When I look back at the chronicle of Portsmouth and Scioto County, the story develops into history. People like maybe you and I, want more information of the way it was. A chronological recording of a significant event (such as those affecting our city or county) – including an explanation of their causes. So I have embarked on a journey to share what it was like, “back in the day.” My imagination is my transport and history in print and people are my guides. So here I am in 2019 looking back and remembering what it was like and especially how the economy and the citizens have evolved. As I looked through the 1963 city directory, I was stunned at all the businesses that existed in Portsmouth 56 years ago. What happened and where did they go? The million dollar question!
So how about it, come with me, as I stroll down memory lane and see – what it used to look like. As a kid, I lived in a house on Sinton Street, behind what is now the “Scioto Ribber Restaurant.” In 1963 the business located there was – Henry’s Café & Restaurant – 1024 Gallia Street; across the Street at 1027 Gallia was Tom Barbour Auto Parts. Be assured many more businesses existed there on Gallia.
As I head west toward downtown, I could get a whiff of those delicious little hot dogs that were sold at none other than the Coney Island Restaurant, 1002 Gallia. The Coney Island Restaurant was a sort of an after school gathering place for kids, Portsmouth High School was just east of there.
Now I’m heading west on Gallia and pass The Eagles Club on the corner of Bond Street, right next door is Zelma’s Restaurant. Next I am passing Pittsburg Plate Glass, Portsmouth Paint Company and Henry Oberling Motors. Across the street is the Kirby Floral Company, ah, I can still remember the scent of all the beautiful flowers sold there. I might add that Kirby Floral to this day, is still located on the same spot. Now as I reach Gay Street and cross, I stop and glance at all the movie posters on display at the La Roy Theatre which was a scant distance from the corner. I walk a little farther up the street and before I know it I’m in front of the Lyric Theatre. On the other side of the street before I reach the Lyric is the Coral Reef Restaurant, Pine Bar & Grill and First Federal Savings & Loan. As I am nearing the National Bank Building, I pass the Criterion Men’s Clothing Store, Manhattan Hotel-Bar & Grill, Kay Jewelry Co. and across the street many other businesses. I now have reached my destination when I observe the corner of Gallia and Chillicothe coming into view. I stop and look South and then North toward Marting Brothers & Co. Department Store and observe my two friend’s John and Pete walking my way; and for the rest of the day we lean against the corner of the building. Just watching the people go by! It was Saturday and time to loaf. We greeted people and friends as we talked about anything and everything. This was before cell phones, computers, Facebook, Twitter and video games. Social media for us in the 60’s – was being there on that corner.
You may be wondering what the substance of my story is; my answer, I suppose – is that once the city was more active, now we are facing a new historical era, as we move forward. Is that good or bad? Time and history will convey to future generations the answer to that question!
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” ― Andy Bernard
Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org