Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a man named Don Coder. He was commenting on one of my columns. He told me he is 10 years younger than me, and as a boy, he experienced many of the things I have written about.
Don said he grew up in and around Peoria. He and his boyhood friends sometimes hitchhiked to the “big town” of Marysville. It was exciting for them to walk around and browse through the stores and see all the people on the streets. If it was on a Saturday, the boys could even see a matinee at the Avalon Theater. Then they might enjoy a cherry phosphate or a chocolate milkshake at Earl Chiesa’s soda fountain before “thumbing a ride” back to Peoria.
I told Don that some time during the late 1940s, I recall taking that road in the other direction, from Marysville to Peoria, to do some shopping myself. You see, when World War II ended, a “War Surplus” store opened in Peoria. It was one of many such stores throughout the country.
All sorts of military materials that the government had in stock at the end of the war were sold there. The owners didn’t handle any sort of weapons, but they carried clothing and many other military supplies.
I don’t think I ever knew the name of that store, but there was a small sign in front that simply said, “War Surplus.” My dad took me on my first visit there. He bought an army field jacket that he thought would be perfect to wear on some of his hunting and fishing trips.
I really liked that store and after I got my driver’s license, I made occasional trips there to see what sort of new things might be there. On one of those visits, a shipment of “Bomber Jackets” had just been received. They were issued to Army Air Corps bomber crews. They were light in weight, yet had a wonderfully warm fleece lining. The cuffs were knitted and they had a soft fur collar.
I really liked those jackets so I bought one. Boy did I get my money’s worth. I wore that jacket in high school, and I took it with me to college. I lived in Colorado for three years where I wore it on many hunting and fishing trips. Then I wore it for years after I returned to Ohio. But it didn’t end there.
When our son, Dave, was in high school, he took a fancy to the jacket and he began wearing it. The knit cuffs were getting pretty worn, so my wife took them off and she sewed on new cuffs.
All in all, Dave and I wore that jacket for well over 30 years. That’s the kind of items that were sold at the Peoria “War Surplus” store. I really liked that place.
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org