by Milt Huntington
Conclusion (for part 1, please see Growing up in Augusta: Priceless)
Down at the other end of the street was the old Colonial Theater where Class-A pictures were shown. On Sunday, after week-long previews of coming attractions, we would be rewarded with musical extravaganzas starring Esther Williams, Bing Crosby or Jane Powell in living color or flicks like Casablanca, The Wolfman or war movies like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. The Colonial played their movies continuously so we could sit through a good movie twice for the price of a single ticket.
Once in a cowboy thriller, an Indian chief, played by blue-eyed Jeff Chandler, stood in the middle of a pow-wow session, folded his arms and dramatically declared: “I walk away!” “Our Gang” had seen the movie once, but we stayed for a second showing to get back to that pow-wow scene again, when we stood in the theater, one by one, folded our arms and declared to the rest of the audience: “We walk away. People call them punks today. We were harmless “hooligans” then.
On the way home from the Colonial was Ed Houdlette’s Drug Store which was known to have a particularly vulnerable pin ball machine. We hung out there a lot because Mr. Houdlette was also nice to us.
Water Street is what I like to call a street of dreams because it conjures up so many memories of shops and businesses that vanished with our youth. Remember the five- and ten-cent stores that anchored the center of down town Augusta – McLellan’s, Kresge’s and Woolworth’s. We had ‘em all. I was a stock boy and soda jerk for the Kresge operation, but it suvived anyhow for awhile.
Then of course, we had JCPenny, D.W. Adams, Chernowsky’s, the Army-Navy Store, Lamey-Wellahan, Montgomery-Ward and Sears & Roebuck. A jewelry store graced the corner of Water Street and Bridge Street – A.J. Bilodeau’s. Another one sat on the corner between Farrell’s Clothing Store and the post office. It displayed a sign with a picture of a diamond ring. The caption stated: “I came here to talk for Joe,” a popular World War II love song. Speaking of Farrell’s, it once boasted just a single aisle between two counters with a little space downstairs where I bought all my Boy Scout gear and a tux for the senior prom. Nicholson & Ryan Jewelers was always there, it seems.
Near the bottom of Rines Hill was a liquor store where my father and grandfather liked to surreptitiously shop. They would always leave their change with the Salvation Army lassie who parked out front. Once, running an errand for my mother, I dropped some change into the lassie’s tambourine. When my mother questioned me about that, I replied: “That’s what Papa and Grampy always do.”
On the other end of Water Street were the beer parlors which gave the neighborhoods a shoddy reputation. Across the street was Allen’s Grocery Store. a fish market and Berry’s Cleaners. Depositor’s Trust Co. on Haymarket Square was on the ground floor of a six-story affair which is now the site of the Key Bank building. We’re talking ancient history, I know, but who can ever forget Stan Foster’s Smoke Shop next to the old Hotel North. He specialized in meals, smokes and some real great pin ball machines. Near the
Depot News was Al’s Barber Shop which took care of ducktail haircuts and crew cuts in the early years. His partner and relative bought him out and opened Pat’s Barber Shop at the other end of Water Street near the lights.
Swan Street and Water Street have undergone a lot of change in the last 60-plus years or so. Downtown was the main thoroughfare to all those movies, and it was the pathway to Cony High before the new bridge opened up. Most of those downtown places are now long gone, but the memories (some a little fuzzy now) will remain forever. I wouldn’t swap those memories for anything. Growing up in Augusta was as good as it gets.
Milt Huntington is the author of “A Lifetime of Laughter” and “Things That Make You Grin.”