Native Writes: Awakening memories

Who’s the oldest “old timer?”

A simple question on Facebook Tuesday night yielded a torrent of memories. “Name a business that closed from your younger years” proved many people amazingly up to the challenge.

Halfway through, I had tears in my eyes. It was fun, but literally dripping with sentiment.

Business after business was listed, most in downtown Alamosa and in the city’s “other downtown” south of the railroad tracks.

Each business had a special personality and “brand” and I remember these.

There also were unique people who owned them and worked there.

A&H Bootery was mentioned and I remembered the X-ray machine that let people see how their new shoes would fit. Mr. Martinez had his shoe repair in the back.

He was more than willing, my dad not so much, to put big metal taps on the heels of my shoes. My aunt bought me tap dancing shoes, which were a disappointment because I couldn’t wear them to school.

Martin Music stands out in my memory because the store had little booths where people could listen to records before buying them. We bought them because tape recorders weren't common at that time. The business also sold appliances and a marketing scheme was a washing machine with a clear tub filled with rubber balls cut in half, showing the agitator action.

Main Street had four drugstores with soda fountains. I had my first cola with peanuts in it at Sherman Drugs, Green River at Valley Drug, cherry phosphate at Murray Crow and carbonated water at Mt. Blanca Drug. So did many other old Alamosans.

Memories included the Grove and Rialto theaters, with Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the movies, where a quarter could purchase admission and a treat of some sort, usually popcorn.

Several persons remembered the drive in, a wonderful place to go with friends. I remembered the boys who washed windshields there, mostly for tips.

“Pee Wee” Wong and family ran the Grand Café and were followed by Jimmy Cockrum, then Jameel Joseph. He and his wife ran a restaurant there for a while and hung shields with “crests” on them honoring local families.

Velhagen Jewelers was mentioned, but not the large clock that stood out front. Many of us learned to tell time from it, along with paper plate “clocks” in the school classroom.

Beef’s Bar was mentioned, but no one recalled its true name was Joe’s Coors Tavern. Beef and his dad, Joe Ortiz, were a memorable element, along with brothers Frank and Amadeo Valdez, who served draw beer, as well as big bowls of red chili, complete with oyster crackers.

Across the street, the Victoria Hotel began life catering to railroad passengers and staff, then became mostly vacant before yielding to the hand of an arsonist. Most remembered “the Vic” for its bar.

Bottling companies sealed Dr. Pepper, Royal Crown, Nehi sodas, Coca Cola and other great refreshers into bottles, which many of us sold back to earn spending money. Some of us collected enough money for a day at Stampede in Monte Vista.

Clothing sales were big and the variety of stores immense. I owned a six-inch hatpin from the Leon Sisters for many years until I had children and gave it away. Mode O Day was a great store, as were Sweetbrier, Amaranth, Herrick & Olson, El Cid’s, Germer’s, Kavley’s, Gordon’s, J.C. Penney, still open and in the same location, Woolworth’s, Hesteds and more. We were looking good.

I could go on and on. There were so many special persons in the city businesses and some are still here with memories to share.

Many have suggestions for progress in the business area. Let’s listen -- Alamosa can awaken and thrive.