While I was in grade school, junior high, and high school, my parents often drove five miles north from Pine Village, Indiana, to shop in Oxford. My father dropped off my mother at Thelma’s Beauty Parlor where Mom received the tightest permanent on the planet. Thelma ran her business from a room in her home. To enter Thelma’s realm meant smelling the permanents being heated beneath the dryers that looked like astronauts’ helmets. Women, some of them delicately holding cigarettes, paged through magazines while sharing what my mother called “the best gossip.”
Oxford, Indiana: A Destination Away from the Farm
Having been born in the teens, my mother was in a generation of women that generally preferred curly hair to straight hair. As Mom’s hair was as straight as straight gets, she relied on “perms” to put her in the proper style. … and she wanted her hair curled closely to her scalp! Mom knew she could rely on Thelma every time.
My Father Posing with Chicks for Purina Ad
While Mom was in the beauty chair, my father and I were at Henderson Poultry to sell eggs. Dad and Mom had worked side by side to clean the eggs and to sand any imperfections from their shells. Henderson’s business was near the railroad track not far from the stable of the legendary Dan Patch, a famous pacer. (See my blog post on Dan Patch at http://heartlandbooks.blogspot.com/2016/01/legends-of-pine-village-indiana.html.) Dad brought several crates of eggs to Henderson’s at any one time. After delivering the eggs, he and I might swing by the State Bank of Oxford with its polished woodwork gleaming in the sunshine that streamed through the front windows.
Items Used in My Father’s Chicken Business:
Hanging Scale Tested and Sealed by State of Indiana
After Thelma had made Mom beautiful, Mom, Dad, and I might visit Messner and Sons Department Store, which was the quintessential clothing shop of an earlier time. I remember the shiny bronze cash register, the lightly creaking hardwood floors, and the ladder by which clerks could retrieve hard-to-reach items. Shirts and slacks were only two of many forms of merchandise on view around the room. I always felt proud to wear the clothes that my parents bought for me at Messner’s.
As a kid, I hoped that Mom and Dad might want something at Stam’s dime store, where I could walk up and down the narrow aisle and feast my eyes on the incense burners (which fascinated me) or the Christmas Nativity figurines. Occasionally, my joy knew no bounds when my parents bought me a kite or one of the balsa airplanes that snapped together.
A day in Oxford might conclude with the movie theater. Walt Disney animated films and Rogers and Hammerstein musicals were favorites, but, frequently, we watched Ma and Pa Kettle, as well as Francis the Talking Mule. If I were in good luck, my parents bought me a roll of NECCO Wafers or Life Savers. I held each wafer high enough to catch a little of the light from the screen so as to guess its color and flavor before nibbling on it.
Except for appointments at the doctor’s office or the dentist, trips to Oxford gave special meaning to the word “fun.”