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432 Center Street

Several years ago, I spoke with Ray Bradbury, author of  The Martian Chronicles, Farenheit 451, and The Illustrated Man (as well as being my teenage hero), and he told me he could remember being born. Heck, I have enough trouble just trying to remember what I have to do today, much less the traumatic experience of birth.
I cannot remember when we moved to 432 Center Street. We moved there from Jackson Street (somewhere very close to the Roviar Building where my dad worked for awhile, but all those old houses are now gone). I have very vague memories of living on Jackson Street. The few small memories that flare up every now and then like a store bought bottle rocket  include walking between the houses for some strange reason (they were so close together), and watching the trains in back of the house. We lived right behind the switching yard, and my mom tells stories of how I would pull a chair up to the back door in the kitchen and stand and watch the trains for hours on end.
432 Center, however, holds many memories. Like a 4th of July night, they flash through my mind, leaving glimmers of falling sparkles of thought, and fill my mind night sky with visions of my childhood. In the first picture, that's Russell's Grocery beside our house, owned and operated by G.W. Russell. I don't know what the G.W. stood for. Us kids always called him Mr. Russell and dad called him G.W. They had a screen door that slammed shut every time I walked in to that place. I'm sure G.W. and his wife didn't appreciate that. But slamming screen doors were somehow an announcement of arrival for most kids, so I fall back on that as my flimsy excuse.
The picture of Joy and I sitting on the back porch shows a galvanized tub hanging by the back door. This was our bathtub. Mom or dad carried the tub into the kitchen, filled it up with warm water, and Joy and I took turns taking baths. At one time, a ringer washer also sat on the porch, and could very well be just out of sight in this picture. Mom would roll it into the kitchen and do the laundry. There were times when she would get her fingers "bit" by the rollers as she fed the clothes through to wring out the excess water. The laundry was carried out to the clothesline and put up using wooden clothes pins.

On early summer mornings while the dew was still thick enough to get your tennis shoes wet, I watched the milkman make his rounds up and down Center Street. He was from Franke's Dairy, and an aluminum box sat on our front porch. The milkman would pick up any empty milk jugs and put new ones inside the aluminum box.  Franke's Dairy was on the corner of State and Cherry Streets (2241 State), and as far as I was concerned, had the best tasting milk around.
Jay C Grocery was on the corner of State and Center, and, at some time during the early 1960's, there was an ice cream place across the street from it. I want to say it was called "Dairy King," but I'm not certain of that.
When I wasn't spending my allowance at Russell's Grocery, it was spent at the Fruit Market on State, approximately where the Irwin Union building is today. It was called the State Street Market, but we called it the Fruit Market. I sold many a pop bottle at the Fruit Market. It was close enough to State Street Elementary for quick trips on the way home from school when I had a little change in my pocket and felt like indulging in a piece of Bazooka bubblegum or some Bonomo Turkish Taffy...

A watercolor painting my sister Joy did for me. It's dated February 1996. My best friend Jimmy and me walking by his house at the corner of Center and South with the infamous railroad tracks that carried us from adventure to adventure, and what the other side of the tracks looked like back in those days. No development...just cornfield (you'll have to overlook the "artistic license" used by my sister when painting this...).

The Army Suplus store was located on State Street, not too far west of Coffman Drugs. I acquired a canteen, backpack, utility belt, and first aid kit there. These items were an important part of those summer excursions on the railroad tracks. Although they cost alot (I think I paid $1.25 for the canteen and $1.50 for the backpack), allowances and pop bottle money was saved so I could purchase these essential items. This had to have been around the time COMBAT! was on television.
Coffman Drugs at the corner of State and Hege was another hangout for me. When school was out for the day and I had nothing better to do, I roamed its aisles looking at the toys and games. Carson's Flower Shop was next to Coffmans. I walked in there one summer (around the age of 10) and asked for a job. I spotted a pile of sawdust on the floor, and upon seeing this, I asked Mr. Carson if he needed help, like sweeping up that pile of stuff on the floor. For some reason, I think my approach irritated him, because his answer back to me was a short "if I needed help, I'd have my own son come in and sweep." So much for finding a job that summer at the age of 10.
I did, however, send away for a case of All Occasion Greeting Cards from an ad I spotted in a Superman Comic. Of course, I never consulted mom and dad about this, and the day the box arrived, they were both at work. Upon seeing that big box addressed to Master David Sechrest, I said, "this is the happiest day of my life," and proceeded to tear open that box like it was a long lost Christmas present discovered in July. That "happiness" quickly faded to worry when no one wanted to buy those cards and mom and dad started getting calls from a lawyer wanting their money. I won't go in to any other details regarding my punishment, other than it was very difficult for me to sit down for a couple days.
Another venture, which also came from the back of a Superman comic, was selling seeds. As bad as the Greeting Card Fiasco had turned out, the seed business was a profitable venture. It didn't take very long at all for me to sell all the seed packs I had.
Growing up at 432 Center Street had its ups and downs as any childhood has. But looking back, there were more ups than downs, at least from this present perspective.
More to come about growing up on Center Street...