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Downtown Owensboro Once Featured Monkeys in a Shoe Store

Photo by Dave Spencer

Today, out of the blue, Moon mentioned the old Anderson’s Department Store which is where the museum is now located on 3rd and Daviess. From that point forward, it became a conversation about the downtown Owensboro of old and how that was THE place to be.

I mentioned that the Owensboro Christmas Parade used to be held in the mornings with the thought that everyone would then spend all day downtown Christmas shopping. It worked. And, I also thought I should wait until Christmas to write this. But we were always downtown. Friday evenings and Saturdays–especially in the warm months–were often spent on 2nd Street…or 3rd or 1st.

Here’s the routine:

We’d pull into the Anderson’s parking lot where the attendant would give us a ticket. We’d walk across 3rd Street into Anderson’s men’s department. Once we were finished with Anderson’s–and that took a while with its three loaded floors–we’d exit onto 2nd Street and pick a direction. Let’s say we headed east.

The Owensboro Museum, formerly Anderson's Dept. Store (Photo by Dave Spencer)

We’d go into Interstate. Interstate was a hip clothing store where we’d always buy clothes just before school started. Interstate had the latest thing: iron-ons! Had to have at least one iron-on t-shirt to start the school year.

After that we’d walk under the bridge and go to Sears. But you know, now that I think about it, I don’t remember going to Sears if it wasn’t Christmas. We did, however, go right across the street from Sears to Hartman’s Hardware Store all the time. Loved Hartman’s! It had everything! I never understood why hardware stores, back in the day, always carried toys. But they did! And I loved it! Never look a gift horse in the mouth, you know.

Now, suppose we headed west out of Anderson’s. We’d hit JC Penney. How many of you remember it being downtown?

There was also Kresge’s. Now, here’s something I didn’t learn until much later in life. Kresge is the “K” in K-mart and apparently was the precursor to the legendary retail store. After Kresge’s, stopping at Kuhn’s Five and Dime Store was a must.

Now, there was another store called Newberry’s, but the only thing I remember about it was the fact that it had–just like Kuhn’s–wooden floors. Newberry’s closed when I was a little kid, so I barely remember it at all. Other stores I recall include Western Auto, The Louisville Store, and Tarrant’s Ties–a store that ONLY sold neckties.

The Louisville Store is long gone, but the entry way lives on. (Photo by Dave Spencer)

But, my favorite spot downtown was always Baynham’s Shoe Store. Now, I couldn’t have cared less about shoes, other than knowing I needed to wear them. But, I wasn’t there for the shoes. I was there for the MONKEYS! Yes, Baynham’s had two monkeys they put in one of their display windows facing the sidewalk. They were like babysitters. While the moms were inside buying the shoes, us kids were peering through the window at the monkeys. And they liked an audience. We always got a show. Best part of downtown Owensboro in the 70s, hands down–the monkeys at Baynham’s Shoe Store!

As for dining options, there were really only two and you couldn’t go wrong with either. Kresge’s had a mini-cafeteria and the food rocked. But we could also opt to eat at Ferrell’s. I ate there a lot with my grandfather. Ferrell’s was tucked into a little spot next to Interstate and featured a horseshoe counter. There were tables, but I always liked eating at the counter. Very cool.

I guess you can see how you could spend an entire day in downtown Owensboro in those days. So, it’s nice to see all the efforts being made to get downtown Owensboro back to a place where folks today can do the same thing.

Moon here, adding to Dave’s remembrances. If you’d like to hear an old Anderson’s radio ad, go to 1490womi.com.

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