By Bill Ward
---- — I have written about my days with my cousin Bill Caldwell at his Sinclair Station. Also a little about the many things I remember of my youth and some of the things that transpired, about the crowds in Rushville on weekends especially Friday nights and Saturday all day. The consumer owned light and power and telephone company in town. A lot of things from throughout my youth and a lot of things I truly miss.
The one thing I miss more than any is the old-fashioned service by those who did their best to get your business. You went to the grocery and not only did they sack the groceries for you but helped you take it out and even loaded it into you vehicle for you. You went to a clothing store and they had what you wanted in your size in stock and at a realistic price. The paper was six days a week and cost a quarter a week delivered. Dad had numerous competitive auto dealers in town. Dad was Ward Sales and Service; Spotty Christian sold Chevrolets; Thompson and Johnson sold Dodge, Chrysler Plymouth; Alexander Sales had Olds, GMC, Buick as well as Johnson outboard motors; Dad had Philco appliances along with Pontiac cars; Loren Shields had DeSoto Plymouth; and Floyd Kirkland sold Cadillacs. Jim Bangs was one of several who sold Ford automobiles, but for some reason Rushville could not keep a Ford dealer.
Pontiac had a sales representative at Hoods Garage in Milroy; Wainwright Chevrolet was in Mays. My graduation present from Dad was a Chevrolet Del Ray from Wainwright’s. Alexander Merlin (I believe) later on sold Nash then American Motors cars and was south of town. I can off hand think of three men’s stores, three ladies’ stores, as well as three jewelers in Rushville. Milroy had a drug store as well as doctor and dentist, even a hotel.
Wendell Willkie used the Durbin Hotel in Rushville as his headquarters for his Presidential run. I was quite young, but remember how busy and full Rushville was with outsiders for the whole campaign. The Durbin family made a national name for themselves thanks to Wendell. I remember my parents taking me down to the train station to see Wendell off to campaign all over the country. The whole community was involved in this event and a lot of outside money was brought into town. The Durbin bar as well as the Elks and other clubs that had bars were full most the time. The Smoke House close by the Durbin did a land office business in out-of-town papers and smokes. Quality Bakery could not keep salt rising bread in stock (much to my disgust, I loved that stuff!).
Pitman Wilson and Rushville Pharmacy were busy places. Rushville Pharmacy was where Willkie Park is today. They purchased the old furniture store on Main at Third, took the top floor off and made it into the place it is today. I believe they were the first all-encompassing shopping store downtown. If you wanted it, I would make a bet they had it or would get it - everything but clothing. Pitman Wilson was a Rexall franchise and I loved their twice yearly penny sales (buy one get the second for a penny). Mr. Freshie would close down for the State Fair, take their store, which was a trailer, up to Indy for the fair and then back home afterward. Wilhelm’s (where Downtown Shell is now) was always busy. The Corner Restaurant has been where it is today as long as I can remember. That and Moster’s are about all that is left from the downtown of my youth.
Woolworth had a store for a time at First and Main Street. Our Coca Cola bottling plant was not only a good place to watch them bottle Coke but brought a lot of people to town to do just that. Moster’s had competition with Todd Funeral Home and Wyatt Moore. Todd and Wyatt Moore started off as furniture stores then evolved into funeral homes. In the old days furniture and funerals had a lot in common; both used a lot of wooden products. Pat Todd had a horse drawn hearse that was behind his funeral home for some time. I remember when I got married the factory foreman threatened to borrow that for me to take my bride away from the church. Thankfully, Pat didn’t think too highly of that idea, nor did I.
School always started right after Labor Day and let out just prior to Memorial Day. And the county was separate from the city and the county started later and got out sooner than the city dwellers so the young men could help out on the farm. Township Trustees ran the county schools with a county superintendent of education over all to be sure the schools complied with the state and federal requirements. And if you were a county school you would have basketball teams no matter what. And those basketball teams could lose every game all year long, but if they beat Rushville even once it was considered a winning season.
Many in Rushville used August for vacations, prior to school starting. That and the fact the county fair was in August made that my favorite month. Our family did what many others did and would go to Michigan, usually Lake Douglas, for their vacations. Lake Douglas was the place to go in the late ‘30s early ‘40s. We went there until after the war then sort of branched out and ended up buying a home in San Diego. Boy! Was that a surprise to me and many others! I pine for the old days, but I also like a lot of things we have today we did not even think of in my youth. It should be interesting in 50 years to see how and what you youngsters of today remember.