The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

October 6, 2013

Timm’s was paradise to kids



Last month, we discovered there were two Leo Smiths living in Danville around the same time period. Leo C. Smith ran the Colonial Parkway Restaurant, while Leo W. Smith ran Timm’s Groceries at 629 N. Collett St.

It seems that a lot of people remember Leo Wayne Smith and his Timm’s Groceries that stocked “almost everything.”

“My grandmother lived on Collett and many times I went to the store,” Shirley Smoot of Danville said. “He had almost everything there along with penny candy. The store had wooden floors and a meat counter.”

During the 1930s and 1940s, Norma (Smith) Williamson and her brother, John L. Smith, routinely made their way up and down North Collett Street between their home and Timm’s Groceries, where their father, Leo Wayne Smith, then worked for Jack Timm.

Williamson’s daughter, Theresa Liggett of Westville, said when she and her siblings, Bob Williamson and Mary (Williamson) Boyd, were growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, their grandpa Leo owned and operated Timm’s with their grandma, Mary (Connelly) Smith.

“My brother, sister and I are blessed with many treasured memories of our grandparents, including memories associated with their store,” Liggett said.

“As proprietor of Timm’s Groceries, our grandpa wore many hats … butcher, delivery man, clerk and accountant, to name but a few. We can still see him standing behind the meat counter, clad in bib apron, removing huge, hanging sides of beef from the meat cooler,” she said.

“Using assorted knives and saws, he busily worked at the butcher block filling orders as requested by customers, then wrapped the prime-quality steaks, chops, etc. in butcher paper secured with string spun from a big counter spool,” Liggett recalled. “The meat counter also served as a deli with delectable offerings of cheeses and lunchmeats. Whenever I’d ‘happen by’ him, he’d knowingly wink and slip me a slice of cheese or bologna.”

The grocery store also sounded like a sugar utopia for children.

“Filled with popsicles, fudgies and other tempting treats, the ice cream freezer, though delightful, was second-best compared to the candy case, a sweet-tooth paradise with its vast sugary selection of individually wrapped penny candies, candy bars and gums,” Liggett described.

She said her grandparents’ patience was “surely tested” as youngsters lingered over the candy case, considering their options seemingly forever before finally settling on their choices.

“Whenever my brother, sister or I ‘waited on’ them, we might’ve exhibited a slight air of smugness while sacking their goodies, collecting their coins and ringing up sales on the neat-looking cash register!” she said.

Liggett recalls that the store had only two aisles with shelves that extended high up the back wall behind the counter, requiring the use of a long-handled grabber to reach items.

“Prices were totaled on an adding machine, scribbled and added on paper or, just as often, in our grandparents’ heads,” she said.

Handwritten grocery lists dropped off by customers and phone-in orders were packed in cardboard boxes awaiting either customer pickup or delivery by Smith himself.

“Lots of families ‘ran a bill’ until payday at the end of the week,” Liggett said.

The bills were recorded on pads with the family’s name on the outside, and a handwritten monthly tally was maintained on the inside in pencil. A detached carbon copy was given to the customer, and the pad then was returned to a slotted stand near the cash register.

“Customers were appreciative of their extended lines of credit and the top-notch, friendly service provided by Leo and Mary Smith at Timm’s Groceries,” Liggett said.

I received many more letters and phone calls with recollections of grocery stores in the area, and I will print those in November’s column.

Carol Roehm is the education reporter. Contact her at 477-5174 or by e-mail at