The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 7, 2013

Readers share downtown memories


In response to three recent columns, I’ve gotten several great e-mails and letters from readers, each filled with wonderful memories of downtown Danville as it was roughly 50 years ago.

My thanks to all. Here’s a small sample:

“I remember the old Meis Bros. store and the green rug that went down into the bargain basement,” wrote Wilmetta Feezor. “In the early 1960s, when my oldest girl was three or four years old, she would remember that green rug on that ramp and she would break away from me and lay down and roll down that ramp. It would embarrass me, but she didn’t care — it was fun for her. ”

She continued: “I remember the Baum Building. Dr. (Glidden) Baldwin was my optometrist. I remember the cage elevator. I remember Stumme Tea Company, and Hacker’s Fair. My dad … used to play cards at Carl Kienast (a Main Street tavern).”

Marilyn Hays Atkins recalled the busy unit block of North Vermilion: “I worked at Second National Bank on Vermilion from 1962-65 and spent lots of money at Neumode Hosiery across the street. Women did not wear slacks to work back then, so we always wore nylon hose with skirts and dresses.”

John Shank could recall the name of practically every storefront from the courthouse square to Williams Street, plus many on intersecting streets. I loved the details. Speaking of Gene Fritsch’s pipe and tobacco shop, he wrote, “I used to love to go in there because of the wonderful smell of pipe tobacco that wafted through the place.” The Carmel Crisp Shop, a small storefront on Vermilion Street, billed itself as “‘The Nuttiest Place in Town,’” Shank recalled, “where a lot of people bought their snacks, and the most wonderful buttered popcorn I ever tasted, before going to either the Palace or the Fischer for a movie. You could carry in your own popcorn back then.”

He recalled the delicious dinner rolls served at the old Holland Inn restaurant; the Star Gas Station directly to the west, and an array of downtown car dealerships, including McAleer Buick, Julian’s AMC, Koehn Motors, Glen T. Smith Chrysler-Plymouth-Imperial, Barkman Chevrolet, Noble Ford and Bob White Oldsmobile-Cadillac.

Jake Aurelian isn’t old enough to recall downtown in the 1960s, but he shared a memory of the late, great Cleve Alexander Sporting Goods in the early 1980s: “I always loved Alexander’s toy section downstairs, and I recall they always had toys that were sold out elsewhere.”

George Tilton, a member of the Schlarman High School Class of 1970, shared some delightful reminiscences. For instance, at the Viking Inn, near Danville High School, a boy wearing a Schlarman letter jacket could get a cool drink and a good pounding. But my favorite was this: “Am I the only one who experienced depression and mood change in the middle of summer when I was hauled downtown to Sears or J.C. Penney ‘Back to School’ specials in JULY? Talk about summer buzz kill.”

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