Times Staff Writer
Christmas is almost here. This is a time when people reflect on what's most important to them. Many adults go back to childhood memories and can still feel the special warmth and excitement they experienced as a kid.
Downtown Brazil evoked positive emotions for many who grew up back in the late 50s and early 60s. It was a peaceful time for most and life was slower. It seemed as if people had more time to neighbor and visit.
Brazil, like most towns, has changed over the years. But a vivid memory can make it come alive today as it was back then.
The Christmas lights and decorations were strung across the street at every intersection. It made downtown U.S. 40 look like one big, glorious, Christmas ornament, a virtual tunnel of multicolored lights.
Unfortunately, city officials feared that the red and green Christmas lights blended too much with the traffic lights and could cause accidents. So the strands of colored lights and decorations were taken down and replaced with individual ornaments which were hung from the street light poles. They initially were replaced with little carriage lanterns.
More than decorations have changed in downtown Brazil. Most of the businesses from that era are gone, also. G.C. Murphy's five and dime store was on the north side of National Avenue next to Shaw Electronics. They had a candy and nut counter with a variety of both that could be purchased by the ounce. And oh, those wonderful, fresh roasted, salty peanuts. You could smell them almost a block away.
The old wooden floors in Murphy's crackled so much when you walked that it sounded like you were sitting in front of a blazing fire.
Oehler's five and dime, at the northeast corner of National Avenue and Meridian Street, also had a candy and nut counter. Plus they had a basement that was full of nothing but toys. At Christmas time it looked like Santa's workshop.
The Junior Chamber of Commerce had a Clothe-a-Child booth in front of Murphy's or J.C. Penney's. It was there nearly the whole month of December. J.C. members manned the booth every night until about eight o'clock to collect money to buy clothes and Christmas toys for needy children. They played Christmas carols over a loud speaker that could be heard for blocks. Music seemed to be a theme back then.
Damm's Music and Gift Store was owned by Chuck and Edna Damm. They sold musical instruments, sheet music, all kinds of knick-knacks and cards for every occasion. It's believed they had the first Hallmark cards in town.
Overlooking the store was Nipper, the RCA dog, listening to "His Master's Voice" on an antiquated phonograph. Damm's felt like Christmas all year long.
Harley and Nellie Conley had Conley's Record Store which was located at the west end of town. They sold single 45 rpm records and long playing 33 1/3 albums. You could listen to the records in individual soundproof booths before buying them. The singles, which sold for a quarter a piece, made nice Christmas presents.
Clark's Sporting Goods Store was on National Ave. and Depot Street where Brazil BP Amoco is now. Janice and Larry Clark opened it in 1959. Besides the usual decorative lights, Larry had Christmas scenes painted on his storefront windows for the holiday season. He got local talent to do the work such as Roy Muncie, Tommy Glen and Bill Heath.
Brazil is different now than it was back then but some things never change. The Christmas spirit is still alive and well in Brazil, Indiana.