Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This is the Downtown that I Remember (Kinda)

Postcard of Calhoun Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana

I'm going to go see my Grandma this week and whenever I think of Grandma, I think of our frequent trips to the downtown area (in the 70's). I don't have a picture of G.C. Murphy's from that exact time period, but this postcard comes pretty close to what I remember things looking like when I was a youngster.

Mention G.C. Murphy's to any child of the fort and the first thing they'll probably bring up is the donuts (machine now in place at Cindy's Diner). Yes, of course, those comments would roll off of my lips, but the first thing that always pops into my head is...the basement area.

I know, you think I'm crazy...the basement area? When you went in doors, you'd go down a couple set of stairs. It was like 10 steps and then room to rest ;). And then another 10 steps - something like that ;).

Anyway - what was in the basement? Clearance, my friends...clearance! Murphy's had these shallow bins with things marked down ridiculously. It always always always smelled like the rubber from the bottom of our tennis shoes in that place. The ceilings were low and the place was badly lit. Still, my grandma could sniff out a great deal and I was sure to leave with something new!

Another neat thing about Murphy's is that the PTC buses had their main hubs there. We might take the bus downtown, shop at Murphy's while waiting for our transfer out to say - Southtown or Park West (had to hit up Mr. Wiggs some days). And heck, if we missed our transfer - just more time to hang out in Murphy's! Plenty to do, see, and certainly eat.

When Murphy's - well the building - was demolished or redone or whatever - I was no longer living in Fort Wayne. Now, when I'm in the fort and I'm walking in this area, I don't even recognize much. Almost all of the "landmark" type of buildings or businesses no longer exist or have been changed to a point where they are unrecognizable. Sometimes I think, Fort Wayne might have been better off building that 465 type of a loop through Downtown (this was like back in the 40's? 50's?).

But back to Murphy's. There will never, ever be another place like it again. And I'm thankful that my grandparents immersed me in the experience of it.

P.S. If you want to see even MORE detail of the postcard, click on the picture and it will take you to my Flickr account. At the top, you'll see an option to see ALL SIZES. The details are pretty amazing!


Nick said...

I remember going to Murphy's with my Grandpa to get candy on Sundays. Great place. For some reason, I recall candy being in the bottom floor too? Anyway, those were the days.

Texmom said...

My best friend and I used to ride the bus downtown every Saturday, and Murphy's was one of our weekly stops. That was about 1969. Ah, memories:)

Bob G. said...

Now THAT is a THRIVING downtown...isn't it?

A far cry from what passes for such these days...

Marvelous post!

Happy New year to you and yours!

Anonymous said...

That was such a cool store-they sure do not make them like this anymore-I remember a candy counter upstairs and a fabric area downstairs. And of course, the lunch counter! Talk about cool-yes, I am older than you. Keep your blogs acoming! I so much enjoy them! What a great downtown it once was!

Anonymous said...

Anybody remember the bell ringing which meant you could cross the street in any direction, including diagonally, at that intersection? That is the thing I seem to remember about downtown.

ida said...

i remember the lunch counter, the candy counter, the bus hub, and the going out of business time. when we did go downtown we would also go to the shoe place down the street and i think ls ayers.

BurnUnit said...

This was also the intersection where a large set of wooden trusses were set up diagonally, once a year, which supported a huge decorated Christmas tree for the holidays.

The odd pedestrian crossing system wasn't used for very many years. I'd guess that it was abandoned as foot traffic decreased when the shopping areas moved to the malls and shopping centers. I think it was referred to as a "scramble" intersection and I think it was the only one in town. Traffic was stopped from all four directions and a loud bell was rung. Then pedestrians could scramble thru the intersection in any direction desired. After several seconds the bell would ring quickly two or three times as a warning to clear the streets. Then, as I recall, the bell rang one last time indicating that the intersection was open to vehicle traffic.

Lonesome Pine said...

I also remember the Christmas tree above the intersection. One of my earliest memories of downtown was my parents taking me to the first movie I can remember, The Ten Commandments, at the Embassy Theater. I remember the Jefferson Theater was across the street and The Sound of Music was playing there. My dad was a police officer for twenty years and I recall him taking me to the old police station a few times, including showing me the jail cells and the courthouse at the top of the station.
Does anyone remember the occasional rails that would show in the pavement of a street? My grandmother would tell me stories about the old trolley cars and I always regretted that they disappeared before I was born. The rails were like a ghostly sighting from an era long gone.

Simon May said...

Hi Kristina, my name is Simon May and I work for Benchmark Human Services. For the past 25 years, the charitable division of our company, the AWS Foundation, has produced gold plated brass ornaments as a fundraiser, some of them featuring Fort Wayne landmarks. One such landmark featured on the 1992 ornament was the G.C. Murphy's Christmas Tree. Now we are clearing out all of the back stock of these ornaments and donating them to organizations associated with the landmarks. The problem is Murphy's doesn't exist anymore, and I don't think that these ornaments would mean as much to the Murphy's Foundation in PA as they would to people in our community. With that said, when I Googled the G.C. Murphy's Christmas Tree in Fort Wayne, this Blog post came up, and your story touched me so much that I thought I would offer to send some to you if you would like them. I have several hundred of them, so you can request as many as you like. My email address is smay@BenchmarkHS.com or you can call me at the office at 260-744-6145. Merry Belated Christmas!