Friday, July 25, 2008

Comic Books & Ice Cream

Elnora was a very busy place when I was a child growing up during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. In just the downtown area alone, stores and other businesses lined the streets. It makes me very sad to see that most of them are gone now. In many cases, even the buildings are no longer standing.

However, other than my parents’ restaurant, the theater where I spent hundreds of memorable hours, and the hardware store where I worked for two summers, the Elnora establishments I remember most were Sheldon Eubanks’ Barber Shop and Robert Foster’s Drug Store, known as Foster’s Pharmacy. Both have been closed for many years. Sheldon departed this life some time ago, and I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of his daughter, Cheryl Eubanks Arney, who was my age and Bob Foster who also died within the past year.

After I contracted polio, it became more difficult for my parents to operate the restaurant which took so much of their time. My grandparents were my primary ‘babysitters,’ but about 1952 or 1953 my folks sold the restaurant and began working ‘regular’ jobs out of town which allowed them to spend more time with me. When I was very young, my grandfather would pull me downtown in my little red wagon nearly every day during good weather.

My grandfather’s health quickly failed during the summer of 1955 and he passed away shortly thereafter. My grandmother lived another two years. At the time of her passing, I was nearly 13 and convinced my parents I no longer needed someone to take care of me every day. I had grown stronger and was able to walk about anywhere I needed to go.

So, during the summers while my parents were working, I remembered those little excursions with my grandfather, and I would walk downtown nearly every day from our home on the east side of Elnora. It was about a half mile to town and the same distance coming back, quite a trek for a young boy who walked with leg braces and forearm crutches. My allowance was about 50¢ a week, enough for a daily candy bar or ice cream cone at Foster’s soda fountain. When I wanted to save up enough for a milk shake or some other special treat, I’d forgo my usual purchase. On those days I’d sit in the barber shop and rest while reading Sheldon’s comic books before heading home. Since I didn’t drive a car until just before entering Purdue, I continued my summer walks downtown well into my high school years, nearly always stopping at the drug store and the barber shop.

These days, I get a haircut about once a month. However, when I was a kid, my parents sent me to the barber shop every two weeks like clockwork. One Saturday, as I was awaiting my turn for a trim, I realized that I had read every comic book in Sheldon’s magazine rack and informed him as such. Without hesitation, he handed me a dollar and told me to go over to Foster’s and buy ten comic books. I was in heaven! Comic books were 10¢ each at that time and I don’t think I’d ever bought more than two at once. After I made my selection and piled 10 comic books onto the drug store counter, Mr. Foster asked how I came into all that money. When I told him, he said, “Well, in that case, you’d better go pick out two more.”

Sheldon Eubanks and Bob Foster were two fine men. I’ll never forget them.

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