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BUSY BUCKEYE

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BACK IN TIME — Looking north from on Buckeye from Superior, 1950.

Perhaps it's because I'm becoming an old fogey, but the velocity of life around us seems to be picking up pace at a phenomenal rate. I believe technology is the underlying benefactor or culprit, depending on one’s point of view. Mine leans toward the latter. No one seems to slow down and smell the roses anymore.

Take the City of Firsts for example. Streets, roads and by-passes have made the landscape nearly unrecognizable compared to a short twenty-years past. Having the advantage of senior citizenry, I find the dramatic scenery makeover unreal. Having worked downtown for a couple of decades, that region alone is prime cause for comparison.

As a kid, I always identified Buckeye near the courthouse square as “the street where railroad tracks run down the middle.” Nickle Plate rolling stock made regular journeys right through the center of Kokomo, keeping shoppers and motorists on their toes.

Trains headed to Peru and points north, or Tipton and our cousins to the south kept town folk aware of their progress through noisy blasts from their horns and whistles. The tracks are still there but the iron horses and diesel electrics have gone the way of Continental Steel, Accurate Parts, and Cuneo Press.

Prior to parking lots overtaking the downtown landscape, a variety of commercial interests lined Buckeye. In an earlier article, we explored the Buckeye stretch north of Walnut. I'll address the area of Sycamore this go around. The photo accompanying this piece was taken in 1950 at the corner of Buckeye & Superior.

In June the United States, through a United Nations “police action”, became embroiled in a war on the Korean Peninsula. The medium of television was becoming the latest in entertainment and technological advancement. A young Richard Nixon was elected to a U.S. Senate seat from California and junior Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy's Red Scare was building up a full head of steam.

Kamber Clothing offered fine men's ware on the southeast corner of Buckeye & Sycamore as it had for over twenty years (continuing into 1964). Its side entrance bore the address of 108 S. Buckeye St. with Gerald W. Tunison as its general manager. Barrister Mark Dabrowski practices his profession from there today.

The huge Leath Furniture Store located in the ancient Alhambra Building on the southwest corner, parallel to Kambers, stood for many years until a disastrous blaze spelled its demise in 1960. Woolworth's erected a new store in its stead. Community First Bank of Indiana serves the public there currently.

Located on the second level above Kamber's at 108 ½ was Post No. 2714 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. 2714 was a veritable beehive of activity for a variety of gatherings. Weekly scheduled dances were a big draw downtown at the headquarters. Other crowd pleasers involved the popular fish fries and ham and bean suppers. Award ceremonies recognizing scouting and VFW baseball team accomplishments also took place in the lofty environs.

110 S. Buckeye displays a large “For Sale” sign on its facade now. In 1950 longtime barber Walter Dishon plied his trade within the small Uptown Barber Shop for forty-five turns of the calendar. Dishon's shop was a great place to chew the fat and catch up on the latest sports or political gossip.

Red Top Cabs operated from 112 S. Buckeye St., twenty-four seven. Telephones, in some circles, were still considered a luxury. Since the cab company was up and running at all hours, they offered their telephone as an emergency calling center as a public service.

112 ½ was an upstairs apartment rented to a Frazee tenant. Across the street at 113 was Tom's Do-Nut and Snack Shop. I can imagine the early morning aroma of fresh pastries, bacon, coffee, and earthy cigarette smoke. Murmured conversations, occasional laughter and spoons clinking inside mugs of hot java adding to the atmosphere.

At 115 S. Buckeye St. was office space for Edward C. Heinsen DVM. A fellow named Glenn Martin rented the apartment above at 115 ½.

Crossing back over, 114 S. Buckeye St. was home for Moore Printing Co. Its owner and founder, Otis. C. Moore, also owned an apartment above at 114 ½. 117 through 119 and 121 were vacant properties. Mrs. Charlotte Welch rented the accommodations at 117 ½.

Sitting on the northeast corner of Buckeye & Superior, across from the McGonigal Buick dealership, was Armstong-Landon Co's. Agricultural Implement Department. It was the official downtown home for John Deere farm equipment. Dairy cow milkers, combines, hay rakes, and loaders equipped with available peuria-treated baler twine could all be purchased a block from the city and county government centers. The Indiana Department of Revenue keeps track of tax dollars and cents there now.

Other occupied offices on that short stretch of Buckeye Street today include Mike Wills Electric, Edward Jones Investments, and The Nice Law Firm. That's a lot of change for such a small area. That's the name of the game nowadays I suppose. I wonder what time the train is due in?

-That's 30-