ANDERSON — Delco is gone. So is Guide. Not much is familiar about downtown Anderson. Or most of the neighborhoods.
So what if anything does one recognize if they come back to the Madison County seat after half a lifetime of absence? More than you would realize.
Start with Shadyside Park. Oh, the perimeter has changed somewhat, and they don’t play softball there anymore (it’s now Little League baseball). But the core surrounding the valley would be quickly recognizable even by old-timers who insist there were bears in the cage just below Broadway.
Heading toward downtown, the old building that once served the Interurban line is still there, and next to it the old Brown’s Recreation, still looking as if it’s waiting for bowlers who never come anymore. And the dairy, even if it isn’t Best Ever these days. Just north of the bridge is Frisch’s, and it takes a second look to notice that the drive-in section is now nothing but a parking lot for customers who dine inside.
Downtown buildings? At the Anderson Bank building, only the PNC logo is new. The restored Paramount Theatre looks just the way it did half a century ago. The Tower Building overlooks it all, awaiting a new chapter in its existence as Anderson’s tallest structure (vying with the First Savings tower, now carrying the First Merchants logo).
The Union Building is still there. But there’s no radio tower. Miller Huggins is doing business at the same location on Meridian Street. So does Standt’s Jewelry.
Central Christian Church looks very much the same. So do First Presbyterian and St. Mary’s churches. The present First United Methodist structure has been around since the 1960s when it was rebuilt following a fire.
Very few schools have survived half a century. Of those, St. Mary’s, which no longer has a high school, and St. Ambrose are intact. Washington Elementary has become part of Liberty Christian. Valley Grove and Tenth Street are the oldest elementaries, while Anderson Preparatory Academy now occupies Westvale and 25th Street schools. The former Madison Heights High School is now the site of Anderson High School, barely recognizable after a major facelift. Highland is now a middle school. Several other buildings stand empty, including the Wigwam.
You can still drop in for breakfast at The Toast. Or lunch at the Lemon Drop or Gene’s Root Beer. They still play baseball at Memorial Field, and you can bowl at Cooper’s. Or play golf at Grandview, Anderson Country Club, Edgewood, Killbuck or Meadowbrook. Or watch auto racing at Anderson Speedway (nee Sun Valley). But for now Athletic Park pool remains closed.
Mounds Mall has seen infinite changes, but it’s still a landmark (pending that still-to-be-finalized reservoir deal). Inside, MCL Cafeteria and Zale’s Jewelers have been there since the start. Head east and Mounds State Park is still a beautiful getaway.
And that’s not all.
Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.