Along San Saba Avenue
By John Ed. Jackson
The years lay heavy on the old man’s shoulders as he turned the corner at the drug store and headed east on San Saba Avenue. Along about the post office he remembered the old Magnolia service station that used to be in this location. He talked softly to himself as he leaned heavily on his cane. No telling how long the Sides boys ran that old station, nigh on to fifteen years he reckoned. On down the sidewalk, he remembered Bill Nauwald running the Menard Hardware for a lifetime. Looking at the Williams Insurance sign, he could remember that the Menard Messenger used to be in this building, the gold letters “Menard Messenger” on the front window. The next door down was that of Larry O’Neil, O’Neils Men’s Wear and Dry Cleaning, the sign had read: “We know how” was the slogan. Closing his eyes, the man could see Larry standing on the sidewalk waving at the folks passing by. The next door east, was that of the Bates and Williams Red & White Grocery. Next was the City Café, run by jolly Mrs. Patterson. What a great cup of coffee that lady served. Then, of course, the Bevans Bank was on the corner. Bill Carter was teller there as long as the old man could remember.
Standing on the corner and gazing across the street back to his left, he saw the old station that little David Peterson used to run. How artistic David had been; the old man grinned when he remembered the little sign David had hung in the window at the beginning of the war. A big red heart and a gray mule with the wording underneath: “Put your heart in our government or get your ass out of our country.” Next door east would have been the Palace Barber Shop. Jug Shannon shined shoes there many a year. Then came the stairway going up to Dr. Heyman’s. Where the sign now reads City Hall was the Menard National Bank. Roscoe Heyman’s they called it, but Old Roscoe never failed to help one in real need. Next door was Abe Levinson’s Grocery Store. Next to that was the Luckenbach Motor Company, the Ford house. In there had been little Tommy Grimes, Ed Templeton and Harris Mohler. In the back worked the great Ford mechanic, Elvis Parker. The man smiled at the memory of these men, all long gone.
Then there was the alley and the Lucdkenbach Hardware, Aermotor dealers, the man recalled. East of the hardware had been the Benchoff home; the man remembered playing on the long front porch. Then there was Shorty Sheaffer’s Boot Shop. How many times had he visited with old Shorty through the years! Then came Wilensky Brothers, with the Wilensky Hall above.
Crossing the street, going on east, he passed the Allison Service Station, then Perry Hartgraves’ law offices. The next door brought fond memories of Landon’s Drug, now a dentist office. Juanita Sides used to serve up a mighty tasty milkshake there, and the man had drunk a lot of coffee there also. Next door had been Cormer Lynn’s Squeeze In, so named because the building was all of six feet wide, with a counter and stools; you really did have to “squeeze in” to get in. Then an old metal building that had once been a meat market. Next door east would have been the Oliver Furniture Store. The man remembered that in front of this store was Menard’s last gun fight, in 1940. Willingham had died right there on the sidewalk; the other man lived a few hours. Then there was a little rock building, L.W. Pucket’s Livestock Office, and before the war it had been Fred Davis’ café. Then a ram shackled old building that was a café, bar, and dance hall run by a woman named Bullion. Then came Bean’s Drug in the hotel. Also in the hotel was the Hotel Barber Shop, with Mr. McDonald, Barton Crab and others. The man remembered getting his first few haircuts by Mr. McDonald. On the corner had been “Wheatbird’s” Liquor Store, so named because the old gentleman probably weighed all of eighty pounds. Standing on the hotel corner, the man looked across toward the park. Closing his eyes he could see Jack Castleman’s truck parked there with Spotty Gibbs’ next, sometimes Roy Spinks’ and always the McHorse Boys’.
Walking across the street, the man stopped at the War Veteran’s marker, letting his eyes rove down the names, some he had known, like M. J. Greenwood. He used to play with “Bubba”.
On down the sidewalk to the end of the park, the man stood at the corner trying to recall the name of the little red, green, and white station that had been on the opposite corner. Try as he might, he could not come up with the name. Behind the little station had been Adolph Beyer’s blacksmith shop. The man could visualize Adolph, Cotton Murchison, and Roy Swope planning their next hunting trip. Avid hunters, all three. To his right, where the Adventist Church stands, had been the Dietz Store and next was the lumberyard with the ditch running through the middle. What was the name? Wm. P. Carey Lumber, wasn’t it?
The old man was getting pooped, so he turned and retraced his steps toward the Bevans Hotel. Almost to the corner, he found an empty park bench and sat down to rest. Looking across the street down to his right had been the Moser Motor Company, the Chevrolet house. Left of that had been the Moser Grocery Store, later to become Abernathy’s. The old man smiled at the memory of Mr. Rogers, who worked in the grocery. All the kids knew Mr. Rogers would fill up the paper sack with jellybeans, all for a nickel. Of course, all the kids bought their candy there.
The next-door west had been the Hodges Café, then a bakery. Next was the Williams Five and Dime. Williams had sold to Bill Plath in the ‘40’s and moved further west, taking up three buildings. The man remembered Milton Williams well. West of the Five and Dime had been Sproul’s Red and White, then the new Williams Variety, then Forest Brown’s Western Auto. There was a cubbyhole next with Ray Durgan’s Liquor Store. The old man recalled Lou Emma Decker’s mother running the liquor store. Then came the most remembered door, the one leading into the Pool Hall. The Pool Hall was alive with pleasant memories. There the man had spent many Saturday afternoons shooting snooker with the town’s, Lee Durgan, Clarence Hooten, Claude Rambo, the Bishop Boys, Lamar Wyatt and Jerry Rambo, just to name a few. The Busy Bee Grocery came next, then the King’s drug, later to become Barton’s Bar. Last on the corner had been the J. D. Smith Distributing Company, earlier a service station and garage.
As the man sat there with his memories, the throaty laugh of Jim Wyatt came floating across the silent San Saba Avenue from the pool hall. Then came the sharp crack of a breaking rack of snooker balls. No one could make those balls pop like Claude Rambo, the man recalled.
As the man sat resting, music came floating down from Wilensky Hall. In the man’s mind, he could see the brightly lit windows of the hall; see the dancing couples as they glided about the floor. The strains of “When the Roses Bloom Again” came to the man, no doubt the request of old Henry Meixner. The joyful whoop of fun-loving Sid Frasier floats along with the music. Floating down next came the strains of “Over the Waves Waltz,” played as only one person in the whole world could play it. Golly, Daddy’s fiddle sounds good tonight, but then it always did.
The music stops and I open my eyes. Almost sundown, it is time to start back to the house. From the park bench to the corner of the park, crossing to the hotel corner, Old Jim Wyatt’s laugh glides eerily across silent San Saba Avenue. The years seem to have melted from my back. The old knee and the hands don’t ache so much. Once again, I’m six years old, racing down the sidewalk to Moser’s Grocery with a nickel in my hand to give Mr. Rogers for the full bag of jellybeans…