Last week we walked the length of Main St. in downtown Butler. This week we’re doing something a little different. We’re going to walk to school. And by “walk” I mean “click on images in Google Street View”. Our walk begins at the top of Brady Street, and we’re going to head south-west.
The walk I’m going to show you is my walk to school sometime around 1981. I would’ve been about 9.
You might remember years ago I wrote about the sitter Amelia. I won’t tell the whole sad story now, but if you’re in the mood to be depressed you can read it here. Anyway. Not one of my favorite people from this lifetime.
The point is, she lived in the house above. This is where mom dropped us off in the early hours of the morning, long before the school buses showed up. It was also where she picked us up in the late evening.
But on one particular school year there was some confusion with the school bus. I imagine the confusion was due to the fact that we’d just moved from one neighborhood to another, and yet the address where we were supposed to get picked up (the sitter’s) wasn’t either the old or the new address. See, school buses aren’t like transit buses. You don’t just stand at the stop and jump on the first one headed your way. You’re assigned a bus, and that’s the only one you’re allowed to ride.
I can’t remember how it went, but either we didn’t get a bus assignment that year, or the one we got didn’t make any sense. So Patrick and I had to walk to school.
If I’d made a fuss we probably could have gotten mom to straighten things out, but the truth was that I didn’t really mind. I’d never ridden a bus before this point, and I was much more comfortable with the idea of walking alone than being packed into a bus with a bunch of other kids.
Also, that parking lot beside Amelia’s house? That wasn’t there. There was another house there, although I have no memory of what it looked like. This spot is very near the hospital, and over the last few decades the hospital has expanded. They’ll devour a bunch of parking space to build a new wing, and then some of the surrounding neighborhood will be converted into parking.
The building with a red roof was a produce stand. Gorgeous place. I loved walking by it. Out front they had those large displays of colorful fruits and vegetables, just like the kind action heroes always plow through during car chases in movies. (Seriously, what do action heroes have against fresh fruit?) There were also flowers. There was a large sign out front with the name of the place, which was of course named after the family that owned it. I can’t remember it now, but the whole thing looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was a bit of an anachronism even in the 1980’s.
I see it’s a vacuum cleaner dealership these days. That sucks.
Across the street is… I don’t know what it is nowLooking more closely in some of the other Street View shots, it looks like it might be a real estate office., but in the 1970’s and early 80’s it was Kozy Corner, a mom-and-pop convenience store. Under that off-white paint the building is made of gorgeous yellow brick. I don’t know why you’d cover up classy brick with boring beige paint, but I guess boring people need commercial space too.
The Kozy Corner had videogames. Every Saturday mom would give me my $1.25 allowance, and I’d run up to the Kozy Corner to play the machines.
I remember they had Gorf and Star Castle. If your perception of the 80’s comes from current movies set in the time period then you might think think all videogames were things like Frogger, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong. But there were a lot of titles that were popular at the time but have since faded into obscurity. I quickly learned that Star Castle was way too hard for me. It was the more exciting game, but it was over too quickly. I didn’t have the skill to make my quarters last. Gorf was gentler and thus a better value for my 9 year old selfActually I’m playing fast-and-loose with the timeline here. I remember the Gorf machine being pretty battered, so maybe I wasn’t playing it in 1981..
Either way, fifteen minutes after walking into the Kozy Corner I’d be broke, sad, and waiting for next Saturday.
Let’s head down the hill…
We lived here. At the time it was white instead of guacamole green. This was where I lived during the Dark Year. Other than the garish paint job and that tree, this is pretty much what it looked like. It even has the same crumbling front stoop. (Or maybe they replaced it with a new crumbling stoop? Hard to say.)
The only heat came from a furnace in the living room. No duct work. As you can imagine, this did a really terrible job at keeping the upstairs warm. Now that I think of it, the downstairs wasn’t particularly warm either.
In 1981, this was “The B & B”, a family-owned corner store. The owner was named Barth, just like the gross diner owner on You Can’t Do That On Television. This was hilarious to us kids in 1981. He was a portly, round-faced guy with a white apron who ran a corner store. The dude was a walking cliche!
One day I was standing out in front with a friend, just to the left of the angled white door you see above. Barth was nearby, sweeping the leaves and cigarette butts away from his entrance.
I said to my buddy, “You wanna go up to the Kozy Corner?
“Naw man. I don’t wanna climb the hill.”
“But Kozy Corner has videogames!” I said urgently. I had nearly a dollar, and it was just burning a hole in my pocket.
Suddenly I got a face-full of bristles. Barth had jabbed me with the end of his broom. I stood there for several seconds, waiting for some kind of explanation. This was yet another baffling interaction with an adult for which I had no prior experience to draw from. The look on Barth’s face suggested that the poke was intended to be playful, but the bristles had kind of hurt.
“What? Why?” I asked, when he went back to his sweeping.
He muttered something about the Kozy Corner. Apparently he resented that we were going to go to a rival store.
But I think Barth took the conversation to heart. A few months later he added a Tempest and a Pac-Man machine. His place instantly became a major hangout for the kids in the neighborhood. Including me. Once a week I’d dump my allowance into a machine, and the rest of the week I’d hang around and watch other kids play.
On the right is a “Metro PCS Authorized Dealer”. If you look on Google Street View, you’ll see that two months after this shot was taken in 2013, the place was empty.
This used to be a much more interesting storefront. Before some vandal put up that appalling peach faà§ade, the front actually matched the rest of the building. It had an angled entryway, facing the corner. “Village Pizza” was there for the first half of my life.
How was the pizza? I was a kid. Kids have no concept of pizza quality. For kids pizza is completely binary: Awesome pizza, or NO pizza.
My dad took us here on a few occasions. On one day in particular, it was just after Christmas and my brother and I had recently discovered the endless hilarity of the song Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. I don’t know how many times we had the jukebox play the song, but it was probably more times than an adult should reasonably be expected to endure. The fact that the grownups in the place didn’t rise up and end our lives right then is a testament to the fact that there are still good people in the world.
I remember putting a few quarters into the 1942 machine there, which was an early proto-shmup. I didn’t care for the gameplay, but I was captivated by the massive scrolling backgrounds. I found it kind of frustrating that I couldn’t really examine the backgrounds while also playing the game. This was one I preferred watching to playing.
Before the big mall showed up in 1982, this was where we did the grocery shopping. I remember seeing the checkout lines with a cashier at every register. Behind every one of them was a guy bagging groceries. Then there was another guy who would help you carry your groceries out to the car if you wanted. In 1981, this modest grocer employed more people in your average afternoon than the typical airplane hangar-sized Wal-Mart does today.
This is the point where people start complaining about whatever economic woes they believe caused this. I’m not interested in that debate right now. We’re on a walk. All I’ll say is that it was a very different time.
Also, they had a Berzerk machine. I notice I tend to remember places in terms of what videogames they had.
We’re going to hang a right at the next intersection…
And here we are at school. Actually, I guess there are trees in the way now. That’s new. (But very nice.) Let’s pull around to the side to we can see the front door…
If you look at the top of this post you can see me standing in front of this same entrance exactly 40 years ago.
The walk is slightly over a mile. I did this walk every day for that school year. Even in the snow. While it wasn’t actually uphill both ways, I did have to climb a pretty big hill on the way home. At the time, the hill didn’t even seem like a big deal. Dang thing would kick my ass today.
 Looking more closely in some of the other Street View shots, it looks like it might be a real estate office.
 Actually I’m playing fast-and-loose with the timeline here. I remember the Gorf machine being pretty battered, so maybe I wasn’t playing it in 1981.
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