“A small town is a place where there’s no place to go where you shouldn’t.”

The morning is already warm. It is 77°, but I am in the cool den which doesn’t boil over until afternoon. Soon enough, though, I’m turning on the air-conditioner. This morning I went to the Thursday farmers’ market. It’s a small one but I managed to spend some money, not a big surprise. I bought lavender and oregano for the garden, sweet orange-vanilla soap for me, a couple of cucumbers and some cherry tomatoes, corn bread, some pulled-pork to go with it and for Miss Gracie, yogurt, banana dog biscuits. The woman from whom I bought them guaranteed their taste. She had given them a try and thought them delicious. Gracie agreed and ate the sample I gave her.

The Buttery, a store in my town, had wooden barrels out front. Some were filled with flour and sugar and their barrel tops held cheese for sale. The cheese was always cheddar and was sold in chunks. The store was filled with household essentials like soap powder, blue laundry whitener and Quaker’s Oats, the kind you cook on the stove. I used to like to look in the windows filled with produce like potatoes, onions and carrots, all sitting in long wicker baskets with handles. I don’t remember when the Buttery became The Children’s Corner, but now an Indian restaurant occupies the same spot. My sister and I had lunch there, and it was delicious.

Many of the stores used to have awnings of all different colors. They made the square look festive. My friends and I would walk uptown just to roam and window shop. The sidewalks always had people carrying bags filled with whatever they’d bought. Some even carried baskets. I remember seeing the loaves of bread still uncut. Whatever the shoppers needed, they could find. The square had everything.

It’s still called the square, and many of the oldest buildings are there but not the old stores. None of those are left. The fish-market is an upscale Italian restaurant; the shoe store was torn down and only a space is there. Wordsworth’s is a fabric store. I forget what the drug store is now, but that old drug store, Middlesex Drugs, had my favorite soda fountain, a white marble one which always felt cold.

I eat at the Italian Restaurant after I see a play at my old movie theater, and I’ll go back to the Indian restaurant because the food was so good. Near the theater is a small cafe I’d like to try. The only store from my childhood I really miss is the bakery, Hanks. It had the best window display, and I loved the lemon cupcakes with their domes of lemon. I think every town needs a bakery with the aroma of baking bread wafting through the air.

Not that I’m excited or anything but four weeks from now I’ll be on a plane winging my way to Ghana after a stopover in Frankfurt.

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12 Comments on ““A small town is a place where there’s no place to go where you shouldn’t.””

  1. olof1 Says:

    Warm and high humidity here today, it´s like walking in a steam bath. I can feel the thunder coming but if it will happen today or tomorrow I don´t know.

    I guess the same thing happened in all town squares all over the world. Some squares just died and some just changed from stores to restaurants, usually short lived.

    I´ll probably have to go to the vet tomorrow because Orvar limps rather badly. He dislocated his shoulder once and it seems as if he has once again. I really should have my own coffee mug at the vets because I´m there so often 🙂 🙂

    Only four weeks left! I can imagine how You must feel now 🙂 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      It turned out to be a nice day here. I thought it was going to get really hit but the clouds came in.

      I hope the two restaurants I frequent stay though I have my doubts about the Indian one. The town was never very eclectic about food.

      Bring your mug with you and they’ll give you the coffee. Poor Orvar!

  2. A.O.O.F.C Says:

    Hi, Kat. You’re making me hungry! Enjoy your trip to Ghana! ATB…P

    • katry Says:

      Hi Paul,
      I was just figuring I’d have the tomatoes and cucumbers with some feta or goat cheese.

      I can’t believe how close the trip is getting. I booked it early in April, eons ago.

  3. Zoey & Me Says:

    Yeah, I posted a picture of you already leaving for Ghana on my blog. But talk about changes in hometown architecture. I left Alexandria, VA in 1980 for Michigan and then to Florida in 1986. In 1993 I returned to my roots only to see an unbelievable change in the old towne section. I was delighted they kept to the colonial style and colors but the cost of these brick Jeffersonian townhomes ranged upwards in the millions. In 1965 I recall driving my Mother to a friends townhouse bridal store where she lived upstairs with her Mom and ran the shop during the day. It was torn down when I examined the tax records. She sold out for $660,000 more money that family would have seen in three generations of bridal business. I am betting they live somewhere here in Florida.

    • katry Says:

      Z&Me,
      I love that picture, but I can only hope I am a bit more conservative in my packing. I think my electronics will take up most of the space: my two cameras (the little one is a backup), their battery rechargers, the iPod and the iPad plus the international recharger for them both.

      I’m keeping clothes to a minimum as I figure I can have them washed for little money. We even had that done during training and then we were only getting a cedi (about a buck) a day.

      People like the stateliness of older buildings.

      This is by no means in that category but I can sell it for megabucks compared to what I paid, including the recent upgrades.

  4. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Our downtown has changed a lot, too, since I was a kid. We lost some stuff to fires and a few things have become something else. The Woolworth’s is long gone, of course, as is Grant’s. The First National and The A&P have gone and their spaces have been divided up into other things. We had a Kennedy’s butter and egg store with the pickle barrels and the peanut butter grinder and coffee grinders. Gone. One of the corner drugstores is still around and still an independent. I don’t know how they manage because we also have the two drug lords in town (Walgreens and CVS :-)). The diners are all gone but there are some good restaurants that have come in. A few Thai places, some sushi places, lots of good Italian places. Sometimes change is good.
    Only 4 weeks left to go. I bet you’re not excited at all. 😉 It’ll go by quickly and then you will be in OMG! only one week to get everything together stage.
    Lovely day today. I forgot to check my basil plants that I just put out so they are probably dead from no water.
    Have a great day.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      Your downtown sounds so much like our uptown used to be. (It was up-down to Main Street and in town meant Boston). The square was a wonderful place to look in the stores and just wander and then you could end with a visit to the library right at the edge of the square.

      I booked this flight in early April, and I can’t believe how close it is.

      I just watered my deck plants-some of them were sadly wilted.

  5. Bob Says:

    Small town America’s small town retail no longer exists because of globalization, large efficient supply chains and the internet. All of the above are demonized by small town residents in the form of their local Walmart. The mom and pop locally owned stores on the square went under because they couldn’t compete with the big box chains and the children of the owners moved to the city after graduating from college. The same people who lament this demise have hastened it by shopping in the local Walmart for low prices instead of shopping at their neighbor’s stores on the town square with their high prices and overhead. The internet opened up the entire world of goods that small town retail could never purchase. Everything is better in nostalgia.

    I am here in Toronto Canada enjoying the mild weather for a change. Last week Toronto recorded the highest temperature on record.

    • katry Says:

      Bob,
      The transformation of the square where I used to live has brought people back. The restaurants and theater are usually crowded. The Italian deli still hangs on-that was a Saturday errand for my dad. The town itself has grocery chains but none of the behemoth stores like Walmart.

      I still think nothing beats a Woolworth’s for the fun of shopping. It may be nostalgic but I loved that store. In Chatham is a Ben Franklin store, a cousin to my old Woolworth’s. I go there just to wander, especially at Christmas when I’m looking for stocking stuffers. The shelves are crammed, and I’m like a kid again.

  6. Lori Kossowsky Says:

    I don’t know what my hometown looks like as I haven’t been back there in so many years. I almost went to the beach town a few years ago, but I had to cancel my trip. I do agree with Bob about the chain stores and Walmart. In the 70’s it was the malls that drove the small town business owners out; I think Holly Near wrote a song about that.
    Not excited? Sure.
    Waving,
    Lori

    • katry Says:

      Lori,
      I used to go back really often to visit my mother but now I go far less often. I see at least one play a year at the old movie theater, and there are enough of the bones of my old theater to keep the memories alive.

      The square seems to be holding its own.

      Waving!


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