By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
I was driving down Water St. in Stevens Point the other day when I noticed something.
I saw an empty lot. Bones Firkus used to live in a house on that lot. That lot has been empty for years. Then I drove north down the street for a minute and saw another empty lot. The Quimby’s used to live there. Then I pulled into my driveway and looked across the street. Cigel’s Grocery had been there once. But no more. The abandoned warehouse is still up, but the small store is long gone. Same with Jackson’s house and the house next to it. Gone with the wind.
I realized that almost the whole neighborhood has vanished into thin air. No more Lincoln School with the swing sets and outdoor basketball courts that everyone played on. Garber’s is history. The Masonic Temple is a museum.
Pagel Mill off of Arlington hasn’t been around for decades. Neither has the jungle behind it. Donny Ceplina’s house came down many years ago, as did Ducko’s Dock on the river behind his house. The Kovaleski home no longer exists.
It’s like you went to sleep one night and woke up the next day and nothing is where it used to be. That is, nothing but the memories. Nobody can take those away.
Geez, you walk down to the square. You walk past where the A&W root beer stand used to be with the cute carhops and root beer floats. Long gone. So is the Clark Gas Station across from it. And the American Legion next to the gas station. That place had a thousand weddings. I even met Bill Clinton there. Now I think it’s a church.
The library parking lot used to be Wanta’s Bowling Lanes which was always packed with people bowling when real people set up the pins and everyone was enjoying Big Ern’s famous hot beef sandwiches.
I ask again…where the hell did everything go?
You could wander around on the square and catch a brew at the Long Branch Saloon, Grin & Beer It, Big Moon Saloon, JL’s Pub, Melody, Joe Mama’s, and the Upper Wisconsin River Yacht Club where Ted Nugent liked to hang around. Can’t do that any more.
You also can’t get another great pizza at Mickey’s, shoot the breeze with Romie at Romie’s Rendezvous, chat with Fitz at the Flame, grab an ice cream cone at the Town Clown or Dan’s Ice Cream Parlor, and eat a hotdog at Fisher’s Dairy or get gas at Erickson’s. And forget about going to the Little Brown Jug or Chong’s.
Schwebach’s house down on the corner of Water and Arlington Place is now a parking lot. Same with Otto Lepak’s house across the street from Schwebach’s. Over the years, our fine city lost a bunch of neighborhood houses and added a bunch of parking lots. I guess that’s progress.
Seems like you blink and something’s gone. The Point Bakery with those delicious long johns and other donuts. Westgate across the river. The Triangle Store. Knudtson’s Grocery. Weltman’s. Northside IGA. Normington’s. Southside IGA. Eastside IGA. Tank ‘N Tummy. Thrifty. Kalp’s. Rudnick’s. Can’t get a char-burger at The Office. Or hash browns at the Main Street Café. Or a bacon sandwich at the Pal Restaurant.
Good luck buying your bottle of booze at Stan’s Beer & Liquor. Don’t try dropping in at the Athletic Bar. Stanislawski’s has been closed for ages. Woolworth’s is long gone and so is Bob’s Food King. We don’t have the Hal’s Red Owl or Piggly Wiggly anymore. Did we mention S&J’s Palace yet?
Kellogg’s Lumber is now Soik’s Plumbing. The Hot Fish Shop vanished. The Hotel Whiting aint even a hotel far as I know. Jurgella’s turned into Buffy’s. The Lyric Theatre downtown shut down way back when, and so did Westy’s, Osco, Overlook,, Clark Electric, and one of my favorite places, River City Diner.
You could buy a Hartland figurine in its original box at Toyland for $2.95. They go for big bucks now. If a guy only knew. If you wanted some night fun, Platwood was always open. Big Daddy’s had the pool tables, and Monky Wards had some good deals.
Where did everything go? Frank & Ernie’s had the Riverjumpers softball team and great fish fries. Hetzer’s on the Southside fixed your bike. Archie’s had the chicken wings in a basket. Dave Dudley would sing at the Dewey Bar.
The Loop Bar had barbecued chicken and the Unique made their own out-of-this-world barbecues. Merkel’s Sewing Center fixed your sewing machine and Jean’s Beauty Bar gave you a great perm. If you wanted a baseball bat, you could buy one at the Sport Shop instead of driving to Tempo on your way past Robby’s.
I bought Batman comics at Roska Pharmacy and Gwidt’s. Altenburg’s Dairy had great orange drinks. Heck, my own high school, Pacelli, is now the “Y”. And Chartier’s was across from PJs. They also took that big barn down which used to be behind the left-field fence at Korfman Park. Jimmy Jamrosz and Jerry DeNuccio used to hit home runs over it in Little League.
I don’t know. So much has changed. I loved playing Barry Fecteau’s “High League” softball games at Goerke. Softball tournaments at Iverson drew record crowds. Rec League basketball games at Jackson School were fun. Do they even have sock hops at the Rec Center any more?
Garfield School’s playground. Emerson School’s indoor basketball court. Playing marbles with Jack Ellenz behind Bake-Rite.
But they say that’s progress. Now our fair little town has a slew of parking lots. And a bunch of memories. I’ll take the memories any day.