Overtown: An Endicott escape #AtoZChallenge

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.

https://www.facebook.com/EndicottHistoryandHeritageCenter
Washington Ave. in Endicott, N.Y. in 1947. This commercial street in Endicott was still going strong when we moved to Endwell ten years later. During my elementary years, I loved going overtown to the movies or to shop on Washington Ave. Photo: Endicott History and Heritage Center

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.

Former Lyric theater building Endicott, NY (1993). Now the Endicott Performing Arts Center, the Lyric was a favorite childhood haunt — and where I saw “The Birds” with my grandmother. Photo: Molly Charboneau

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.

Burt’s department store in Endicott, N.Y. (1993). Burt’s was the place for upscale shopping on Washington Ave. — with a cologne counter up front and men’s, women’s and children’s departments for clothes shopping. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Philadelphia Sales

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.

Philadelphia Sales in Endicott, N.Y. (1993). My family was on a budget so we spent much more time buying run-around clothes and school outfits at Philadelphia Sales, the bargain store out behind Washington Ave. Photo: Molly Charboneau

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.

Former Woody’s Record Shop storefront in Endicott, N.Y. (1993). In my elementary years, Woody’s  was always jumping — music playing non-stop and kids crowded in to check out the records and the latest Top 40 chart. That’s my friend Marilyn in the doorway during our 25th high school reunion visit. Photo: Molly Charboneau

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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10 thoughts on “Overtown: An Endicott escape #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I have a lot of memories of the shopping area where I grew up in the Bronx (New York City), the bargain basement in one department store, my Mom shopping for stockings (pre-panty hose) with the seam – she was still able to find them even in my early childhood. I also remember (working in Endicott from 1987 to 1997) doing a lot of shopping in Burts (until it went under) and Philly Sales. I can’t say I miss Burts that much but I sure miss Philly Sales.

    1. I agree. I was really glad I got to visit Philly’s Sales one last time in 1993. Was so sorry to see it closed the next time I came to town. So many family memories of shopping there — similar to yours from the Bronx.

  2. Shopping was different then wasn’t it? So many of our stores from then are closed and long gone. I think my daughters would have loved to step back in time to those dime stores, home-owned department stores and old theaters. Good times! My eldest has began collecting record albums tho. The sound is different so guess that’s what appeals to their generation.

  3. We only had a few downtown stores although there was a great little movie theater that was always fun. Malls had started being the go to shopping place once I was old enough to be out hanging with friends.Weekends In Maine

  4. We lived out of town and when older we could bike there though it took a while and we had to cross a busy highway bridge. My parents usually drove us. Our movie house was called The Film Box and I saw many great movies there.
    There were no box stores there, the main store was D’Aoust that had almost everything… we always got our shoes, school uniforms and jeans there. At the counter you gave your money and the sales lady put the written bill and the money in a little “car” that she attached to a humming track beside her. The little car went up and all around the store and up to the glassed in office on the next floor. There a person made your change and sent the car back down the track. The descendants took it all out and modernized the store just a few years ago.
    To go to Woolworths we had to go further afield. At the lunch counter my favourite thing was a cinnamon bun, cut in half and toasted on the grill, then dripping with butter! Mmmmmm. Very Québécois!

    1. Oh, I thought of something else. I didn’t have much money either, just from babysitting, so couldn’t afford records. I would wait until the local place that had a jukebox switched out their 45s for newer hits and they’d put the older ones on sale 25¢ each or 5 /$1. Whoohooo!

  5. Excellent sharing from your childhood days. I don’t remember the name of the early big box store where we shopped…definitely cheaper than the wonderful old department stores in St. Louis.

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