Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Downtown Charleston in the 1970's

I grew up seven miles from downtown Charleston. After I had gained sufficent maturity in my mother's eyes to be alone in the big city I would spend every Saturday the exact same way:

9:12 AM - Catch the KRT to downtown. 50 cents fare.
9:30 AM - Disembark the bus at the Charleston National Bank Plaza on the Summers Street side.
9:45 - Walk down Capitol Street to National Record Mart and wait for them to open the door.
10:00 - 11:00 - Peruse and purchase the latest album of my desire (Bad Company, BTO, Doobie Brothers, etc.), or...
11:00 - 11:30 - Walk around the corner on Lee Street to Turner's Record Shop. The place always smelled musty. I still own albums I bought there and they still smell like mildew.

From there it was a free-form bounce around town depending on the whim of the group that had met up by then, but some fairly regular stops were:

The Diamond
Frankenbergers - Only when my "rich" friends were along. Their parents had a charge account.
Silver Brand Clothes
Embees (only to stand outside and watch the young ladies come and go)
Kresge's (the only downtown store with a pet department)
Kessler's Jewelry (Pawn) - You never knew which Mr. Kessler might show up - the nice one who wanted your money or the one who shooed you out of the store "I don't allow boys in my store!"

And then there were the other absolute, never-miss, day-is-not-complete-until-you-go-there stops:

Sonny's Mod Shop - Incense, posters and the coolest clothes that made your mom cringe.

Arcade Books - or at least a stroll through the Arcade on our way to...

...Arthur Treachers Fish and Chips. I could not leave town without a belly full of greasy fish and chips.

One final stop on my way to the foot of the South Side Bridge where I would hopefully catch my bus at the very last minute before it left town (but I walked home more than once because I dawdled too much at...

...Lance's! O the joy of nosing around, in and through boxes of merchandise that had seemingly been there since WWII. I'm sure I never spent a total of twenty bucks at Lance's, but I spent hours upon hours searching for the perfect something. Years later, after they had moved to Capitol Street I took my young daughter to Lance's to find some widget she needed for a school project. It just wasn't the same.

Of course some days included movies, but that is another post for another day.


Stacey said...

Sounds like fun. I didn't grow up around here but your post sure brings back memories of my childhood. Oh those were the days.

Anonymous said...

What about the Peanut Shoppe for snacks and Pepperland to watch the older kids pick out bellbottom jeans and head supplies?

As for Lance's, one time my mom was shopping in there and Mrs. Lance was working behind the counter. Another lady came in and asked Mrs. Lance for some item that was tucked away upstairs. Mrs. Lance asked my mother to tend the cash register while she went and helped the other customer. Those were the days...

Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

The cool thing about Sonny's Mod Shop was that not only did they have clothes and bongs, they also sold police equipment like handcuffs and sap gloves. For taking care of those damn dirty hippies, I guess.

I can still smell the incense smell of Pepperland.

And right across the hall from Pepperland was Arcade Books.

Stanton said...

Pepperland always seemed to me a to be a little bit edgier than Sonny's. I think I went in there about once.

The Arcade, though, what a great old building. I nearly cried the day they tore it down.

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Shannon said...

This sounds ALMOST like a couple of my trips to downtown Charleston in the '70s, except that I am a girl so we actually went into Embees. I lived in Cross Lanes at the time and had a couple of older cousins who took me downtown with them on the bus for Saturday outings.

Anonymous said...

My era was the fifties and sixties for downtown Charleston. I remember the Scott's drug store and wonderful milk shakes as my favorite memory.
As for Lance's Store, I remember it well. Everyone in the family worked there at some point. Maggie Lance was always so very trusting and good. She has never changed.

JBL said...

Very similar to my own Charlestonian wanderings, except I sure wasn't looking for any Doobie Brothers or Bad Co. when I made my trips to NRM or Turners (which began on Quarrier St - bought ELP's PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION on my first trip there - and then moved to Lee St. where it remained till it died).
One of the great rages of my life occurred when I spent all I had on THE EXORCIST (at the Virginian, natch), a film I found boring and mundane in the extreme, and then discovered Genesis' NURSERY CRYME at Turner's, though I had no $ left to buy the thing. It got away and I didn't find it again for many years.
Don't forget Galperin's, with the big record section in the basement, freaky stuff like Tangerine Dream, Amon Duul II, and Magma, tended to by one Bob Jett, who also ran Unicorn Records for about a year, over on Summers St...and Londeree Music had some albums, too, mostly classical (bought my first synthesizer there, a really grade-Z Hammond contraption).

ElizabethJane said...

CHARLESTON in the 1980's....
Wow! You made my day! I often wonder if Charleston had the same effect on others that it did for me I am 44 and living in DC (ugh) I have wonderful and amazing feelings of Charleston. I grew up in Elkview but my father worked downtown and my mother love dto shop! So Charleston was and everyweek event for me. I modeled for the Diamond Dept. Store and Stone and Thomas as a child and have seen every nook and corner of both Dept Stores when I became of age my weekly routine was the 50cent KRT bust ride from Elkview to Charleston our stop was Capitol Street we started at the corner Drug Store and went from Embee's Cosmetic Counter, to Palmer Shoes, Mangles, Lerner's and SIDNEY's! Browed the jelwary shops for our "Lindy star and class rings" ended up at the Diamond and Stone and Thomas always loved the ;uch counter at the Diamond and The mezinne at Stome and Thomas would "look" at JC penny's and Wards then head to Turner's The Strawberry patch and go to OJ Morrisons to visit my Aunt (who worked there) look at the Hat Shops and Mary Jane's LOVED Woolworth's, Kresgee's and McCrory's and LOVED the the upstairs soda fountain! Grazino's for Pizza lunch and a quick stop at the P-nut shop, Pepperland and YES arthur Treacher's (sometimes) I think I saw my first air shoot (the think that invoices go through at Frankenburger's! I remember if I wanted something they would ask me my mother's name look it up in the phone book call her and CHARGE IT! Then 1983 came and the whole town "was SOLD" everything started to close! I actually worked at BUDGET TAPES and RECORDS in the old Danial Boone HOTEL and I bought a blouse on the last day of the Diamond being opened...we later moved to the Old Lance Store and What a WOW! David and Priscilla (owners of Budget let us go in and get set up the things we wfound were amazing! And very OLD! My brother still has a Movie Poster that DINO gave hoime from teh KEARSE when they closed.. Charleston has a million memories for this little country girl turned city mouse.. I have NEVER forgotten where I came from and I often remind myself it is why I am who I am today what a great place..I must admit I laugh when people say oh you are from WV? I just smile and remeber my world in Charleston at that age I thought it was PARIS! -Elizabeth