Every corner in Sedalia holds memories for someone, but there is one corner in Sedalia that must hold memories for nearly everyone who lived anywhere near this city during the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
That corner is Third and Ohio, and what made it memorable I believe was the Crown Drug Store that once stood there. It wasn’t the first business at that spot, and some people older than me may have fond memories of it as something different, but during those decades, Third and Ohio was Crown Drug Store to many Sedalians.
It was the place to meet for young and old alike. It stood out from the other stores on Ohio Street, with its hue-lighted crown sign that could be seen from nearly every spot on Ohio Street from Broadway to Main. Mothers could be sure their children would never get so lost they could not find that corner, and so it was the natural meeting place, after a hard day of family shopping.
The distinctive crown sign, hanging from the front of the store, was indelibly etched into my memory, or at least it was until someone placed a seed of doubt in my mind, by remembering it differently. This doubt sent me on a quest for an exterior photograph of the store that would hopefully show that sign hanging right where I thought it should be.
I talked to a lot of people my age and older during my search, but no one I talked to remembered that sign. My search for a photograph finally ended in the office of John Simmons, a man who works on the restoration of downtown Sedalia. Hidden at the bottom of a large stack of papers John gave me to look through was a picture that must have been taken from a scaffold or ladder setup in front of the old Woolworth store.
The crown was there just as I remembered it, in a picture that ran in the Sedalia Democrat in the early ’60s. The picture showed something else to be nostalgic about too — a street full of people. John Simmons and a lot of other people are working hard to bring those crowds back to downtown Sedalia some day.
Another thing I remember about the Crown Drug Store is the black marble tiles on the post that stood at its entrance. That post, as I recall, was reflective enough to use as a mirror, and primping teenage girls and boys including me took advantage of that feature whenever we saw someone of the opposite sex coming down the street. It was the ideal place to make sure your duck tail or pony tail was just right.
The teenagers that clustered around Crown Drug Store made it the focal point for cruisers as they took the drag. Guys and girls showing off their cars were sure to find someone at that spot, even if the rest of the street was empty.
The inside of the store had a charm all its own, and looked as if it had been designed for an old Andy Hardy movie. It had a long shiny bar, tall round top stools that were hard for small children to stay on top of, and long-handled fountain spigots, seen mainly in movies now.
I was fascinated by those wonderful dispensers of good-tasting fizzy liquids, and found as much pleasure in watching the people who worked there make the drinks as I did in drinking them. The Crown Drug Store fountain made the best cherry chocolate cokes I ever tasted, and to this day I have not found any better.
I remember how nice the ladies who worked there were too, and how they would add a little extra chocolate and cherry to a kid’s coke who took the time to be polite, and say please and thank you.
The Crown Drug Store was a warm place to wait for a bus on cold winter days, and a cool oasis to escape the heat of summer. I am sure the corner of Third and Ohio would have been a busy street back then with, or without the Crown Drug Store, but it wouldn’t have been near as memorable!
I never thought of the Crown Drug Store as a pharmacy when I was young, and I still don’t. I do think of it as one of the better parts of my youth, and as I drive by Third and Ohio, in my mind I can still see me and my friends leaning against that black marble post under the crown, watching the girls walk by. The old store has been gone for a lot of years now, but I’ll bet I am not the only one who relives a few memories as they drive by that corner!
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column runs in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.