Small Town Memories


In Sunday’s paper there was there was a retro article about a fire in my hometown that happened during the 1800’s – just a little before my time.  Reading the article got me thinking about the town I remembered as a child.

It’s true that I didn’t live in the town but in a coal mining patch two miles away.  Still, this was the town we went to for school, church, and shopping.  It was what I would call a bustling town back then.  Stores lined both sides of Centre Street for about three blocks.

Anything you wanted you could find in town – we rarely called it by its name…Mahanoy City.  The school I went to was St. Canicus (the Irish school as opposed to the Polish school or the Lithuanian school) even though there was not an ounce of Irish blood in me.

I remember every first Friday my brother and I would ride the bus to town with my aunt who worked in a dress factory in town.  We would go to Mass for first Friday and then head up to the Mansion hotel/restaurant where my brother and I would have breakfast before walking the three blocks back to school.   All of the waitresses knew us by name and we knew them as well.  My aunt had to go to work so she would just leave us there to eat.

On the corner next to the Mansion was the Embassy.  If you wanted ice cream this was the place to go…milkshakes, floats, sundaes banana splits, burgers and dogs.  They had it all.

Two doors down from the Mansion was George’s, another restaurant.  Mrs. George was of Greek heritage.  The food was always good but the biggest claim to fame there were her homemade peanut butter and coconut cream Easter eggs made only around Easter.  She could not keep them in stock when she had them.  Another big claim to fame of Mrs. George was that she was related to George Maharis the movie star.  If you are old like me you know this name.  If you are young just ask your parents who he was.

Shopping was a bit different in town.  One clothing/department store that we went to was Guinan’s.  We bought most of our clothes there.  You couldn’t beat the quality and the price.  One thing that made shopping easier was that this store had a club.  Every week you would pay one dollar and get your book stamped.  When you wanted to buy something you could use the money in your club to pay for the purchase.  Each week the store would also pull a weekly winner from the names of club holders.  Did anyone else have stores that had a club?

Across the street from Guinan’s was my favorite store, The Toy Store.  That was its name.  Any toy you wanted they had.  As a kid this was a neat place to visit.

Town also had the 5 & 10 cent stores…F. W.  Woolworth’s and J. J. Newberry’s.  Both stores were neat.  The one thing that Woolworth’s had that Newberry’s didn’t was a lunch counter.  If you got tired shopping and wanted a quick meal you could eat and then continue shopping.

There was lots more to Mahanoy City than these things, but space is running out.  Maybe I will revisit it in a future post.  None of these stores exist any more except in my memories.  Pity.


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15 responses to “Small Town Memories

  1. I love this “flashback” slice!

  2. Sometimes memories are the best place to revisit because reality is often not what you want to see. Love this trip down memory lane!

  3. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. You forgot to mention green stsmps😀

  4. I love the small town atmosphere….and yes, I remember George Maharis…Route 66! What great memories! How fun to have breakfast every Friday with your brother at a restaurant…where everyone knew your name.

  5. Judy C.

    Yes, small towns were great “back when”. Now when I drive through where I grew up, the stores are all gone and nothing looks the same. But the memories are wonderful. Thanks for sharing yours.

  6. I grew up in a small town, too (New Hamburg, Ontario pop. 3,500). We also had a mansion that was turned into a restaurant, The Waterlot, but we never ate there. Most townspeople figured it was for out of towers. The only other restaurant was Stub’s Lunch, a diner. We never ate there either. Thanks for bringing back some of my memories.

  7. Oh, it’s fun to stroll down those streets in our memories. All the stores in my hometown have been replaced too. I think Zales is still there. There are new stores that I enjoy visiting though. Time marches on!

  8. I was fortunate, like you, and grew up in a small town. I would not trade that experience for anything in the world! Yes, it is a bit like Mayberry–but that is not a bad thing, at all! For the last 25 years, I have lived and taught all over the world in 7 different international schools in large internatiional cities. My mother still lives there and it is still a very close knit, loving community. In three weeks, we move back to that small town for good. I can’t wait!! Thanks for the memories!

  9. Good times to look back on, aren’t they Bob?

    Have you ever heard of Publix? It’s a supermarket in FL. I remember they had booklets like Guinan’s did (back in the 80’s).

  10. Oh please yes, please write some more about it. I loved this piece. I could see the streets instead of malls, the pace of life was so lovely as you described it and the little book to get the stamps in for the club, well, I would rather that than a rewards card any day. Such an enjoyable slice to read for me. Thank you so much. 🙂

  11. You conjured up such a vivid portrait of small town America. Such a loss that they are, really, a thing of the past.

  12. My great, great grandfather started the little town I grew up in. We moved to the city after WWII because my stepfather couldn’t make a living in the town. I loved the freedom I had, played with friends all over town, & my town was smaller, had 2 groceries & one restaurant only, one drugstore (where I sat for hours to read the comics). Good memories, love hearing about your town, and close cream eggs!

  13. I remember Woolworth’s and the lunch counter- not from a small town, but downtown Indianapolis. Many of the stores of those “olden days” are gone now. Topps, where my sister had one of her first jobs, and made her infamous mistake when she announced to all in the store, “Thank you for topping at Shops.” Trips down memory lane are so fun- I walk down yours and it runs right into mine!

  14. This sounds like a quaint, safe, and friendly little town right out of the movies! I would have loved to have grown up in a place like this. I hope you’ll right more about these memories.

  15. One of the nicest things about my old hometown is that much of it is still there. Not the Grants and Newberry stores…hmm. Only one of the drug stores… but all the buildings are still there and filled with small businesses. I do love remembering the feeling of going into Grants and looking at toys and eating at the drug store lunch counter. If you ever get to Maine, stop in downtown Bath. It can almost take you back there.

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