Memories of Street Corners, Kathy Pippin Pauley
It Was a Younger Town

Memories of street corners depress him.
Where the Walgreens department pharmacy stands --
southeast corner, 5th at South Grand --
a used car lot thrived for decades in earlier days.
Then a Top’s Big Boy Restaurant sprouted and grew.
It became a favorite rendezvous for almost 30 years.
His dear hearts and pals came for the salad bar, Slim Jim platters and milk shakes
after movies. The joint hummed!
And from downtown it was a breeze, a straight shot south on 5th to connect again
with friends for the breakfast buffet
after Sunday school and second services.
He had the makings of a responsible adult at the time.

Before the dance studio – South Grand at Glenwood --
thrived a second-hand store before
the office supply store before
the Avenue Food Shop before
the Sugar Bowl,
hangout of his older sister.
Sometimes he tagged along once with her
and her boyfriend, Mom and Dad insisted.
What a jukebox they had!

Today’s lifeless, dusty, pot-holed asphalt and dirt --
southeast corner, 4th at South Grand --
was home to a Ponderosa Steak House in the 70s
turned computer store
turned another charity second-hand store
that suffered before moving waaaaaay out to
the west side and thriving.

The airport past the southwest fringe of the city --
nudged to oblivion by encroaching residential developers --
was sold by airport owners for handsome profit
They banked their riches and moved out of town and why the hell not?
They hadn’t prospered, really prospered,
since the new airport opened north of the city back in 1947.

Grocery stores were once close-in to the south side --
Piggly Wiggly and later Eisner at MacArthur at Ash,
Jansens’ I.G.A. near 1st at Outer Park
National on Jefferson near Walnut,
Kroger – 2nd at South Grand,
A&P –  7th at South Grand across from Stuart School --
all gone broke or relocated west, leaving less and less
of a central city that glistened and sang in mercantile plenty.
Today it's abandoned by gutless wonders who grew queasy at the sight of brown,
who left behind residents trapped
by modest means and citizens proud of the city and unwilling to migrate away
from loyal neighbors who sneak peeks from cracks in curtains drawn closed and
watch sullen
malcontents in baggy pants and scowling faces
shuffling down the center of the streets; never on the sidewalks past empty lots
gutted of homes and squealing children
and left to rot in festering puddles.

The northwest corner, Pasfield at South Grand
was a Watt Bros. pharmacy with a soda fountain
that served cherry phosphates and chocolate Cokes and
sundaes any day of the week.
He rode there on his bike from home.
Later it was a King Harvest Food Coop, then
a gift boutique, then a fitness training club,
and today empty of life, but not of memories.

The northeast corner, Whittier and Ash, five lots north of
his childhood home on Whittier, two and a half blocks
from the duplex he owns today, the home he is afraid to see
NOT because he is afraid the experience will kill him but
because he is afraid the experience will not kill him;
He yearns to walk south to gaze like a thief,
on walls and grass that were his, his,
to see what was once a meticulously gardened yard
with the maple tree he purchased as a sapling
at a Lawrence grade school Arbor Day sale,
the house, the only safe harbor he would know down deep!

He didn’t love it for the 21 years he lived there,
didn’t praise his parents for their sacrifice.
One day he will summon the courage
to walk two and a half blocks almost straight south
and tour the alley he roamed regularly until
he was 10 years old or so and grew up a little past that phase.
Today as he lives, the grown man he hears the echoes of his childhood neighbors,
so close, so far away, friendly.
He holds in his nostrils traces of the fragrances
of his friends’ homes, Jay Bruninga, Phil Daykin,
the Wilsons, Wendy Booth, Marcia Blizek, Paul Tack,
Tom Keeslar, Charlie Allen, Nancy Gibson, Karen Gernenz,
Don Arenz, Greg Pease, every trace loved as gold
and everyone moved away.
In his dreams he looks into the yard from the alley,
reaches out from his heart and steals more happy memories,
sees the back door and one last time, savors
remains of molecules he shared with brother Bill,
sister Dorothy, Mom and Dad until
everybody moved out of town but him,
and the world changed;
and the world grew up around him . . .
and the world grew on without him . . .
and he remained
the same.

Job Conger