A couple of times a year, normally before the start of school and again a week or so after Thanksgiving, my mother would take me to downtown Dayton, Ohio, to shop at Rike’s Department Store.
Just after daylight, we boarded the bus at the Wilmington Bus Station. We headed north on 68 to Xenia, where we switched buses, as we made our way to Dayton.
Our visits followed a familiar pattern. We rode the trolley bus to Rike’s Department Store to Second and Main streets. We ate lunch in Rike’s Coin Room, situated on the fifth floor overlooking the busy shoppers below.
The restaurant was a popular eating place with customers. The home-cooked meals were excellent, served on white linen tablecloths. Our family didn’t have much money so the thick drinking glasses, filled with sparkling, chilled water, were a welcome change for us. Our drinking glasses at home were often old jelly or peanut butter glasses.
One of my favorite things to do while shopping with Mom was to ride the escalators. She always took me to the toy floor where we would watch the model train display together. Then, we’d ride the escalator up the nine floors, just because she knew I loved to ride them.
Mom never liked elevators, but once she rode with me at Rike’s. I remember, a small, uniformed lady opened the elevator doors and let us in. On each floor, she called out the merchandise located on the respective floor. “Sixth Floor — House wares, appliances and notions,” she announced happily.
After lunch, Mom took me to the giant candy shop. Assorted candies filled the large glass bins that lined the long shelves; and we always enjoyed the smell of the hot, fresh peanuts roasting in the rotating vats.
Mom always ordered a quarter pound of nut goodies and a quarter pound of cashews for dessert. The clerk would put them in a small white paper bag for us.
After leaving Rike’s, we sometimes stopped at McCroy’s, or we would visit one of the local records shops where we’d listened to a few current hits of the day.
For some odd reason, one stop we always made was at the Price Stores at Fourth and Jefferson streets. The Price Stores offered a variety of clothing, but specialized in men’s tuxedos.
I don’t ever remember seeing a member of the Haley family dressed in a tuxedo.
Regardless, my mom always liked to stop at Price Stores. A large sign welcomed us through the doors – ‘Dayton’s Largest Gentlemen’s Clothing and Tuxedo Store Since 1950.’
A short, Jewish man by the name of Abe, complete with a measuring tape around his neck, would always welcome us to the store with the words, “Hello, Mrs. Haley. Welcome to the Price Stores.”
One particular day Mom planned to buy me a suit. Before I could open my mouth, Abe pulled out his tape measure, ran it around my shoulders, up between my legs, and then around my waist.
“Abe, I would like to get a suit for my son,” my mother told the friendly tailor.
“We have some very nice suits today,” Abe responded.
Within a few minutes, Abe returned with three or four suits all with different patterns and colors.
Abe grabbed my arm and pulled me to a three-way mirror. The mirror had a large sign affixed on top with the words, “We do expert alterations, and have it ready fast.”
After measuring me a second time, Abe then told me to go into the dressing room to try on a suit. As soon as I returned he said, “Mrs. Haley, that is an excellent suit, and it looks so nice on your son. Doesn’t that look excellent on him? That is such a nice fit.”
Mom nodded. Then, four more times, he did and said the same thing. Never did he ask my opinion. Mom picked out the suit and asked how I liked it. “It is fine, I guess,” I said as Abe placed a plastic bag over the purchased suit.
Many years later, I returned to the Price Stores to shop for a tuxedo. From the corner of my eye, I saw the familiar face of Abe approaching. I heard his voice from long ago, “Mr. Haley that is an excellent tuxedo and it looks so nice on you. That is such a nice fit.”
There was certain sweetness in knowing some things never change.
A few months ago, my sister told me she had found our Mom’s old, metal charge plate from Rike’s. She had found it in Mom’s old cedar chest, where Mom had placed it before she died.
The old credit card brought back a host of memories. We never totally lose the ones we love, as long as we remember the stories.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.