On October 19, 2022

Saturday morning routine back in the ’50s

By Mary Ellen Shaw

The morning host of a local radio station who is fairly new to Rutland said he sees signs on buildings for businesses that are no longer open. He named a few of them and invited people to tell him what they miss about not being able to go to these places. Perhaps he wanted to know what he is missing out on!

That got me thinking about the places I miss from yesteryear. Although the signs for the businesses that I miss are long gone the memories are fresh in my mind.

It’s hard to forget a place that you went to as a child on every Saturday morning for years. That place was Elizabeth’s Beauty Mart at 37 Center Street. You had to climb quite a few stairs to get up there but nobody seemed to mind as one customer after another was continuously taken care of by the beauticians. The shop was owned by Nicholas and Elizabeth (Liz) Cupoli. My mother had a standing appointment with a hairdresser named Mary Breotti who went by the name of Bridget. I was too young to stay home alone and my father was working so my mother and I were a “package deal” on Saturdays!

I was never bored as I liked to watch the process unfold as my mother’s hair was washed, set and styled. Occasionally her appointment involved a hair coloring or a permanent which was even more interesting. Bridget must have been really good at coloring hair as my mother’s always came out like her natural color. I remember hoping it wouldn’t turn out blue because even at a young age I could tell how bad that would have been! Bridget was such a sweet lady…all 5 feet of her! I doubt she was any taller than that. The appointment often ended with us giving Bridget a ride home as she didn’t drive.

When I was old enough to be sent on an errand I was asked to go just a few doors down the street to Carpenter’s Pharmacy at 25 Center Street. They had a soda fountain and Bridget had a “standing order” for coke with extra ice. The latter was very important to Bridget and the ladies behind the counter were well aware of it. I felt quite important standing at the counter and placing the order. The soda was poured from the dispenser into a white container that looked like it was made to hold ice cream. The lid was put on and off I went with Bridget’s Coke. She would sip on it as she did my mother’s hair.

Bridget also cut my hair, so I got to take a turn in her chair too. That was always a fun experience.

Since just about anything you needed to buy could be found in a downtown store my mother and I always did a little shopping after the hair appointment. Attractive window displays drew customers into Wolk’s Tots and Teens and The Towne Shop. Both were popular clothing stores. The former was for young people and the latter for women.

For some reason my mother was a fan of “layaways” back in the ’50s. She could have paid for the items she laid away but if an item was purchased in anticipation of the next season it was “laid away.” She paid on it weekly and picked up the item when she was ready to wear it. My parents didn’t have credit cards back then so maybe my mother just didn’t want to part with her cash all at once!

The final stop on our Saturday morning tour of downtown was Bush’s Bakery on State Street. Buying their baked beans for lunch was as much of a weekly tradition as our trip to the hairdresser. I can still see the big silver pot that the beans were scooped from. I don’t think I ever left the bakery without a Dusty Miller cookie that never made it home. It got eaten along the way as I couldn’t resist biting into that soft cookie with a creamy center and topped with powder sugar. Delicious!

There might not be an old business sign in place to remind you where you went in yesteryear but something will spark a memory of those places. Looking back is a fun experience and the older one gets, the more “looking back” one seems to do.

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