I was at the library yesterday doing some genealogy work for RAGOK which involved looking in old newspapers. Not ancient newspapers, as a matter of fact, I think the oldest one was from 1977, but old enough. I realized how much Omaha has changed in just 30 years. For one thing, ground beef was only 65 cents a pound. Which makes me wonder how my roommate and I were so broke one week we ate nothing but potatoes because that’s all we could afford. Man, that was POOR! We really weren’t that broke all the time, but a trip to Minneapolis had exhausted all our funds until payday the following Friday. Those were the days….
Anyway, as I was looking through the microfilmed newspapers the names of long forgotton places came back to me – Woolco, The Golden Spike, The Muse (oh, yeah, I have a story about THAT place!), I can’t even remember all the places I forgot. I knew I should have written them down.
Woolco used to be where the old Saddle Creek Target store used to be until recently. My grandparents lived just off 24th & Harney as I was growing up, so this was were we used to go to when grandma didn’t want to shop downtown. – Woolco or the Richman Gordman on 36th and Q. Omaha also used to have a weather forecasting television tower. The tower is still there, but it doesn’t forecast the weather any more. It was just up the street from Grandma and Grandpa’s duplex, you could see it from the front porch. It has a series of lights on each of the poles near the top. If they were white, that meant it would be colder. If they were red, warmer; and if they were green the weather would stay the same. Blinking lights meant precipitation. So, for instance it was going to get colder and snow, the lights would blink white. In the case of a tornado warning the tower would flash all three colors. I only saw them do that once, and it just happened to be a Sunday afternoon after our local weekly trip to Woolco.
It’s funny how you can remember those things like they just happened. Miss and I had spent the night on Saturday like we almost always did, Sunday morning we went to church and then off to Woolco we went. I remember grandpa saying as we drove home that it was so hot and humid it just felt like tornado weather. We had gotten a game called “Cops and Robbers”, so as soon as we got home Miss and I set up the game in the living room and proceeded to play. I don’t think we’d been playing very long before the tornado sirens went off. I went outside with grandpa – much to grandma’s dismay and got to see the lights actually flashing different colors. I think that scared me more than even the tornado sirens. I had never seen that before and never saw it again. I think it hadn’t been a weather tower for a long time during the tornado of ’75.
Another one of grandma’s favorite haunts on Sunday after church – because we could stop on our way home – was the Damage Store. I think this place was owned by the same family who owns Kraft’s in downtown Omaha now. Everything in the store was damaged in some way, so it was a lot less expensive than items in a regular store. They had just about everything. Dented cans of food, smashed boxes of cereal, soup, pop, you name it. They had cosmetics that apparently either had the box broken or one of the bottles had been damaged because the bottles there were selling were often covered in whatever kind of product it was. Looking back on it, I can’t believe the health department didn’t close the place down! Grandma loved it though. There was another place across the street from the Damage Store called Unpainted Furniture – which is just what it was. All kind of do it yourself projects to put together. Mostly all the stuff just needed to be painted or stained. I loved that place! I could just imagine the cool furniture I could have in my bedroom; the dresser, headboard, and nightstand all painted or stained however I wanted it. I don’t think we ever actually bought anything at that store, but I loved to look!
Nebraska Furniture Mart used to be downtown too, on Harney Street where the Federal Reserve Bank is now. It was just a beat up building, but they sure had nice furniture, even then. Probably that entire store would fit in one section of today’s store. We’d cut through there on the way home from downtown in the summer because it was air conditioned and we could cool off.
Speaking of air conditioning, I can remember when not every place was air conditioned and our favorite place to shop was Kresge’s. It had a big sign on the door – COME IN – WE HAVE COOL AIR! Isn’t that hilarious now? Would anyone even consider shopping in a place that didn’t have air conditioning in the summer? We’re a bunch of spoiled, spoiled people. More next time. Maybe I’ll reminisce about drive ins!