alexander Sporting Goods, on Vermilion, just south of Harrison. Every boy went there to salivate over the Spalding baseball gloves, Wilson basketballs, Garcia fishing reels, Winchester rifles and Case pocket knives. It was Dreamland. Alexander’s stocked letter jackets, too.

— Woodbury’s. Woodbury Drug Store was on West Main and Woodbury Book Store was a fixture on North Vermilion. It was a classy place, filled with hardcover books, stationery, greeting cards, office goods, school and artist supplies, pen-and-pencil sets, pictures and nice gifts. Some of the sales people had worked there for 50-plus years. There was a painting of Jesus on one wall; a sign noted that it had survived a fire and building collapse and was “not for sale.”

— Old Palmer Bank. Fifty years ago, most banks resembled fortified temples, and the Palmer Bank — south side of the square — was a beautiful example. I remember the stone columns, white marble paneling, enormous brass light fixtures and the quiet efficiency of the tellers. The limestone exterior featured a huge thermometer.

— Berkowitz’s. This crowded little Vermilion Street shop specialized in leather luggage, brief cases, billfolds, coin purses, and the like. The owner, Joe Berkowitz, was a nice man, and a talented musician who also sold organs.

It’s fun to return to Memory Lane … Danville-style.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at