Evening Post, March 5, 2015

This heavy snow that comes late in the winter has its own look.  The daylight, though grey with the storm, lasts longer than in mid-winter and in the early evening there is something about the grey and white as they fade into each other that is quite unlike any other scene or season.  I remember a few of such days in my early childhood.  By March all of us were tired of sleds and snowmen and weary of being held inside of rooms and we – maybe I should say “I” – vigorously sought some method or means of getting out of the house, breaking the monotony, but still staying out of the wet and cold.

For me at that time Roger Cooley’s store was a haven.  It was a store, of sorts.  In those days, when lots of older folks did not own cars and walked to buy groceries, there were such stores dotted throughout the neighborhoods.  On every third or fourth corner there was a tiny clapboard building with a candy counter and shelves of bread and canned goods.  Roger Cooley had taken things a little further.  His place not only sold bread and milk; he had a soda counter, jukebox and a linoleum dance floor big enough to park a car on.

I was still in elementary school then, and so the crowd there was older than me and took a dim view of my patronage of the place and that, of course, made it all the more attractive to me.  I remember a few details – the smell of chili dogs; the metal bases for the conical paper cups; the skinny straws, two to a wrapper; the signs hanging from strings on the ceiling advertising Sealtest ice cream.  All these things marks of sophistication in that world, in that day.

But the most memorable thing about Roger Cooley’s store was Sandy Drake.  She was five years older than me and in high school.  She lived just down the street from Cooley’s and I knew that if I could get out of the house and make my way there I would see her.  She wore sweaters and skirts and always a necklace and her chestnut hair was curled and flipped in the style of the day.  There were times when no one else was in the store when she would talk to me.  It was like she found me amusing.  She would ask me questions – about other kids in my class or what I was doing in school – and she always smiled and laughed at my answers.  She was the best dancer I had ever seen.

It is these late evenings in late winter that remind me of Cooley’s and Sandy Drake.  All things that have their day and pass away into the grey and white.

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5 Responses to Evening Post, March 5, 2015

  1. I remember the name “Cooley’s” but don’t have a memory of the actual place. Where was it?

  2. labeak52 says:

    Cooley’s Grocery was right across Hansford Street from Saint Timothy’s United Methodist Church (used to be the EUB church) Its right across the intersection from where your mom’s parents lived. The real place I was writing about was down across from the northwest corner of the Hansford School Campus, but I forgot what the name of that place was. It really did have a dance floor.

  3. Same Cooley that mowed grass in his later years?

  4. labeak52 says:

    I don’t know about that. Seems like the place that was the grocery store might later have been home to a mowing business of some kind, but I’m not even sure about that. Doubly unsure about whether Cooley was the owner of any such business. I have a very vague recollection of Mr. Cooley and it is probably wrong. But I remember him as a dark-haired guy with glasses and a bit on the heavy side. A little like Arnold Moore.

    Cooley’s was more of a real grocery store than the rest of those little places. It may have had more than one check-out line. He also posted those hand-lettered signs in the windows (those widows have been bricked over). You know, the ones like in Mayberry – “ONIONS – 5lbs – 27 cents.”

  5. labeak52 says:

    Jenny and her sister used to ride their bikes from their house on Benedict Circle over to Cooley’s to get popsicles.

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