A trip down memory lane in Durant

Don Harris

September 3, 2013

Come with me on a trip down Memory Lane in the Durant area. It all started about 70 years ago.

I lived with my mother and daddy, sisters and brothers around the Cobb area. Our family would come to Durant only on Saturday mornings in a wagon and team. There were quite a few cars around, but we just weren’t fortunate enough to have one. We would come to Durant on North Washington Avenue. The City Dump was on North Washington, and believe me, there was garbage and trash piles everywhere.

You can go look now-it’s been all cleaned up. We turned East on Elm Street where there was a house just here and there. Now they are everywhere. We came by Mr. Power’s house. He worked at the paper office. When we came to North First, we took a right at Stuart Feed Mill, which is not there anymore. We went down to the Jockey Yard and across the street was Market Square.

Now take a tour with me through Durant itself. My brothers and I would go up to the old pecan tree on Market Square where farmers were talking together. Do you remember that tree? It’s gone now, but it was a big old tree that would give a lot of shade while we talked.

We loved to listen to the tall tales those old farmers would tell. We would go take a walk by Newman Furniture Store and look through their show room window. I used to wish we had furniture like that in our house. Newman Furniture is still in business today, and we still like to look in their store windows. As we turned down Second Avenue, we would see farmers and ranchers talking, and a boy going down the street selling newspapers. You would see him every time you came to town. Next, we would go in Mr. Hughes’ feed store and look at the baby chickens he had for sale.

Across the street, there on Second, we would check out what movies were playing at the Metro and the Savage Picture Shows. Those two theatres were side by side so it would be easy to see what was playing. We would weigh ourselves at Mr. Heard’s Hardware. He had a set of scales at the front of the store and everyone would weigh themselves while they were in town. When we left there, we would go to Penny’s to look at the clothes and toys. They had an upstairs where you could buy things. If they didn’t have the right change, they would send the money and tickets down to the main office in a cartridge through a pipe.

Then they would send the correct change and bill back up stairs. It was really something to watch that work. Then we would go on to Third Avenue to the Plaza Movie Theatre and check out what was showing there. Then we would come by a newsstand and put our money together. Sometimes we bought a newspaper and sometimes we would buy two comic books. We then crossed the street to Main Street at Swearengin Insurance.

If you had insurance back then, you probably had it with Swearengin. It is amazing that they are still in business today. On down Main Street, we would go to Duke & Ayres and Woolworth to see what toys they had, but we never had the money to buy anything. We would keep on going down Main and go by the Ritz Theater to see what was showing there. By that time it would be close to noon. Our orders were that when the oil mill whistle blew at 12:00, we were supposed to meet back at the wagon. I didn’t know the man that blew the whistle at the oil mill, but about 17 years later, I married his daughter, the prettiest girl in Oklahoma. So at noon we would meet at Market square. Daddy would go in and get us all a hamburger and a soda pop. By that time, Mama and Daddy would have all of their eggs, cream and milk sold.

They would have the groceries bought and all of their business done. Sometimes we would have enough money to go see a picture show. While we are watching the picture show, let me tell you a little more about Durant. We would sell our corn at Mr. Stuart’s Feed Mill. We sold there because Mr. Stuart was a fair, just man. Down on Evergreen at Brooks Produce we could sell eggs, chickens and cream during the year and in the fall we could sell our pecans. A door or two West of Brook’s, we could buy groceries at Ed Harrison’s. He’s not in business anymore.

We could go on up Evergreen and there was Ivy Aven’s filling station and then First Baptist Church where they are still worshipping the Lord today. Back then the Post Office was across the street from City Hall. Now that the picture show is about over, I guess it’s about time to go on home. If you’ll let me, I’ll come back another time and tell you more about Durant as we go down Memory Lane.