My mother didn’t get a driver’s license until I was about 14. Dad helped her learn to drive, and she practiced on the driveway. I recall walking down Madison and seeing my mother driving toward us. We waved at her, but she was so focused on her driving that she didn’t see us. That was sort of scary.
During my early grade school days, when Mom needed to go shopping during the day, we had to ride a bus Downtown. The suburban lines had a route adjacent to State Road 431 (Madison). Mom, Kathy and I would catch the bus at Morgan Drive and ride Downtown.
We started our shopping at L.S. Ayres, William H. Block and H.P. Wasson. I remember when J.C. Penny opened a store on Monument Circle. That was a big deal. We only went to Sears the late afternoon or early evening. It was located at Alabama and Vermont streets, which was out of our walking territory. Sears had stuff that guys liked. Tools and mowers were things that Dad could look at while Mom was shopping.
We often stopped into a couple of the 5 and 10 cent stores. Danner’s was always one of Mom’s favorites, mine also. The store had great merchandise for young boys, and we usually stopped in around lunch time.
Sometimes we met our maternal grandmother, and that was always fun. These trips consumed the entire day. On special occasions we might have lunch at the popular Ayres Tea Room, of which there is a wonderful replica in the Indiana State Museum. You can have a great lunch there.
The Indiana Historical Society in the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center is hosting its You Are There program. Guests can walk through parts of the old Ayres store and converse with actors portraying store employees.
When Downtown was the only shopping venue in Marion County, it was amazing. We enjoyed those trips. When I was a bit older I was allowed to go down there alone.
Things began to change with the opening of Eastgate Shopping Center. I remember Dad driving us out there for the first time. Soon, shopping centers were being developed all over the city. Southern Plaza was breathtaking. The big department stores from Downtown were opening branches at the neighborhood centers.
When I remember fun shopping trips, I always seem to remember going Downtown with my parents.
Shonk is a 1960 graduate of Southport High School, a ’63 grad of Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and a retired bus driver from Beech Grove Schools.