Are you surprised that my recent birthday celebration brought to mind some of the places, events and other features that no longer exist in the area? On top of that, in writing last week's column, I was reminded of one of them and thought I'd attempt to devote a full column to some of them that have stayed with me over the years.
You probably have some of your own to share as well. Let me note here that readers under the age of 65 or 70 are excused from further nostalgia.
The one that started my tales of nostalgia was the memory of the building at the north end of Chehalis where the Greyhound buses would pause for 20 minutes on the road to Portland and allow passengers to either relieve themselves or sit at a strangely shaped counter to order and eat a hamburger (which I always remembered as tasting better than anything I've been able to find in the last 25 or more years). That entire building is now a paved parking lot.
And, I have nostalgic feelings for that monstrous cast iron stove that provided heat for the Oliver-Rickard Hardware store on the corner of Tower Avenue and East Second streets in Centralia. That building still remains, but is now Dawn's Delectables. The owner back then, Bill Rickard — after a stint on both the Centralia City Commission and city council — built and operated a place called The Keg and I, where that huge stove was part of the decor, either on or near the dance floor. I've often wondered what happened to the stove after that.
And that brings up why, to my knowledge, there's no place today in Centralia where two people of suitable age can have a glass of beer together and share a hug or two on a dance floor? I can remember at least five that existed back in those days, but they're all gone now.
The best music was usually in The Pizza Pub, which was closed down by Centralia police for dealing a substance under the counter that's now legal to purchase in several local stores. I've mentioned this before, but I'll never forget that after I was asked to present my newly formed Mark Twain performance there, those so-called bikers gave me my first standing ovation.
If she were still living today, I'm sure my first wife, Frances, would miss Gibson House. It's where she used to buy most of the material for the shirts and the dresses that she made so often and so well. And who wouldn't miss the old J.C. Penny store on the other side of the street with that show of sending your money to the balcony in a capsule on a cable and then having any change sent back the same way? I loved watching a similar payment capsule as a kid in Tacoma.
The person who goes over these columns before I submit them to The Chronicle, and who catches all the mistakes in spelling, grammar and reliability in these sermons, remembers fondly a restaurant called Rector's just north of the fairgrounds as a wonderful place to stop for breakfast when driving from Seattle to Portland in the days before Interstate 5 became the main route. "Homemade bread for toast and large platters of bacon" were enticing features of the place. I suspect some of you might have had your favorites there. From my early days as the evening disc jockey at KELA, I just remember it as the spot where young lads from Centralia and Chehalis used to meet for fights. It's now a Japanese restaurant, serving quite authentic food from that land.
If you have any similar favorite memories, send them to me and when I get enough of them to fill another column (a total of around 600 words) I'll pass them on. However, I'll close by saying that if you claim to remember flying out of that old airport in Centralia next to Borst Park, I might suspect that you're "joshing" me.
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.