Editor’s note: This is the 91st of a series about growing up in Marysville during the late 1930s and the 1940s written by Bill Boyd. Each article is a snapshot of the people, businesses and activities during that era as seen through the eyes of a young boy.
Boyd was born in Marysville in 1932, graduated from Marysville High School in 1950, and lived the greater part of his life here.
One of my favorite things to do when I was about six or seven years old was to go shopping in Columbus. My mother, or one of my sisters, would drive us there. We always parked in a gravel parking lot across from Lazarus Department Store on Town Street. Usually we got there early enough so that we were in line when they opened the Lazarus doors at 9 a.m., and we spent a good part of the day in that store. I loved it.
Then one day during dinner my mother said we were going to Columbus the next day, but instead of driving, we would take the morning train, and return on the afternoon train. I had never ridden on a train before, and I was so excited I almost choked on my meat loaf.
The next morning, my mother, my sister Maryann and I walked from our house on West Fifth Street to the train station on North Maple. We bought our tickets at the small ticket counter in the corner of the station, and then we waited on a long wooden bench that sat outside, facing the tracks.
We didn’t wait long until the train arrived, and we went up the steps into one of the passenger cars. It was really neat, and we found two seats that faced each other. I took the one that faced the rear of the train. How cool would that be … riding backwards all the way to Columbus.
We sat there and talked for a little while, and then, without any warning, there was a violent jerk that just about threw me out of my seat. Those old steam engines often did that. It didn’t seem to affect my mother or my sister, because they were facing the front of the train, so the jerk just pushed them back into their seats. The next time I got on a train, I would be ready for that. Riding on a train could be dangerous.
The trip was fun, and I think we were going pretty fast. When we stopped in Columbus, we walked up a long steep stairway into Union Station, which stood where the Columbus Convention Center is today. Then we started our walk down High Street to Lazarus.
It was a long walk, but I knew we were getting close when I saw the Peanut Man on the sidewalk. He was always there, every time we went to Columbus. He was in a costume that made him look like a giant peanut wearing a top hat. I thought he was great. He passed out nut samples to the crowds of people along High Street. They were really good nuts, and a lot of people then went into the peanut store to buy more.
When we got to Lazarus, we saw the “Lavender Lady” standing just outside the entrance. She was another person who was always in the same spot. She was a small, thin woman who wore a very long dress. She had a cardboard tray in front of her that was held in place by a string around her neck. The tray was full of small envelopes that she sold.
On an earlier trip, I had asked my mother what was in those envelopes. She explained that they contained crushed, dried flowers called lavender. She said the flowers smell very nice. I asked her what people did with those envelopes, and she said they put them in places they want to have a nice smell. For example, she said people often put them in their dresser drawer with their undergarments. I thought that was really funny. I mean, why would I want my underwear to smell like a flower?
We spent most of the morning shopping. Then they took me up to the fifth floor to the toy department. Lazarus had a toy department that would make any kid think he had died and gone to heaven. I stayed there with my sister, while my mother did some more shopping.
Then it was lunchtime, so we walked to the Mills Cafeteria just north of Lazarus. It was my favorite place to eat in Columbus, and I always got the same thing – deep fried fish, mashed potatoes with lots of butter, and steamed spinach with lots of vinegar. If I could walk into that cafeteria today, I would get the same thing.
Whenever I think of that restaurant today, I think of another time my mother and I ate there several years later. It was on August 7, 1945. I’m sure of that date, because a lot of people in the restaurant were reading newspapers, and the headlines said, “Atom Bomb Dropped on Japan.” It was the day after Hiroshima was bombed. I had no idea what an atom bomb was, but my mother told me it was a new kind of bomb that might end the war very soon. I was thrilled to hear that, because it would mean my brother-in-law could come home. I really missed him.
Although we had eaten a late lunch, we still had a little more shopping time. My mother wanted to go across the street to a store called Morehouse Marten’s Department Store, and my sister wanted to go to another shop. So we parted company and agreed to meet in an hour in the lobby of the Neil House Hotel. It was on High Street, directly across from the State Capitol building. We always used that lobby as a meeting place when we were in Columbus. I loved that lobby … big soft, comfortable chairs, and gobs of interesting people to watch … like that little guy in a uniform who sometimes walked around yelling, “Paging Mr. Somebody-or-other.”
When we all met, we rested for a little while. Then, with our arms full of shopping bags, we set out for the train station. The train was on time, and we climbed on board. This time I made sure I got a seat that faced forward. And before you know it, we were on our way back to Marysville.
My other sister, Betty, met us at the Marysville train station and drove us home. I was glad of that, because I was really pooped. I had always enjoyed our shopping trips to Columbus, but going on the train, instead of in our car, made it even more fun. Maybe I could talk my mother into doing that again sometime.
(Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can email him at email@example.com)
...For the full story, select an option below.