Drachenberg’s Jewelry newspaper ad.

Ancestors, Legends & Time

Stores and shopkeepers made downtown Christmas shopping in the 1970s memorable

Jeanne Newby

Jeanne turned her column over for a week to Tom Hamsher, former Webb Citian, owner of the Minerva and manager of Mt. Hope Cemetery

It seems this time of the year is when we tend to reminisce more about the past. Having grown up in Webb City and also owning a downtown business here, I recall the days of the ’70s when shopping downtown was a special time and place. Marching down the street as a member of the Webb City Mighty Marching Cardinal Band, with all of the wonderful stores decorated, was the beginning of the holiday season for me. The streets would be lined with family, friends and citizens of our community. I remember all of the stores where I would go to get the gifts for my family and girlfriends. So before I go any further, you are probably wondering – “What do my memories of downtown Webb City have to do with the wonderful souls resting at Mt. Hope Cemetery?” Well, many of those individuals who owned those great stores now call Mt. Hope their final resting place. Here are a few of the stores I remember.

Minerva Candy was one of the first places special to me, and it still is. The Mallos family created many wonderful kinds of candy, but at this time of year, the candy canes and ribbon candy were the most popular. For almost 100 years, they provided Webb City, the surrounding communities and many parts of the country with their wonderful Christmas treats.

Drachenberg’s was the place to buy my mom and girlfriends that special piece of jewelry. Buying mom that necklace or a girlfriend that ID bracelet was pure excitement, knowing their eyes would just sparkle upon opening that treasure.

Leonard and Max Collins ran the Western Auto store at the corner of Church and Main Street. I could always find Dad something special to add to the mountain of tools and gadgets that filled his barn.

On the other side of the Webb City Bank was the OTASCO store. (How many of you remember what OTASCO stood for?) Elsie Cooper and Jim Lightle always had lots of special things in their store, many of which I wanted more for myself than buying for someone else.

The Nances had a wonderful furniture store. I don’t remember my parents buying anything there, but I recall visiting it on a couple of occasions. I just loved the smell of new furniture. It didn’t smell like the sweaty couch we had. (The couch probably smelled like that because of my brother and me, I’m guessing.)

I remember seeing many a movie at the Webb City Civic Theatre. Larry Larsen owned it and the Webb City Drive-In. Now, the drive-in was a place where I could share many memories about the dates I had, but that’s not the kind of story I write for the Sentinel.

Of course, there was the Merchants and Miners Bank, where I had a savings account. There were many great men whose names are linked to that great institution – L.J. Stevison, W.E. Patten, Ben Aylor, R.B. Dodge, J.G. Wilbur and W.R. Robertson. All of them are now at rest in Mt. Hope.

There was the Roderique Insurance office, where you could insure your car and home. The Roderique family was and still is very special to this community. The agency continues to provide services to its citizens.

Finally there was Taylor’s Men and Ladies’ Wear. Paul Taylor was very special to me. I remember buying my Levi’s from him. I couldn’t wait to get rid of the Sears Buckaroos Mom bought and get a pair of real Levi’s. I remember them being so stiff – long before the stone washed soft ones you get today. I would wear them until my legs chaffed before allowing Mom to wash them. And after she washed them, I had to have a crease ironed down the front. Everyone was doing it – I couldn’t be different. As the years went by, it came time for me to have a suit. Paul had many styles for me to choose from. I just loved the smell of new clothes in that place. There was something about that smell you just couldn’t find anywhere else – kind of like the smell of a new car. Those suits helped me find many new jobs. One suit in particular I so loved was the one I wore for my college senior picture.

So as you can see, many individuals made our community and particularly downtown what it was. Although the men and women have gone, and many of the businesses have disappeared, they still hold fond memories for me as a boy growing up in Webb City.

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber Office.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.