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When Our World Rocked … Part Two By Mae Catherine Godhigh

Mae Catherine Godhigh pic 1Home for the holidays and I’m driving down former Seventh Street. My eyes are searching for remaining visible landmarks. I spot old elm and oak trees which landscaped our neighborhood. I pause. These are the flame keepers for an era. They are living proof of Peoria’s South town existence.

I turn my vehicle onto High Street. The majestic mansions are still there. As youngsters, we would walk through the spooky woods until we reached the hilltop. I dreamt of one day living up there. I remember watching South town fade into a ghost town. Interesting enough, the people on the hilltop got to keep their homes and mansions. I struggled to visualize the vacant lot on the corner of Globe and Sanford Streets. The Earl Ellis family home was adjacent to that lot. If you possessed any baseball talent, you were made or broken on this lot. I remember a young baseball promise by the name of John (Junior Boy) Hosea. Let’s be real, if you were a lousy player in South town, your name never made it to State Park.

These are memories I hold close to my heart. South town had its own aroma, swag and rhythm. When you stepped out your front door, you stepped into “The Village.” Village people could and did discipline you. Without technology, the word always managed to travel ahead of you and beat you home. I’m happy to share with you a limited list of my recollections. In the voice of Minnie Ripperton…Let’s go back down Memory Lane.

Who didn’t attend Peoria’s Annual Santa Claus Parade? Did you know it is the oldest running parade in our nation? Remember Mr. Lowry the Watermelon Man from the Heights? How about Mr. Wilson with perfect posture; he was the walking insurance man? It wasn’t Thanksgiving without the Turkey Day Game. Rivals Manual and Central fans were the best. Our Professor, pride and joy was none other than Romeo B. Garrett. Our Funeral Homes were Goin and Simons. How about Mr. Barney with those famous bowl haircuts? You could always steal away to Bryson’s or Skippy’s Barber.

The Ladies Choice was N&R Beauty Shop, Helen’s House of Beauty, Charlene’s Beauty Shop, Louise’s Beauty Shop, MaeBertha’s, Miss Lucille Thornton and Miss Antinobe. Our Black owned newspaper was and still is The Traveler Weekly.

Our Businesses: A&R Radio, Super Value, Peoria Loan Co., Top Cat Records, Texaco, 7th Street Laundromat, DeWitt’s, Producer’s Dairy and Dewey’s Laundromat.

Our Stores: Barth Brothers, Ed’s, Dentinos, Joseph Brothers Market, Specks , MacArthur’s and Beuhler’s, Seventh Street and Underwood’s Grocery stores.

The Spots: The 505, Charlene’s Lounge, Wades Inn, Monroe Club, Aiken Alley, The 1151, The Sweetheart Bar, The Mickey Mouse Club, Slipper Club, Gene’s 615 Club, The Legion, Globe Street Tap, 7th Street Liquor, Cannon’s Liquor Store, Elks Club and the Yakoff Club.

The Stops: Pop’s Pool Hall, May’s Hotdogs with .10 ice creams, Runges, 505 Penny Store where they inspected every cent. Treats and Eats were Sue’s, Miss Kat’s, Sixth Street and Tom Taylor’s Confectionaries, The Donut Shop and Hardin’s hot dogs.

Got car trouble? Go see Matt Ragler and Rudd’s Auto body. Are you hungry as a hostage? How about the 3rd Street Restaurant, Dentinos, Gulley’s BBQ, Velvet Freeze and the world-famous tenderloins from Tony Delotis?

Salute to our community centers! Stenson Hall provided the community with those unforgettable roped off block parties. Not to mention, Mr. Pete’s dance contests were off the chain! There was always something happening at George Washington Carver Center and Proctor Center. Old State Park Recreation, Clarence Fawcett and Little League Baseball games was the cornerstone to our neighborhood.

Every Saturday was a shopping event. We would bump into each other at Szold’s, Ben Franklin’s, Miracle Mart, Hills Brothers Shoes, Edwards Shoe Store or the Golden Egg. Later on, we met at the Palace, Madison or Rialto theatres. This is where the South side, Heights and North side families met. The lobbies were ornate and massive. With hot buttered popcorn and the beverage of your choice in hand; we made our way up the grandiose open staircase. Yes, we owned the era and yes those were the days our world rocked.