BETTY STEIN: Reminiscing leads to a column Fort Wayne — long ago

This column was going to be about your fascinating responses to the last column that was concerned with protagonists and “The Forsyte Saga.” But all of a sudden nostalgia wrapped itself around my self and I am in a mood remembering what it used to be like. Ergo – a column on Fort Wayne long ago.

I’ll bet not many of you remember Miss Kiefer’s Doll Hospital. It was in the 200 block of West Wayne and the decor included doll wigs and arms and legs and new dolls to take home and cherish. I had been given a doll – a real beauty – and one day played that I owned a beauty salon. Poor beautiful doll came in for a new hairdo and I made a mess! I must really have put on a display of sorrow for what I had done because Beauty and I were put in the car and my momma took us to the hospital where Miss Kiefer performed a miracle and Doll was restored to pre-attack beauty – and my beauty salon closed its doors forever.

Miss Kiefer lived across the street from us on West Washington with her mother, Mrs. Kelly, who enjoyed gardening. One part of her yard was devoted to bachelor buttons, and frequently I was called to come over for a bouquet. What a delight! Bachelor buttons are old-fashioned and not glamorous, but they are comfortable. Know what I mean?

I also remembered Freiburger’s grocery, particularly its fragrance which was enhanced by a barrel of dill pickles sitting in front of the counter. Those pickles were five cents each. So was your ride on a street car. For a nickel you could ride all over town in the electric powered street car. Years later I think it cost a dime when my son took his last street car ride as we were converting to buses.

The Palace Theatre on East Washington had stage shows as well as movies, and right next door was a confectionery that sold the world’s best fudge. Across the street was Wolf & Dessauer, which as you know had magical window displays at this time of year. Going to see them was a yearly treat. Santa and his reindeer are great to have in 2017 but the windows had moving figures and imaginative action and were a great gift to us. There were three railroad stations, yes, three: Nickel Plate, Wabash and Pennsylvania. And the bus station was on Main St. where high schoolers gathered to cheer on their teams as they went off to Muncie for the super regional competition. And a round trip to Chicago on the train cost three dollars! There were people at our Thanksgiving Dinner table who are no longer there in person but are remembered and talked about, and young ones at that table learn a lot of family history. And there were people named Keegan and Mossman and Verwiere and Cafaro that were integral parts of life in Fort Wayne and remembered.

Enough! Next column: back to the present.

Betty E. Stein is a retired teacher and resident of Fort Wayne.

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