Madras in 1950s
- Madras Pioneer - Opinion
To the Editor,
Thank you Tony, for the article on the summer and the way things were when you were a kid. Growing up here in the `50s got me reminiscing.
We had a lot of outdoor activities: riding bicycles, flower and vegetable gardens, baseball. At the old fairgrounds (where MHS is now) was a ball diamond in the rough, behind the old high school (where Westside is now) was another diamond. Two or more kids getting together would start a game and soon more would join in.
We would swim in the canal and learned to water ski behind a pickup on North Unit's main canal. It wouldn't be `til later we found out some people water ski behind a boat.
A couple of times in summer, we would travel to Kah-Nee-Ta and it was a long way to go on gravel and dust roads. It would take a week to plan the trip; you didn't just load up a carload of kids with swim gear, food, changes of clothes. It was a major production. The pool was rough cement with moss growing on the side, band-aids floating. The dressing rooms were "air conditioned" where a cat could run through the gaps in the boards. But we survived the heat and dust.
Parades at Madras were always a well-attended community event. You'd see as many stray dogs as there were entrants in the parade.
We bought one of the first TVs in the community, from Paul Rowan's TV and Appliance. It was a 21 inch black-and-white RCA. We had two channels -- 6 and 12. Reception was from a 40-foot antennae on top of our house. Mother had a row of chairs in front of the TV and kids and adults would sit in front to see the test pattern before the broadcast.
Ahern's, as we know it today, was an appliance store and before that a Case Implement Dealership.
McDonald's was a Western Auto before it burned down and before that, it was Erickson's Supermarket. One time some letters on the neon sign were burned out and what was left was "rickson's per ket." Prior to that, it was Earl Bone's International Harvester dealership. Incidentally, Earl Bone was mayor of Madras when we had one town constable. Madras also had a village idiot and town drunk before political correctness obliberated such terms.
There was a hotel on Sunshine Corner, which was in the center part of town. People wanting to locate and farm, before irrigation came, would use that hotel as their base. Also in the hotel was a beauty parlor, restaurant (that made the best-ever chicken salad), Trailway's bus depot. After it burned down, Gerke built a furniture store (and then built another where Above and Beyond is now). Then came Lorraine's Variety, which also burned.
I thought it was a national holiday when the new cars came out in the 1950s. The cars were covered by tarps for the official unveiling, unlike the belly-button cars of today which are too similar to ooh and ahh about.
Another holiday should have been when the Dairy Queen opened in the spring for the summer months. It was closed during winter. It was Mallard (Kim's dad). On hot days, the school bus would stop at the DQ and allow us kids to get a snack. A 10-cent Dilly Bar was all I could eat at one sitting. If that happened today, the school district would have a stroke.
Across the street from Pepe's was Van de Hay's Soda Fountain, which later became Nichol's Multi Flavor, an ice cream and soda shop. We kids didn't have to wait for summer to enjoy these treats. A small frosted mug of root beer was 5 cents, a large one 10 cents, and ice cream float was 25 cents. (Just ask Bob Houts -- he had his own stool). It was one of the few businesses that was open on Sunday.
Most businesses were closed on Sunday. The service stations took turns keeping open for travelers through town. We had four places to get a bite to eat, 17 service stations, where we got gas and services with tires, tune-ups, etc. Now we have zero service stations, six or seven places to buy gas and 40 places to grab a snack to eat.
Al Ault had a sporting goods store in half of Dr. Thomas' building (now Rio). Oscar Lange bought him out and moved into his new building (Mail, Copies & More) with Monjay's KFC takeout at the south end.
Oliver Earl had a grocery store downtown and built the new Earl's Supermarket (Phil's Ace Hardware). Anker Nielson was the butcher and he'd give the kids a weenie to eat on while mother did the shopping. Safeway later bought it, which meant the end of the free weenie.
Since I only got to Madras in 1947, there are some who still consider me as a newcomer. Likewise, Tony, a young man like you, we oldtimers welcome you newcomers to the community.