One 1965 classmate opened the floodgates of memories recently by asking one little question in Facebook about Main Street businesses in our small town in Western New York, where nearly every local store had a family name attached. (We not only knew store by family name, but we also knew the family story behind the store and the family members who ran it or who were our classmates.)
Karen: “..thinking about uptown in East Aurora: What was the name of the men’s store across from Max Kadet? Remember when you could actually shop for clothes in town? Before Plazas and Malls? AND we had 3 stores with soda fountains back in the 50’s.”
David: “Are you talking about Major’s?”
Karen: “Yes – I couldn’t remember. Good memory.”
David: “I used to shop at Max Kadet and couldn’t remember their name. I bought my blue Mohair sweater and a London Fog Inspector Clouseau trench coat there and was trying to remember the name.”
Barry: “Let’s see: Soda fountains….Thomas’s Drug Store (next to the high school, also next to the Red & White) where I used to get nickel cokes and cherry phosphates; (Dunc) Hill’s (just east of the viaduct, next to the grain elevator), where I used to get banana splits almost every Saturday with Jeff Bowen after we refereed/coached kids’ basketball; a soda fountain next to the movie theater, but I can’t remember the name! Did Vidler’s ever have a soda fountain? And, was there one anywhere on West Main?
“How about chicken-in-the-basket at the Aurora Drive-In, (out Olean Road, as I recall), or fresh ice cream at the Dairy (which used to deliver our un-homogenized milk in glass bottles)?”
Karen: “Milems (not spelled correctly) next to the show (what we called the Aurora Theater) had a lunch counter. There were quite a few drug stores in town then.”
“Remember Shores Circle Inn and The Curtis Hotel? Down by the circle. The Wagners went out for a fish fry in the 50’s every Friday night – then a big trip to Ben Franklin or Vidlers. I always bought that plastic stuff in a tube that you could blow purple plastic bubbles on a straw that lasted a couple of days. “Vid’s didn’t have a soda fountain – but they had that old fashioned pop corn machine and for a dime you got a pretty good size bag of the saltiest popcorn know to man. But we loved it.”
Scott: “I remember getting dragged down to Major’s, Max Cadet’s, Latson’s Outdoor Store ( Main & Pine ) My sister went to Seamen, Hood & Morey’s ( next to Griggs & Ball’s Grain Elevator). Had Nyhart’s Music store. Toner’s TV Shop. Roy McCutcheon’s produce market, W.B Gannon’s . The A & P Market. Larwood’s Rexall Drug Store. Can’t recall the name of the drug store next to the EA Theater. or the hardware store next to it. Vic Balthaiser’s Globe Hotel, Logan & Younger’s auto parts (NAPA) store. “And we cannot forget Vidler’s 5 & 10. The Ben Franklin store. Elane’s Bakery was in there too.
Soda Fountains …Duncan Hills Newsstand..and one between the Griggs & Ball Grain elevator and Seaman Hood. Most of those drug stores had soda fountains…complete with Soda Jerks.
We had Loblaws supermarket and that was the East end of the commercial district.
“Then we had the businesses down by the Circle. (Hasn’t NYSDOT done away with our traffic circle?) (the Main Street re-model?) and the crappy plaza beyond the circle..that ruined most of the uptown business in the 60’s and 70’s (which recovered in the 90’s and 00’s).
“At least the Town Fathers had the Cahunas to tell WalMart to take a leap!”
Karen: “Remember the Shoe Box, Lattimore’s Shoes, Velzies Gift Shop, Kent and Roat (sp?), a jewelry store near Larwood’s drugs. What was the name of the restaurant on the corner of main across from a little gas station, across from Griggs and Ball? They moved it behind Seaman, Hood and Morey’s. We went there for fish on Friday nights too back in the 50’s. Also, Fox’s Deli, Leader’s Toy Store, Chur’s Hardware and The Village Cantina (now Bar Bill which has the best Beef on Weck in town!) Oh, and who could forget Jim and Kelly’s? We’re talking WAY back.
“The circle still exists – it just wouldn’t be the same without it. But I agree the plaza is and always was useless!”
Barry: “Larwood’s was the drug store near the theater that also had a soda fountain!
“Your recall of all those store names is unbelievable, Karen! We used to call the department store ‘Seaman Hood’s’ for short. I got all my shoes and basketball shoes at Lattimore’s, and I seem to recall they used to have one of those foot X-ray machines…fun for kids but probably terribly unsafe.
“We did our grocery shopping at Loblaws, which my mom said I used to call BlobBlobs when I was little!
“I got my woodwind reeds and sheet music at Nyhart’s.
“As for shopping, I remember there was only one mall, near the Buffalo airport.”
Karen: “We shopped at blob-blobs and Bell’s downtown. A d we called it Seaman Hood’s too.
The shopping center near the airport was the Thru-Way Plaza. The only one around when I was really little.
Scott: “Shore’s Circle Inn… didn’t it burn down? Village Cantina was the soda fountain in the west village.
“The Aurora Drive-in and Chet’s Dog House on Olean Road. The Aurora Dairy( Seneca Street ) that still delivered milk in glass milk bottles.
“Vidler’s Popcorn Machine ( still there and still had the saltiest Pop Corn)… why hasn’t Erie County health department ever shut that salty pop corn maker down? What further befuddles me is why hasn’t that pop corn machine dissolved yet from all those years of salt? It should have corroded into dust by now.
“Wasn’t that the Village Diner that was across from Griggs & Balls that was moved behind Griggs & Ball with Loblaws and replaced by the ESSO/EXXON station that Stubby Holmes’s Dad ran? The little restaurant had great fish fries but seating was so limited.”
Barry: “I remember the diner behind Loblaws. There was a long counter with round stools, and coffee served in those white ceramic diner mugs, with sugar poured out of a tall glass container with an aluminum screw-on cap that had a pull-back spout.”