Originally Published: April 30, 2011 9:55 p.m.
Downtown Prescott was very different in the 1950s from what it is today. Rohrer-Bloom Drug Store was on the northwest corner of Gurley and Montezuma streets with its U-shaped soda fountain where my brothers and I would sit at the soda fountain and have a treat.
Across from Rohrer-Bloom along Gurley Street and across from the Courthouse Plaza was the old-fashioned Piggly Wiggly General Store with barrels of items in front of the counters and things hanging from the ceiling.
Next to Piggly Wiggly was Franklins, then J.C. Penney Co. and F. W. Woolworth Co., a favorite five-and-dime store. Several smaller stores and businesses lined the block, ending with Eagle Drug Store on the northwest corner of Gurley and Cortez streets. Eagle Drug also had a great soda fountain. When my brothers were in high school, Eagle Drug Store furnished them with chemicals for building various rockets, chemistry experiments and noise-making, concussion-producing devices. They would fire their rockets from Glassford Hill in what is now Prescott Valley.
I remember long and narrow rows of counters displaying trinkets for kids of all ages in Woolworth's. On one counter near the center of the store, a square container with two inches of water in it displayed swimming hatchling turtles. They were about the size of a half dollar coin. Anyone could look at and touch the turtles with their fingers (dirty or not!). Some had pictures painted on their shell. When I bought one in 1962, I picked the paint off so the turtle could be natural.
Another favorite shopping spot was the J.C. Penney Department Store (now the Bashford Courts Specialty Shops) with its stairways up to the children's section and the furniture department in the basement. I would head for the children's section and then walked up and down the aisles looking at the innumerable nice items just for kids. The store was especially exciting at Christmastime when it was all decorated and a large tree was set up on the main floor. Santa Claus sat in his big red chair downstairs with piles of toys around him. My brothers remarked that the cashiers must not have been trusted in Penneys; money trolleys ran up to the second floor on wires where other people made change and then sent the trolleys back down to the cashiers!
On South Cortez Street, I loved to go into Goldwater's Store with mom and look at or sneak a feel of the fine, fancy, expensive clothes hanging on round racks. Near Goldwater's was the Studio Theater. I saw a couple of movies there with my brothers, but the interior was too dark for me. I preferred the open balcony in the Elks Theater. When I was young, I wouldn't sit in the front row of the balcony with my brothers because they dropped popcorn on people below.
One of the many great movies I saw at the Elks Theater was "Sergeant Rutledge." This 1960 film showed the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th United States Cavalry in the west in the 1880s. Several of these soldiers earned the Medal of Honor. Their story was filmed in Monument Valley by John Ford.
Some summer evenings, Mom and Dad took us to the Senator Drive-In Theater along Senator Highway about a mile from Gurley Street. We tried to get there early to prevent driving up and down the aisles looking for a space. I saw lots of good Western films. One fantasy movie my brothers liked, but I didn't, was "The War of the Worlds." I had nightmares for three nights.
Our family enjoyed the courthouse plaza on summer Saturday nights. We kids would sit on the courthouse steps and watch the Hoedowners square dance. Mom wore a long, colorful, pleated skirt with ruffled petticoat and Dad wore a cowboy shirt and work boots. The caller and band members were usually Dad's friends and he enjoyed joking with them. My brothers and I were ready for bed when the square-dancing was over, but on the way home, Dad told us about the people he'd met, where they'd come from and why Prescott was their new home. We were glad that Prescott was our home, too.
This article with more photos is available at Sharlot.org/library&archives/history/dayspast.
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