Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The old days

Once upon a time…

Downtowns of small towns everywhere were bustling with activity. People in the outlying areas came into those small towns like Heavener, Talihina and Spiro to buy most of their items.

This included food, furniture, clothes, lumber and much more. On Saturdays, it was like a parade with cars and trucks filled with families descending on downtown to get the necessities.

We had plenty of stores and few vacant and boarded up buildings. This meant small businesses, which offered jobs and tax revenues for the local communities.

Highways ran through these communities, but most of the action took place in the downtown area, especially for Heavener and Spiro. Talihina’s downtown is located on the highway for the most part.

Now, if you drive through the downtown areas, most of the old and historic buildings are empty and fading fast. There are usually less than a handful of cars and trucks, especially on the weekends.

I remember as a child how nice it was to have almost everything one needed all within walking distance. We had Stanley Hardware, Wilson & Johnston, Ben Franklin, even a movie theater in Heavener.

We didn’t have to leave town for most of what we needed. There was an occasional trip to Fort Smith and the mall, but that was a rarity. Of course, back then Walmart was just getting started and was not a required shopping trip once a week for most families. There were no Supercenters or groceries at Walmart.

Most of the stuff at Walmart could be found in local stores. Plus, you usually got much better service, although a trip to Wilson & Johnston in Heavener typically included a heated discussion of national politics.

There are a few small businesses like those surviving. In Heavener, there is Rice Furniture, Bernard’s and a couple of flower shops. Poteau offers Bridgeman’s, Holton Hardware and Ollie Lumber.

Ron’s Discount Lumber at Howe is sort of a throwback to the old days and ways.

But those businesses are few and far between.

And I miss them.

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