Friday, June 25, 2004

A Walk Around Town by Frank Clontz

During my early high school years in 1953 I lived in the Chantilly section and usually walked from my house on Bay Street to Central Avenue; catching the old #2 Oakhurst Bus and riding to the intersection of Central Avenue, 10th Street and Louise Avenue. The old Colonial Store was located in the same building that Swing 1000 is in now and across Louise Avenue was Bennick's Drug Store. In the mornings I would walk down Central Avenue to the 600 block stopping to visit my Grandparents before school. The few minutes at my grandparents were extremely happy times because I had lived in that house before moving to Miami in 1947. In the afternoons I would walk with friends from school to Bennick's Drug store where we would hang for an hour or so every afternoon. I made some lasting friendships, helped Mr. Bennick with knowledge I learned working part time at the Soda Fountain in Stanley's Drug Store. I have very fond memories of those afternoons in Bennick's. The memories of those I knew are still fresh in my mind. Many of the friends I made have moved or passed on since then, however, their faces and the teenage laughter are still very clear in my mind. God, I miss them all.

On the weekends I would walk from my house to Independence Boulevard where Hanover Street intersects. Then walk to 7th street, taking time to walk around the remaining section of the Rose Garden before walking on to Elizabeth Avenue where I turned right, passing Central High School and on to 'UPTOWN' to Parker & Gardner Music Store. It was an every Saturday event in my High School Years. I would wait until there were customers in the store then I would walk in play a chord or two on different pianos then I would sit at one I knew was in good tune and begin playing. The customers would gather to listen to the songs I played and because I knew just about what was popular during their youth, I would have them requesting their favorite ones. I guess I helped sell a few pianos, after my marriage I played at Swain's Steak House and Parker Gardner made me a pretty good deal and the Baby Grand Piano I used.

After playing the piano most of the morning I would then take an hour or so and walk around the first block of North Tryon Street looking in the windows of all the stores. National Shirt Shop, Andrews Music Store and Ivey's on one side then make my way to Woolworth's across the street, stopping for a bag of fresh popcorn or just looking. My last stop would be Leggett's Drug Store where I got a sandwich and a coke before returning to Parker & Gardner's for another hour or so before walking home in the early afternoon. The things I miss most in life now is the ability to walk the as I did when I was younger, looking at the buildings and houses along the way, especially the beauty of nature in the trees and flowers. I would walk in the Rose Garden on the return trip; stretch out on a bench or the top of one of the cement-covered areas next to Sunnyside Avenue. I would just lie there and soak up the aroma of the roses and fresh cut grass. I especially liked that area because it, along with Independence Park, was my playground as an eight-year-old before going to Miami when there was no Independence Boulevard, imagine that! The first few blocks of Central Avenue carry some of my fondest memories, sadly it has all changed now but I still get a lump in my throat when I drive from 7th Street to Hawthorne Lane. I miss the walking; I miss my friends from Bay Street, Commonwealth Avenue and other streets in that area and I miss my youth. I know we can't go back, I guess that is why God allows us to remember some of the happy times of or youth and forget the sad. Isn't it great?

Frank Clontz

CHS Class of '55