The news today concerning downtown Stevens Point may seem good to some people. But for those that recall what it once was like to walk that downtown street, well, we know the truth.
I will get to the news that broke today, but first let us take a walk backwards in time.
When I was a boy many….perhaps most….Saturdays were spent in Stevens Point. That was the place my folks drove to buy groceries, clothes, shoes, and just about anything else we needed. My grandma called it ‘the ‘Points’, but no matter what it was termed this was the nearest real shopping experience to where I grew up.
I recall how we bustled around and left our Hancock home about 10:00 A.M. and spent the better part of Saturday in the city. My mom looked forward to ‘getting out of the house’ and into the stores to browse. As a boy that concept was totally lost on me. How could anyone be amused by looking at bolts of fabric? But by the time my mid teenage years hit I fully understood the tug of browsing, and found wandering around music and book stores great fun.
Downtown Stevens Point was the place I would sit in the car at times with dad, in this or that parking lot, and listen to the car radio. It was there at noon we often heard Paul Harvey. We always waited for the last story that Harvey delivered and then his classic “Good Day!”
In my mind I can still see the lot across where J C Penney once was, or the side street where my dad would parallel park not far from Montgomery Ward. He often would look for that location as it was shady during the summer and make the wait more relaxing. My dad was never a ‘browser’ but instead would read the newspaper or mail that he needed to get caught up with from the week. Dad often chatted it up with other men in nearby cars that seemed to have the same Saturday occupation as he did.
Main Street was full of wonders when I was old enough to start wandering on my own. It was alive, vibrant, and exciting. My parents thought it too exciting at the far end where a bevy of bars were located and I was instructed to stay away from that area. (Like they were going to serve a 16-year old kid?)
So it was not surprising given the wonder of the main street that the local businesses were not gleeful when the idea of a mall soon was all the rage. I recall that one of the big reasons for such an idea was all the shopping could take place ‘out of the elements’. Who did not like darting raindrops or seeing the sun as they went from store to store? I liked the way one went from store to store. At holiday time many of the stores pumped music out into the streets and the whole place was just like an old-fashioned Christmas Card.
In time the mall was built, and large stores moved in for the dollars that would soon start to flow. It never quite was the same for the downtown businesses that made main street so wonderful. The unique quality of the street and the energy from it faded. Meanwhile the mall was stale and boring from the first day it opened.
Downtown was never the same.
Today comes word that a large portion of the mall will be destroyed. Long underused, and in foreclosure it will be repurposed for the Mid-States Technical College.
There will never be another kid living in that area that will be able to reflect back on downtown Stevens Point like I have here tonight. That is because someone thought the idea of a mall being bigger, newer, and better was the answer to everything.
Looks like with a technical school there will be more fast food joints and larger trash bins for the future of this once really interesting street. A street where there once was a store that I loved to go inside with my mom as the wood floors squeaked under me. (Montgomery Ward) As a boy I thought that was just pretty neat.
No one will ever again write of nostalgic thoughts about downtown Steven Point.