The World Within A Block From Home

This week, in place of our weekly Historic Postcard feature we publish the second of a four-part series of short articles by the late John Dods written exclusively for The Northeast News. John was a Northeast native who graduated from Northeast High School in 1951. Due to John’s involvement in the Boy Scouts, he was urged by the late, great H. Roe Bartle John to attend Missouri Valley College in Marshall. He then transferred to KU where he received his Law Degree in 1957. He went on to join what would become one of Kansas City’s largest law firms, Shook, Hardy & Bacon where he stayed for over 50 years. Between 1939 and 1946 the Dods family lived at 3614 Morrell Avenue. After WWII the family moved to 3514 Windsor Avenue where they lived until 1959. John’s short stories capture a slice of what it was like to grow up during a much simpler place and time in Kansas City’s Northeast neighborhood. The stories are set in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Professional photography of some of the locations in Dods’ stories were expertly executed by Historic Northeast resident David Remley.

STOREFRONTS. When guest writer John Dods was a kid growing up in the Northeast, residents had the choice of three grocery stores on St. John Avenue. Image by David Remley

In the Old Northeast part of town where I grew up, the “neighborhood” meant the few square blocks close to home.

Before the days of gigantic malls and distant shopping centers, small family-owned businesses dotted the major streets and every service was within a short walk from home.

Within but a block or so of our house on Morrell we had the choice of three grocery stores on St. John Avenue, all carrying the same products but each favored by some of the neighborhood housewives so that all seemed to thrive. My mom shopped at Navue & Simcox’s store, perhaps because Mr. Freeman, who worked there, was our neighbor two houses up the street. Or maybe it was because he always wrapped up a few scraps for my pet dog Popeye when I went to pick up the daily loaf of bread, always on credit ‘til the end of the week when accounts were settled.

There were two drug stores on the same block. Dorman’s served the thicker chocolate malt at its stand-up soda fountain but Hopkins’ down the street had booths where customers could sit and linger over their nickel Cokes and gossip about the neighborhood.

The St. John Theater was in the middle of the block, and an easy walk for a kid who had saved a dime to see a movie, especially a Saturday matinee, when the newest episode of the serials was shown, explaining how the hero had escaped the certain death he had faced at the end of last week’s installment.

The neighborhood cleaners were at each end of the block. On the corner of Monroe were the shoe shop, a “variety” store, and the local donut shop. Jack Doolin the barber plied his trade on one side and up the street another barber shop drew customers from just a block away. Two diners were almost opposite each other near Askew, both with swiveling stools along Formica countertops.

On one corner was a tavern, a taboo mystery to us neighborhood kids, where we were sternly told by parents we could not go, in spite of the allure of dim lights, juke box music and the loud laughter of men home from a hard day’s work at the factories.

A hobby shop, with its model airplane kits and supply of balsa wood, was a hangout for boys fascinated by airplanes. Just up the street was the neighborhood garage, where cast-off inner tubes were kept in a box, to be given to us just for the asking to be cut into ammunition for rubber band guns.

Almost all those small neighborhood shops are long gone. They, like the people of the old neighborhood, have been lured to suburbs, with their malls, chain stores and vast parking lots. That old neighborhood, where everyone knew each other and kids could never escape some parent’s eye, had a feeling of closeness and sense of belonging that’s missing from my suburban subdivision.

Sometimes I’d like to just walk to the corner, hang out with my buddies and chip in to buy and share a chocolate malt or jelly donut.

John C. Dods

Comments are closed.

  • Phantastics perform at Kansas City Museum; prelude to eclipse

    August 16th, 2017

    Northeast News Hundreds of local residents came out to the Kansas City Museum (3218 Gladstone) on Friday, August 11, for […]

    Northeast student musicians bring harmony to Royals game

    August 16th, 2017

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of thousands of people would be daunting enough. But […]

    The friendly neighborhood war hero

    August 16th, 2017

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News Dick Seidelman was never short of opinions. Those who met him at neighborhood meetings will […]

    Local artists sprucing up the Historic Northeast

    August 16th, 2017

    By Bryan Stalder Northeast News When Hector Casanova Cinderhouse began teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute, he wanted to […]

    Notorious Northeast burglar sentenced to 12 years in prison

    August 11th, 2017

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News Gladstone. Park. Windsor. Garfield. Benton. Historic Northeast residents from each of these streets were terrorized […]

  • My time at Northeast News

    August 9th, 2017

    by Abby Cambiano Northeast News After 34 articles, a Back to School issue, 257 hours and 2,000+ more miles on […]

    Heap of the Week

    August 2nd, 2017

    This week’s Northeast News heap of the week is a real doozy! Located in the Indian Mound neighborhood, 5507 Smart […]

    Streetcar expansion highlights special election on August 8

    August 2nd, 2017

    By Abby Cambiano Northeast News On August 8, 2017, registered voters in Kansas City will be able to participate in […]

    Sheffield Neighborhood stalwart Dick Seidelman passes away

    August 1st, 2017

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News Sheffield Neighborhood Association President Mark Morales informed neighbors and community leaders on Tuesday, August 1 […]

    Budd Park Community Day

    July 26th, 2017

    Northeast News Saturday, July 22 was the second Budd Park Community Day, an event organized by the efforts of LifeConnection […]

  • What’s Happening

    New app allows the public to follow, assist emergency services

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News A new phone app allows the general public the feel the pulse of the City […]

    Memories of the 1908 flood

    By M. Bushnell The Northeast News This week’s postcard shows the result of countless days of rain and the lack […]

    Northeast Chamber’s incubator hatches with pop-up event

    Paul Thompson Northeast News Several area businesses convened at the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Global Growth (EGG) […]

  • Local Weather

  • [Advertisement.]