COURTESY PHOTO
The Interurban, circa 1947, makes a turn from Houston Avenue onto Main Street in front of the Saratoga Cafe. The Katy Depot is pictured in the background.


 

REMEMBERING DOWNTOWN DENISON IN THE FIFTIES

 

By Donna Hunt

Herald Democrat

After a recent column about remembrances that my sister and I had of Main Street as we were growing up in the early 1950s drew so many comments, I decided to do a little more remembering with the help of a 1953 Denison City Directory. That too, brought back a lot of memories for me and I hope it will for readers too.

Starting with the 100 block, first place to remember is the Saratoga Café right on the corner, across the avenue from the Katy Depot. It also was across the alley from the Texas Electric Railroad or Interurban as most people called the trolley-type vehicle that went up Main Street, turned south on Mirick Avenue then all the way to Dallas and beyond.

The Saratoga probably is remembered by more people than anyplace else in town. It was open all night to accommodate railroaders who arrived and departed 24 hours a day. It also accommodated a lot of late-nighters, including the football team and football fans who participated in nearby games and then stopped to eat or just to hang out afterwards. You would have thought it was the Fourth of July some nights about 1 or 2 a.m. when the team returned home to be greeted by fans -- especially if they had won the game. I especially remember working at the newspaper office on election nights until all hours of the morning, then going to the Saratoga to eat breakfast.

There were several hotels and some apartments upstairs on the north side of the block but I'm not familiar with them except that a classmate lived in one of the apartments. There were several used furniture stores in the 100 and 200 block.

Hubbard's Furniture store was on the corner of Main and Austin where it still stands. However, it wasn't run by Keith Jr., who now runs the store, or his dad, Keith Sr., for whom I worked a short time, but by Coleman R. Hubbard with his son, Keith Sr. as his right hand man.

The Grayson County Car Tag office was in the block and that's where you went to pay your poll tax and get a receipt that allowed you to vote in upcoming elections. Yes, in those days you had to pay a tax in order to cast a ballot. That was changed a few years after I was old enough to vote.

That block had a Dixie Cream Donut Shop, a real estate office run by Franz Kohfeldt, who owned much of the Main Street property, Reid's Music Supply Store, the Blue Front Café and Mullican's Shoe Shop where the cutest boy worked during those days.

On the opposite end of the block from the Saratoga was the Roller Bowl and Skating Ring. Downstairs were the bowling alley lanes and upstairs was the skating rink. I never did a lot of bowling except in college when my freshman, physical education class was bowling and setting pins took up most of the time at the manually operated bowling lanes in Denton where I was a student at North Texas State University.

I did a lot of trying to skate. Saturday mornings were reserved for students to skate. My group of friends religiously went skating. I've never been particularly well balanced on my feet and put me on roller skates and I'm headed for a fall. I tried really hard, but never got the hang of skating. I really did better setting pins at the bowling alley. The skating rink sometime was turned into a boxing ring and many young Denison men showed what they could do.

Moving on up to the 200 block, Myles Variety and Spencer's Household Appliances first come to mind. Myles Variety was a small Kress or Newberry store that had a little of everything and it was just a few stores away from my dad's drug store. Mr. Spencer's daughter, Dana, was a good friend of my sister so we got to know that family pretty well.

We had Montgomery Ward and Sears-Roebuck order offices in that block. You could go in and look at a catalog and order what you wanted and a lot of people took advantage of those businesses because neither of the big stores were in this area.

Across the street was Anderson and Sons Printing and the home of the Denison Press newspaper that was run by Mr. Anderson. This was a weekly newspaper that operated for many years.

Anyone with small children shopped at Winnie's Youth Shop. Winnie had a lot of everything and it was in no particular order. She may have had the merchandise straight and with sizes together at one time, but every time I was there it was all piled on tables and you dug through looking for what you wanted and the right size. Despite the unorganized status of the store, Winnie sold a ton of merchandise.

Let's not forget Bear Drug on the corner across from both the State National and Citizens National banks. Bear Drug had a fountain that people still remember for its hamburgers and milkshakes. Upstairs was located the offices of many of Denison's physicians.

It's hard to remember and list all the places that made Downtown Denison what it was back in those days. There were several jewelry stores, hardware stores, clothing stores, barber shops and even a few filling stations along the way. We'll explore some if the other 50s businesses in a later column and might even go back to 1892 and look at what was here that year.

By the way, the store next to Newberry's that I couldn't remember the name in the earlier column, was Denison Optical with Drs. Kanode and Busby. Later it was Drs. Kanode and Thompson and when it burned the doctors were Thompson and Herron. Thanks to Steve Armstrong for that information.

 

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