I was born in Iowa, but I grew up in Evansville.”
That’s my standard answer when asked, “Where are you from?” Maybe it’s my twangy accent (Northern Midwestern mixed with Ohio Valley) that leads people to suspect I didn’t grow up here.
But I did. I have the memories to prove it.
In this issue, we’ve curated memories of growing up in Evansville. Through social media, family, and friendships, we sought narratives, photos, and mementos — “ephemera,” Creative Director Heather Gray calls it — to tell a story of growing up in Evansville.
We identified dozens of childhood memories from the 1920s to the 1990s. Did we catch them all? Of course not; please don’t be offended if your favorite memory is not included. But do tell us — nostalgia is a topic we love to revisit.
Here’s proof I’m from Evansville:
My favorite restaurant in the early 1970s was Robby’s Barge. Other boat or river-themed restaurants I enjoyed were the Calliope in Newburgh, Indiana, the Scuffletown Saloon, also in Newburgh, and Amanda Fenwick’s, near the former McCurdy Hotel.
My family embraced river culture — if a riverboat docked at Dress Plaza for excursions, we were there. I remember rides on the Julia Belle Swain and the Chaperon.
At Caze Elementary School, fourth graders could go out for lunch to Keach’s Restaurant, across the street. Hamburgers and “Benny and the Jets” on the jukebox form my memory.
I was too old (or so I thought), to be on the Peggy Mitchell Show or Romper Room, but I watched “Ride the Reading Rocket” with Miss Sandy (Sandra Altheide).
My father, a schoolteacher (so was my mom; she taught at Wheeler Grade School — that’s a memory) also worked as a bookkeeper and manager at Jerry’s Markets, so I have many memories of the grocery store located at Main and Division streets. When we drove Downtown on Walnut Street, I knew we were close when I smelled the vinegar from the Indian Summer factory at Walnut and Canal streets.
The mall — Washington Square Mall — holds many memories; I could walk there from my house. When I turned 16, I worked at The Main Thing. In high school, I worked at Tony’s Restaurant on S. Green River Road. It was owned by my friend’s parents.
Other restaurant memories include Evans Café (at Washington and Kentucky avenues, with its bright yellow chicken and dumplings), Happy Joe’s Pizza (it’s where Hooters is now), and our cafeterias: Wesselman’s, Weinbach’s, and the Cambridge Inn. Memories also take me back to Chelsea’s, Butterfield’s, and Das Kollker Haus. I remember when Jaya’s was a little place on Sycamore Street adorned with macramé hanging planters.
There you have it — just a slice of proof, delivered in memories, that while I wasn’t born in Evansville, I certainly did grow up here.
I hope your holidays are bright. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Kristen K. Tucker
Publisher & Editor