A trip back in time...

More days than I care to remember, after school, and during summer vacation in the late 50's and early 60's, I occupied a booth at Rheummler's Drugstore. And since Docie Ray's was the town “hot spot,” I was privy to all that latest "happenings." I have memories of Merle Taylor, Janet Eck and Mary Alice Eichem, dubbed the older, sophisticated "Three Musketeers," always inseparable, sharing laughs in a back booth. David Storey, the class clown, had the entire store in stitches many afternoons with his crazy stories.

Marilyn Duckworth would come in often, and bring her niece, Lee Ann. Lee Ann was about three at the time, and Marilyn would plop her up on the ice cream case, and feed her a snack. She was the prettiest little girl in town, with her big brown flashing eyes and wide, dimpled smile.

Roxie Mossberger and Dixie James, who both lived within a block of the drugstore, would stop by after school. Carl Funkhouser would ride his bicycle to the store for candy. Cindy Birk would come in for Sweet Tarts. I could probably go back thru my old yearbooks and tell you drugstore stories about most of the kids in town.

Then there was “bad boy” Kevin Marlin. I remember the time he sprayed shaving lotion all over Doc's coughdrop display. Kevin was always in trouble... Marlin's Department store had an upstairs loft and that's where his Dad, Fat Marlin, had his office. One summer afternoon he went upstairs and sprayed his Dad's electric office equipment with red spray paint. He would come in the drugstore and get rowdy and Doc would run him off, but he would be right back the next day, it didn't deter him at all. He was probably about twelve years old, when he was pulling these boyish pranks.

Of course the best part of being in the drugstore was the junk food, except nobody ever called it junk food in the 60's. The soda fountain had a rack of Lay's products. They had a paper bag of Fritos for a nickel and a clear plastic bag of them for a dime. The usual chips, and pretzels, too, but all the snacks, including candy bars, were five and ten cents. Bob Fields, from Carmi, drove the Frito Van, and he would make his weekly deliveries, parking that big old truck with the vintage Frigo Logo on it, right at the front door.

The fountain drinks at Doc's were the best ever. Nobody, but nobody, could make a cherry coke like Lucy. Earl Blakemore had an ice house where the bank parking lot is now, and he would walk over, carrying a big block of ice using ice tongs to secure it, plop it in the well of the soda fountain and collect fifty cents. The ice for every drink was hand chipped. There were no Pepsi products on the soda fountain in those days, it was strictly Coca-Cola. You had to cough up ten cents for a bottle of Pepsi from the machine.

His candy counter was well stocked, and you could get black and red liquorice whips for 2 cents. My favorite candy was Valo-Milk. Oh, my, were they wonderful. And Hollywood Candy Bars, and Zero's... Doc had all the good stuff. Behind the cash register were boxes of chewing gum, lined up in their boxes, Wrigley's Spearmint, Doublemint, Juicy Fruit, plus Clark, Teaberry and Blackstrap.

Around the 4th of July, you could buy cherry bombs and sparklers. The cherry bombs were really large, and made a really loud bang when you threw them on the sidewallk. I think they were finally were outlawed in Illinois, and no wonder, they were dangerous.

During Mule Days, Doc used to order these wafer rectangular waffled cookie planks, and they would cut ice cream slices from half gallon cartons and sandwich them between the wafers,wrap them in waxed paper and then put in the ice cream freezer to sell. They only sold them at Mule Days, and they were really a popular item... I liked the neopolitan ones best, and would hurry from school to get one before the supply ran out..

I have two really vivid memories of Mule Days – the first are the fish sandwiches that the Sportsman's Club deep fried. It was my first experience with a preformed fish square, and I was wild for them. Served on a bun with a big squirt of ketchup, they were just wonderful. And my other memory is Malone's Taffy Stand. Still in business, I think Malone's comes to Mule Days even now. It was absolutely to die for... soft, chewy chunks of milky flavored taffy they sold in a white paper sack. I can still remember the taste.

The only store in town in the early 60's that was air-conditioned was The Food Shoppe. They had a Chilly Willy sign posted on the front door that said, "It's Cold Inside," and we would all go there to cool off after riding our bikes.

Those really were the days... A more gentler time that will never be forgotten, but that can never be duplicated again...

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