“Often in thought I go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
And my youth comes back to me”
(from a poem by Longfellow)
This section is about the history of the businesses in Downtown Knightstown. Most of the information I have been able to find is about the 1940s and 1950s but I’m including info about earlier years when I can. I’m presenting the information one downtown block per page. You can get to the other pages in this section by clicking on the links at the right side of this page.
This particular page is about the businesses on the south side of E. Main Street in the 100 block so let’s take a walk east from the corner.
103-107 East Main, (the SE corner of Main and Jefferson)
The Williams Company
The George Williams Company was probably the only true department store that Knightstown ever had. It was also one of the longest running businesses under the same family in town. I can’t find the date it started but I believe it was sometime in the 1870s or 1880s. The business was sold to the Goodman Co in 1945.
I can remember going in there with my mother during the war and vividly recall that it smelled like a department store. I think they had a wide staircase in the center of the store and sold a lot of stuff on the second floor but I could be wrong about that. It always seemed sort of hushed and dignified in there to me but then I was always easily impressed.
The Williams Department Store
A Williams ad from the 1920s
The Goodman Company
I don’t remember much about the Goodman Co. except I think they were more of a “dry goods” store than a real department store. They made some cosmetic changes to make the store look more modern and I think they closed the second floor. They were in business in that location from 1945 until they sold to P.N. Hirsch in 1952/3.
A 1947 Banner article about Goodmans
P.N. Hirsch & Co.
P.N. Hirsch had the corner store from 1953 until the demise of downtown Knightstown in the 70s. I’m not sure when they closed. They were sort of an early version of Walmart and had stores in a lot of small towns all over the country, only they were in the downtowns. The only thing I really know about them is that they were a St. Louis Company and I only know that because my wife told me she used to be friends with one of the Hirsch daughters. I know some of you worked there so maybe you could send me some more info about the store and some personal stories.
111 East Main Street
Thrift “E” Market
I don’t know a thing about the Thrift “E” Market except they occupied the building at 111 E. Main for a few years in the early 1940s until 1948 when the bakery moved in there. Before them maybe Oscar Canter’s “Handy Pantry” Grocery was in the space. I don’t know for sure…!
Daugherty’s Bakery moved into the building at 111 East Main next to Goodman’s in July of 1948. They had been doing business over across the alley from Mauck Lumber at 26 East Main since 1937. They made the best molasses cookies I ever tasted. They closed the Bakery around 1951. I don’t know if they opened in another town or just closed. I think 111 Main St must have stood vacant for a few months.
The Western Auto Store
Bob Thompson opened the Western Auto in about 1953. Lois Thompson Roland sent me a real good article she wrote about the business but I’ve lost it. I hope she can rewrite it and share it with us. Sorry Lois…!!!
This is the only picture I could find of the store.
113-115 East Main Street
I’m really confused about this location. My best reference for looking up what businesses were where are the old K-town telephone directories Gary Plank lent me. The phone books list more than one business with the 113 East Main Street address.,,,, thus the confusion. I’ve tried to cross reference in the old Banners but still can’t resolve the seeming conflict. I’ll list all the info I have and let you decide.
T.P. Wagoner & Sons Hardware Store
The Wagoner Hardware Store occupied the building at 113-115 East Main for many years, from the 1880s to the 1950s. It was a town institution..!! The Banner article is from 1947 and is about Fudd Wagoner becoming the sole owner of the business.
Here’s the inside of Wagoner’s Hardware Store at 113-115 East Main. This is probably from the mid 1920s. Wouldn’t it be neat to be able to go back and spend a few hours just looking at all the cool stuff in there.
Scotten, Hinshaw, and Avery Attorneys, 113 East Main
This is a good illustration of how difficult it is to gather historical data with any confidence that it is correct. I’m pretty sure this is wrong but I guess there’s a small chance it’s true. It was in the phone books for a least 10 years like this. You would think that if it was a typo it would have been corrected. Anyway, for sure, Wagoner’s Hardware Store was at 113-115 East Main for at least a few years. I don’t think it meant an upstairs office because those were listed as 113 1/2.
Here’s another goofy thing about the addresses in the phone books. This was listed in the 1948 phone book but there was also a listing in the same book for Willard Avery’s office with an address of 118 E. Main which is correct for his office in the Bank building.
Ratliff Jewelry Store
Ratliff’s was also listed in the phone books of the 1920s as having the address of 113 E. Main St. I guess it’s possible that Wagoner rented out space to Ratliff in their store but I think it is more likely a mistake that was never corrected.
117-119 East Main Street
Danner Bros. 5 and 10
Danner’s 5 and 10 Cent Store was a fixture in Knightstown for many years. They were located on the north side of Main Street at number 30 East Main (where Hopkins’ Furniture was) since about 1915. They moved to the south side at 117-119 when a new building was built for them in about 1940.
It was “the” store for kids what with a long counter with nothing but cheap toys and a display running half the length of the store of nothing but candy. It was my early idea of heaven….
Here we’ve come to the alley. We’re half way down this block.
121 East Main Street
Jolly’s Drug Store
Here’s another Knightstown institution…! Jolly’s was one of the longest running businesses in town history. I haven’t been able to determine the date when Walter Jolly first opened the store but I think it was around 1900. The store operated in different locations throughout the early years before becoming a business district anchor at 121 E. Main in about 1925. There was a furniture store (Sisson’s) in the spot before Jolly’s took over there. I don’t know if Walter Jolly bought the building or just rented the space. Jolly’s was at 127 East Main in 1919 and across the street at 126 East Main in 1924 so they moved around a bit before finally landing in the prime spot. They had a lot of competition too. I was surprised to discover there were no less than 5 Drug Stores doing business in Knightstown during 1924. Here’s a list:
J.T. Butler’s Drug Store at 28 West Side Public Square
Thos. N. Henricks Drug Store at 130 E. Main
Johnson’s Drug Store at 128 E. Main
Jolly’s Drug Store at 126 E. Main
N.W.C. Reeves’ Drug Store at 102 E. Main
Henrick’s had a short life in Knightstown but all the others were around for quite a while.
Here’s an Ad for Jolly’s soda fountain from 1941.
5 Drug Stores sure seem like too many for such a small town. Even 4 seems like a lot. It got me to wondering how many of them had soda fountains back in 1924. Soda fountains became popular in the early 1900 and were often located in Drug Stores because many of the drinks they served were “tonics” that actually contained stimulants like cocaine, caffeine, and opium. After 1914 and passage of the “Harrison Act” hard drugs could no longer be served and “soft” drinks became soda fountain fare. Then prohibition came and soda fountains replaced the bars as a place of social contact for many. They were certainly a primary gathering point throughout my school days…. And I’ll just have to wonder if any of the 5 K-town Drug Stores in 1924 had soda fountains cause there’s no one to ask anymore and there’s just no way to find out…!!
Flash…!!! Hold the press….!!! I just saw an ad from 1919 that indicates Johnson’s Drug Store did indeed have a soda fountain. The competitive spirit being what it is, it’s likely most of the other Drug Stores also had soda fountains in 1924.
The above pictures are a couple of shots of Jolly’s workers at their soda fountain. The top one is from 1946 and the bottom from 12 years later.
125 East Main Street
The Fort Hardware Store
Glen Fort, Ed and Kenny’s dad, opened his Hardware store at 125 East Main in 1935. Before Fort, Courtney Armstrong had the building and ran the Bell’s Hardware Store there. Fort Hardware was at that location until September of 1942. Mr. Fort then took over the grocery and coal store on south Jefferson Street at the Pennsy tracks.
Here’s an advert from the Banner announcing the closing of Fort’s Hardware Store.
The Economy Store
The Economy Store moved into 125 East Main from 133 East Main when Fort’s Hardware moved out. I guess they stayed there through the War years. They were a dry goods store. I don’t know what happened to them when Rody’s moved into the space.
Rody’s Department Store
Rody J. Woodums, Ernie Mooreland and Daj G. Jenkins formed a partnership on April 25th, 1946 and created Rody’s Department Store. Ernie ran the business and no one ever saw the other two partners. I often wondered where the name “Rody’s” came from, so now we know. I think they were one of the last businesses to give up when downtown Knightstown shut down.
I liked to buy clothes at Rody’s. They had pretty good quality stuff for mid range prices. I think they hit a pretty good compromise between quality and cost for a small town. I remember buying a couple of pairs of wool flannel pants and having them “pegged” by Harriett Moore. We used to wear wool trousers to school a lot back then but they had to be “pegged” to be cool.. (If you want to see an example of “pegged” pants, go to the “Music in the 50s” page and watch the video at the top of the page. The singers are wearing pegged pants.) I also remember buying some shirts and at least one pair of shoes there. I really don’t remember what they sold in addition to men’s clothes.
Here’s a Rody’s advert from the late 50s featuring my friend and class of ‘57 classmate Gary Plank.
127 East Main Street
Woods Drug Store moved into the building at 127 East Main Street sometime in 1940 or 41. They had been across the street at 126 E. Main since 1926. I don’t know who was in the space before Woods but I do know that Jolly’s had once occupied the premises.
During my school years they had one of only two soda fountains in town so it was an important place to us kids.
The owner when I was growing up was always Mr. Reinheimer. (We called him Pappy Reinstymer, but never to his face.) I’m not even sure if there was ever a Mr. Woods. Any given afternoon when school was out for the day the place would be packed with kids hanging out and listening to the juke box. Those were really fun times. I had to work most days after school (as did a lot of kids) so I missed a lot of the fun but I did get a chance to join in once in a while.
Wood’s Soda Fountain after school in about 1951
Reinheimer sold the business to Bill Siler in 1956 and retired. He was pretty old by then and I guess he just didn’t need the hassle of us kids anymore. I actually worked there for a couple of months during my Junior year. It was fun and I got to listen to all the latest rock ‘n roll on the juke box. In fact, I heard “Hound Dog” and “Don’t be Cruel” so many times I got sick of them.
Siler did some strange things but the worst move he made was to take out the soda fountain. I think he did that in early 1957. Sometime in 1958 he went out of business.
Flory’s moved into 127 East Main in ‘58 or ‘59. They had been over by the show since the late 1930s. It was after I had left Knightstown so I was never in Flory’s after they moved to Main. I’m pretty sure they restored the soda fountain, at very least they served cokes and ice cream. They also sold magazines, newspapers, candy and small gifts. I think they were in business well into the 70s, maybe longer.
129 East Main Street
Wagner’s Sample Room
Peter and Elsie Wagner ran a Saloon at 129 E. Main Street during the 1890s called “Wagner’s Sample Room”. It’s not hard to imagine what was sampled there.
The Kroger Store
The Kroger grocery store was located next to Wood’s in the late 1940s. I guess they didn’t do too well in K-town because they closed in 1950.
I don’t remember and I can’t find any info on who had the property after Krogers closed and before Jordan Cleaners moved in. Maybe some of you can help me out.
Jordan Cleaners shows up in the 1955 phone book and were there into the 60s.
I still don’t know who was at 129 E. Main during the first half of the 50s decade,
133 East Main Street
The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. – The A & P Grocery
The A & P Store was in business at 133 East Main in the 1930s and up until the Spring of 1941. It seems a little strange to me that they were located right next door to the Kroger Grocery but I guess it kept the prices down in both stores.
The Economy Store
The Economy Store Moved into 133 East Main in May of 1941. They had moved to Knightstown from Carthage and located next to Lord’s Grocery just one year earlier. They only stayed at 133 until October of ‘42 when they moved to 125 E. Main. I don’t know who occupied the space from 1942 until 1945.
Hurrah for Clarance Post..!!! He should be made K-town business man of the year every year… He and Rhessa came down here from Chicago in 1945 and opened The Post Gamble Store and Post Hardware remains open at 133 East Main today. It is the only business from the 50s to last to today under the same ownership.
I spoke with Clarance recently and asked him how the store was doing. He said they have always had plenty of business.
139 East Main Street – SW corner of Main and Washington
Well, here we are at the corner of Main and Washington Streets. We’ve come down this block so now, after we have a look in at Rihm’s, we can go across the street and get a wonderfully greasy hamburger and some really good fries cooked in lard at the “B-Bomber Inn” (B-29 Cafe). I don’t know what ever happened to addresses 135 and 137 East Main or 131 for that matter. I guess in the beginning they just skipped those numbers.
Rihm’s Meat Market and Bakery
Carl Rihm had a market on the corner of Main and Washington seemingly for ever and ever. Even before Rihm’s there was a Meat Market and Bakery on this corner. Back in the teens it was owned and run by Herman List. Many of my buddies started their working life at Rihm’s in the early 50s. Sometime around ‘51 or ‘52 they had a horrific fire and it burnt to the ground. I can remember the fire siren atop the old town hall blowing for a long time one dark night and the next morning I learned Rihm’s had been destroyed. Carl built a great new building but no sooner than it was finished, he sold the business to the Marsh chain of supermarkets.
Marsh had the Grocery on he corner pretty much throughout the 1950s and early 60s. I’m not sure exactly when they sold out to Ivan Wyatt, (one of our class of ‘57 classmates). Ivan had the store well into the 90s.
This is the end of this block. Hope you enjoyed the stroll. I hope to describe more ’50s businesses on subsiquent pages.