Once upon a time there was a section of Peoria, Illinois named South Town. Did it possess significant powers to make Peoria better? Was it a political Guinee pig for change? Are we forever changed because of South Town? Travel back in time with me as we take a quick glimpse of this by-gone era. South Town was a healthy and bustling village. People and families were close knit and every neighbor was a crime stopper. Even today, South Town remains a mouthful of sweet nostalgia.
In our neighborhood, we played jacks, softball, and marbles. The girls cut out paper dolls. We rode our bikes and played games. Backyard and front yard gardens were common. The street light served as our curfew cop. It was an era when Cornelius McGruder and Harry Proctor rode “Cadillac” bicycles. As children we were not perfect. Sure we fought, but the next day we played together.
Old school popcorn was prepared on top of the stove. If you wanted to buy some popcorn, Hunter’s had the greasiest and the best. We went to Glen Oak Park for kiddy train rides and afterwards, families would drive up Main Street to Mr. Quick. Drive-ins like Mr. Quick, A&W Root Beer, and Hunts were drive-in heavens.
Can you say Fiesta Days? Nothing but fond memories comes to mind. It was an annual event which brought Peoria residents together. Some of the downtown stores were; Three Sisters, Bergner’s, Carson Pirie Scott, World Drugs, and Woolworths.
Remember when you first tasted Tang Breakfast Drink? What about finding the fun prize in a box of Cracker Jacks? If there was a war on hunger, we never knew about it. Commodity butter was the bomb on everything. The Commodity peanut butter, pork, beef, and cheese was a party in our tummies and it put a smile on our faces.
Red hot! Hot Tamales! Red Hot! This voice belonged to a proud, iconic black man. I never knew his name. Every day, he wore a spotless white uniform. His product was handmade and always fresh. He was a celebrity who peddled a delectable culinary art. Many tried to imitate the family’s recipe and duplicate his tamales, but there will never be another Hot Tamale Man. There was another special man who drove a green truck. His name was Jack the Milkman. He had the warmest smile and the coldest milk on the planet, especially the chocolate.
For eateries, we lived for the weekends for Glenn’s mouthwatering fish sandwiches and gizzards. Hands down, Flamingo’s Pizza could not be beat. How about those trips to Fish and Chips, Shakeys, Heritage House and Bishop’s Cafeteria? What about the legendary Big John’s BBQ? The aroma permeated the area of his restaurant. When no one was watching, we would go around to the back window for rib tips and fries until somebody caught on. The neighborhood consensus was Little Barry Robinson adorned his chic sweater and was indeed a rich kid.
Doctor Maude Saunders was our community physician. Remember the line in front of her office? I often wondered why Goin Funeral Parlor was in such close proximity to her office.
Our generation spent time playing outside, while today’s generation plays with technology.
Those nostalgic, simple times were the good old days. Those were the days when our world rocked.
To be continued…