O is for Overtown: An Endicott escape. Fifteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!
During my elementary years, Endwell had its share of small stores and services . But to do any serious shopping or hanging out required going elsewhere — and usually that meant heading “overtown” to nearby Washington Ave. in Endicott, N.Y.
When IBM and the Endicott Johnson shoe company were going full throttle, Washington Ave. was a busy place — with adults shopping on lunch hour and children roaming the sidewalks on weekends and in the summer. Below is how it looked in 1947 — and it was still going strong when my family moved to the area ten years later.
If a parent couldn’t drive us overtown, we Endwell kids could always walk — and we often did to go to a movie or visit the Elk’s Bake Shop and other stores. I well remember some of our favorite haunts.
The Lyric theater
The Lyric movie theater — at 102 Washington Ave. next to the Elk’s Bake Shop — was a favorite hangout for us kids. Boom, my maternal grandmother, was a big Alfred Hitchcock fan and took me to see The Birds there.
That’s also where I apparently became a critical moviegoer, judging by one of my diary entries at age 11.
I went to see “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” It wasn’t (too) much fun but it was pretty good. You could tell the squid wasn’t real. I hope to see “On the Double” tomorrow.
Around the corner from the Lyric was a soda fountain we kids frequented. That’s where I had my first cherry cola — the proprietor pumping thick, red syrup into my soda. So much better than the store-brand sodas we had at home!
Burt’s department store
For upscale clothes shopping, we sometimes went to Burt’s department store. It had the usual accouterments — a cologne area and specific departments for men, women and children. I will forever associate the smell of English Leather men’s cologne with Burt’s because they carried it when it first came out.
However, Burt’s was a bit too pricey for my parents’ everyday shopping budget — so we spent much more time buying run-around clothes and school outfits at Philadelphia Sales, the bargain store out behind Washington Ave.
Philly’s Sales, as it was popularly known, was one of the first big box stores in the area — predating K-Mart and others. During my elementary years it seemed like a treasure hunt to go there.
Oddly, my mom hated shopping — so my dad always took us for the annual pre-school spree. That’s when we originated the “meetup” –which my siblings and I still use in adulthood — where we were free to roam, but had to meet at the front at a specified time.
Woody’s Record Shop
Best of all — as I became a Top 40 fan — was Woody’s Record Shop. Toward the end of my elementary years, this became the go-to place for the latest 45s, copies of the weekly record chart and to look longingly at the albums — which I wouldn’t be able to afford until I had an influx of babysitting money in my teens.
The place was always jumping — music playing non-stop and kids crowded in to check out the records. Talk to anyone who grew up in the Endwell-Endicott area and they will fondly remember Woody’s as a key part of their younger years.
Up next: P is for Peg: My thirthsomething mom. Please stop back!
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