My father was a conductor for the New York Central Railroad. We lived in the country in Charleston, Illinois on 10 acres. Dad was gone a lot of the time due to his job. We looked so forward to when he would come home. Of course, we loved seeing him, but we also looked forward to going places with him.
When he was home, on payday, we always went to the neighboring town, Mattoon and picked up his paycheck from the “yard”. The Big Four railroad yard was in Mattoon and that is where he worked out of. We sometimes would shop at Warehouse Sales. It was like the Walmart of today and we would have such fun exploring the toys. I remember that we always got our tennis shoes from there. It is where Kull Lumber is today. We would stop at the original “Burger King” in town and get a bag of tomato burgers – I remember when they were 6 for $1.00 so they may have been even less then! Yummy! What a treat. To this day, they still have the best hamburgers.
We would visit our cousins who lived in Mattoon and get to play with them as well. We use to all live on the same street and one family lived across the street until we moved to Charleston. When we were at our cousin’s house, we would play under a great big weeping willow tree. It was so full that we could get underneath it and sit and talk and not be seen by others, or so we thought. They also had a garage filled with toys that we would play with! We always played some sort of action game that my cousins would think up. They were both boys and my little brother made up three boys that I had to play with. There was a show on television, Route 66. My cousins each would play the part of one of them, Buz Murdock and Tod Stiles. I do not remember what part my brother and I would play, but that was their role. I say I had to play with them but I did not “have” to. It was either that or the older girl cousins would play with my hair as they played hairdresser. My uncle would tell us that if we picked up the cigarette butts out of the yard, we could have a penny for each one we found and threw away. Of course, we did this!
There was a little grocery store right beside their back yard there named Llewellyn’s. We would take our hard earned money and go get some candy! We could get a small bag of candy each. My favorites candies were sixlets and the hot dog gum, it was red and shaped like a little hot dog. I loved the flavor of that gum! I also liked the sheets of paper with colored candy dots on it. Sometimes I would get the six pack of paraffin pop bottles with flavored kool-aid inside. The bottles could serve as flavorless chewing gum later. Of course, my all time favorite candy, and still to this day, was tootsie rolls. We would all get different candies and then share. There was lik-m-aid which was like a kool-aid powder that you ate with a stick or a plastic spoon. Today, the spoon to dip with is edible too! Share below in the comments what your favorite candy was. I had several but this was just a few to name. Peanut butter bars were delicious too, they were a hard candy with a sort of softer filling inside and bit-o-honey came in close after that.
I guess that the store was owned by two sisters, Florence and Katherine. I do not know which one was which, but one of the sisters was always behind the counter and one was on a stool in the corner when you walked in. They both would smile and say hello. They were so nice that it was such fun to go there. That is my memory, some may differ with their opinion, but that is what I remember. Later in life, I heard about a story about The Mad Gasser, their brother, Farley. He was “gassing” people in Mattoon.
On the way home from our day out, Dad would stop and get some beverages. Us three children were allowed our choice of soda. The sodas came in glass bottles then. I always got a chocolate soda, Chocola. The bottom of the bottle was darker brown from the settlement of the chocolate and you had to shake it up before you drank it. I think I always got this due to the fun in shaking the bottle. Haha!
The road we took home from Mattoon to Charleston had a very small hill. Dad would say hold your bottles and we all would stick our fingers in our bottles to plug them up and he would speed up a bit over the hill. It always took our stomachs away! We could not wait to get to this part in the road. I can so vividly remember the three of us with our fingers in our bottles, laughing and saying “Wheeeeee!!!!” What fun times we had!