As a child I had a recurring nightmare. By today’s standards this nightmare was not filled with terror or carnage but had a more “Hitchcock” induced fear. In my nightmare I was at the edge of the west lawn of the Newton County Courthouse, near the crosswalk. I was behind one of the bushes adjacent to the sidewalk. It was nighttime, the streetlights, which were not the current decorative lighting, were the old luminaries that produced a more dank, eerie light. Cars of the 1940 vintage were circling the square but were traveling in the wrong direction. A couple of cars had stopped at the crosswalk, which was empty of pedestrians. It was then I looked down and saw a burlap bag under the edge of the bush. As I reached down to lift this bag the dream always ended. For years I would wake up wondering what kind of unknown terror could lay beneath that burlap bag.
The dream went away around the age of eleven, but a few years later returned for one night. That time I was able to lift the burlap bag only to find, well, nothing. Whether my childish fear had been confronted and overcome or my maturing and growth had reduced fear a minor emotion, I don’t know. I just know that there was nothing there.
The other day I was driving or to be more precise riding around the Neosho Square in the correct direction when memories began to resurface. Memories of the people who made defined the businesses that surrounded that square. Businesses such as Mode-O-Day, Ben Franklin, Sterling’s, the ever favorite McGinty’s, McKean Paint, Neosho Hardware, Erikson Hardware, OTASCO (AKA, Oklahoma Tire and Supply Company), Mardick’s Furniture, Matter’s Jewelry, Floyd’s Jewelry, Jones Pharmacy, Evan’s Rexall Drug, shoe stores, more clothing stores, a liquor store, Sam’s Cellar (but not the Sam’s Cellar we know now), cafes, barber shops, just to begin the list and more that I can’t recall.
This somewhat different than the one that my dear mother would provide based on her memories of some twenty years prior. But it is a list that myself and even readers of my dear mother’s era will recall.
We can’t and shouldn’t want to go back to my list of even my dear mother’s list. Those days are passed. The downtown district is rebuilding. New businesses are developing, and a new direction is emerging. It will be different from the days gone by, but it will be good if we keep pressing forward. The way we shop, and purchase goods has changed, and this year of 2020 filled with new hurdles has only accelerated that process. This year alone should make the direction and current development of the Downtown District clearer and provide additional data that will assist in defining that current path.
While the Downtown District is not the whole of Neosho, it is a vital area that must not fall into the abyss known as the nightmares of our childhood.
-Paul Richardson is the proprietor of In Sane Marketing Solutions. He writes a weekly column, The Horse I Rode In On, for The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser.