Main Street Newark Delaware Circa 1960.

In the wee small hours I woke up mentally wandering down Main Street, Newark Delaware.

I walked down the left side. No, I don’t know North from South. I’m a left and right girl. First I passed University of Delaware’s Old College. Next to it is Recitation Hall. I had most of my college art studio classes there.

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The building smelled of oil paint, turpentine, and creativity. My freshman year, while taking Drawing 101 the professor got so exasperated with one student’s artwork he tossed it out a second-floor window.  Professors worked hard to weed out the art students who thought being an art major would be an easy ride.

My junior year we were tasked with doing experiential art. The U of D drum major, Robbie, was a brilliant art student. He made the whole class put on white marching band fingerless gloves and he blindfolded us. He led us to the long sidewalk in front of Old College and had us sit in a circle on the public walkway. We sat and sat and sat. Finally, after what felt an eternity, I lifted the mask. Robbie was gone. We were surrounded by laughing spectators.  I learned most of the other’s had lifted their blindfold’s long before I did.

After Old College and Recitation Hall I walked to Rhodes Drug Store. I recall years of sitting at the counter on a spinning stool and having a cream cheese sandwiches.

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To the right of the pharmacy, you can see the “W” of Wynn’s Gift Shop sign.

After Rhodes was Wynn’s Gift Shop. My best memory of Wynn’s is buying an itty bitty flower vase as a Mother’s Day gift. It was crackled Blenko brand glass, aqua blue, about four inches tall. On each side were pressed two blobs of glass with thumbprint indentations in their centers. I loved that bottle. After Mom died, I brought it home. Sadly the container broke a few years ago when I was vigorously mopping up the kitchen counters.

Moving on I passed Peggy Cronin’s Fashions. Walking into Peggy Cronin’s was dropping into a time warp. Did she ever dump old inventory? I doubt it. Her shop was narrow. The racks were so tightly packed I could barely push hangers from left to right. Dresses were dusty and faded. Hats were decades out of style. I think her store had a front and back room. What a jumbled mess.

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I didn’t know until finding this advertisement that she had a second location in Elkton.

 

Next door was the anti-Cronin, Vera’s Clothing Store. Tidy, spotless, expensive. When trying on clothes, you had to put a sheer white hood over your face to protect garments from makeup. In high school, I bought a shamrock motif bra and panties there. AA bra. I was flat as a board.

Vera was French, short, blond, and bossy.  I don’t think she much liked having High School girls in her shop.  She catered to those with far deeper pockets.
Several times a year she made buying trips to Paris. Her store stock was current and fashionable. Her husband often worked the store as well.  He was no taller than Vera and had a thick French accent.

The next place along the walk was National Five and Ten dime store.  They carried everything from housewares to clothing to school supplies. I worked there in college.  My first job was painting price signs for the display window. Red tempera paint on white shelf paper. Huge letters. Fifty cents a sign.

CARDIGAN SWEATERS $9.99″  

I thought they weren’t discreet or classy enough. I argued my point with the manager, but without luck.  After all, how classy is a dime store expected to be?

Upon entering, on the left in the front of the store was a lunch counter. For a while, I served there. During the week an older woman cooked all the food, and I slapped together sandwiches or scooped up chili.

On weekends I was required to prepare some dishes.
I once made egg salad and, as mother did, put pickle relish in it. Customers complained.

We had several regulars.  The ones I remember most clearly are a middle-aged brother and sister. They rode their thick wheeled bikes along Main Street and only ordered tea and buttered toast. Both were tiny, with thin hair and vacant looks.

Once the owner, Mr. H, asked me to make him a vanilla milkshake. I did, but he got angry because I put ice cream in it. He had endured a heart attack. Careful eating was necessary. It seems the milkshake was to be skim milk and ice. Who knew?

One of the managers liked ice cubes in his hot coffee. One day he sat at the counter watching the cubes melt in his cup, and told me he’d recently encouraged his tiny daughter to climb a ladder, promising he’d catch her when she jumped. She clambered up, leaped, and–with his arms folded across his chest–he watched her land hard. As she was crying, he stated, “That was to teach you never to trust anyone.” I was horrified.

I also took a spin working the cash register. At first, I was hopeless at counting back change. The other manager patiently taught me how to do it, stating the amount owed, “Two dollars and eleven cents” and the amount paid, “out of ten dollars.” And then counting out pennies first followed by nickles, dimes, quarters and dollars. I wasn’t to put the ten into the register until completed counting back the change. Otherwise, the customer could claim to have handed me a twenty.

When someone offered a credit card, I looked the number up in a small booklet to be sure it wasn’t a bad card. Then put the embossed plastic unit into a swiping machine that made carbon copies. I put purchases into paper bags.  At the end of the day, I had to count out my drawer and reconcile what I’d started with a compared to what I ended with.  That task made me nervous, given my poor ability at making change.

The National Five and Ten is still in business. I think now they mostly carry University of Delaware T-Shirts, hats and jackets.

Next to National is the Newsstand. I’ll finish memories of walking along Main Street another day. It’s a long way all the way to Newark Shopping Center. Then I have to trek back on the other side of the street.  I hope you’ll walk along with me.

Taking these journey’s back to the town and experiences of my youth is fun.

Somewhat related blog posts:

Rittenhouse Park, Silverbook, Newark Delaware.

My Lifelong Love Affair with Philadelphia Cream Cheese

Remembering Richard’s Dairy, Newark, Delaware.

Exit on Main Street

Going to Church, Newark Delaware in the 50’s

At sixty-five I’ve embraced the power of positive thinking.

I am reading psychologist Kelly Flanagan’s book,  Loveable.  My son Matt, knowing I have embraced the power of positive thinking concept, introduced me to  Loveable.  I immediately ordered it on Amazon.com.  Thirty seconds later I had manifested Loveable into my mailbox.  (How does Amazon do that?  Do they have little magicians waving wands, making mailbox magic happen?)

This book is wonderful.  As stated on the back cover, “Loveable is written to the little one in each of us who is all too ready to be reminded: You are enough, you are not alone, and you matter.”

I’m not done the book yet.  It’s a read  I want to savor.  Sip slowly.  The insights are profound.  The pages I just completed speak to finding our passion.  Our passion can usually be unearthed in the memories of what lit us up when we were kids.  What lit me up was writing.

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I also recently read Deepak Chopra.

My earliest writing memory took place at Grove Point Girl Scout Camp.   (Girl Scout camp was a horrible experience and included my first enema.  That’s a story for another day.)  While at camp I met a Hispanic girl.  I’d never known any Hispanic kids.  She was dark, slim, had an accent, wore a flower in her hair and an air of mystery.  I remember sitting on a bench near the camp lake and writing a story about her.  I loved that story, and like most authors believed my written words were diamonds.  No, not diamonds in the rough.  Faceted, sparkling, brilliant gems.

Fast forward to college.  In the summer of 1969 I was a University of Delaware “summer qualifier.”  Basically that meant I’d had such terrible grades in high school I had to prove myself bright enough to become a U of D student.

The University wasn’t unfair for making be a qualifier.  I’d been a lousy high school student.  Over the years I’ve reasoned that must have been since my sister is rocket scientist bright.  She even skipped her senior year and vaulted right into U of D’s nursing program, where she consistently got 4.0 grades.   I told myself I felt I couldn’t compete so why try?

That’s a lie.  The reason I got bad grades was because I didn’t like to study.  I would use any excuse to get out of doing my homework.  I clearly recollect one evening walking into the kitchen where mom and dad were drinking sherry out of small Welches jelly jar  glasses.   Deep in conversation about Daddy’s miserable day, they barely registered me on their radar when I said, “I have to go to the store before I can do homework. I need a pencil.”

We had a desk filled with pencils.  Yellow Eberhard-Faber wooden pencils with pink erasers.  Mechanical pencils using slim. easily broken lead (Daddy was civil engineer).  Colored pencils.  We had pencils of every possible type.  I clearly did not need to go buy another pencil.   But mom and dad were so engrossed in hashing through his daily grind they simply waved me on.

I just did not study.  Studying wasn’t fun and if something wasn’t fun I wasn’t planning to participate.  I’m still a lot like that.

As a summer qualifier I was required to take two classes.  A history class of some sort that involved dreadful studying and tests using blue books.  I loathed it.

The other class was English.  The professor had us do a lot of creative writing.  For the first time in my school life I began to make all A’s.  I remember one story I wrote in which I created characters a lot like Rob and Laura Petrie of the Dick Van Dyke show.  That particular tale earned me not only an A, but conversation with the professor. He asked me why I was in the class.  He couldn’t figure out why an intelligent kid had accidentally been placed with all the dim bulbs.

I told him, “I’m here because I’m a summer qualifier.”

After that my English grades went to  hell-in-a-handbasket.   Back in 1969 I didn’t put two and two together, but I now see the professor must have begun to doubt.  He doubted his ability to realize I was a dunce.

Consequently I began to doubt.  I gave up my dreams of writing.  I clearly wasn’t smart enough.  I told my little one the thing she was passionate about was impossible.  I moved on to my second best passion:  Art.

My little one and I have happily hooked up again.  We are sharing our passion: Writing.   Little One still sees every word as a diamond.  I know better, but I’m putting them out there anyhow.

Yay for us!   I hope you and your passionate little one get together.  It’s fun.  Best of all, there’s no studying.

Loveable Kelly Flanagan    Click here to learn more

Growing up in a college town was good because…

Delaware stadium

I grew up in Newark, Delaware, home of the University of Delaware and the Fighting Blue Hens.  As a kid I took hearing the marching band on autumn Saturdays completely for granted.  Now, looking back, I realize what a gift it was to live close to the Delaware stadium.

In junior high school I had a close friend, Ruthie, who lived a stones throw from a boy’s  dormitory.  We were eager to get inside that dorm.  I was thinking we might actually see a naked boy or two.  I didn’t have a brother, so the prospect of seeing boy body parts was thrilling.  We dug through her brother Steven’s drawers, pulled out piles of guy’s clothing and dressed up like boys.  We then marched our male selves into the dorm.  I don’t remember much about it other than the place smelled like sweaty sneakers.  No naked guys, but it was still a big adventure.

The college campus was a wonderful playground.

I went to U of D and was an art major in the early 70’s.  It was a fun experimental time.  Junior year I gave a friend a bong for  her birthday. When her dad found it she told him it was a sculpture I had made in class.  Wild times and lots of laughs.

That same year  I got a job working at the Stone Balloon serving pitchers of beer.  My mother was horrified that I was “a bar maid”.  The Balloon was owned by a man named Bill Stevenson.  His then wife, Jill, was a beautiful blond who would come into the bar  looking somewhat bewildered.  She later married Joe Biden, and the rest is history.

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Who out there remembers the Stone Balloon?  Bruce Springsteen played there as did Tiny Tim.   The other bar in town was the Deer Park.  That’s where the frat boys hung out. The Balloon was for “hippies” according to my ex-husband.  Guess I was a hippie.  I had a peace sign necklace and marched in a Viet Nam war protest ( but only because I had a crush on a guy who was marching…I now realize a lot of my choices in life were motivated by crushes.)

I dated that boy for about a year.  He went on to become gay.  I wonder if dating me drove that?   He was the drum major in Delaware’s marching band and a fellow art major.  We tie died tee shirts together and spent an illegal night in the art studio.  He was cute, funny, and a wonderful dancer.

Somehow I wandered off the growing up in a college town topic.  Oh well.  It’s my blog.  I get to do whatever the heck I want with it.  Life is good.

University of Delaware