A look at
Minonk's past

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Ancient memories of Minonk

By Albin Johnson

I began wondering what it would be like if I now lived as a 16 year old in Minonk. Would I cruise Main Street, "park" on old gravel roads, take in the Saturday matinee movie, or work to maintain my car and buy cokes for my girl friends? Time passes, opportunities vary. I wonder if anything really changes? Oh yes !!! things surely have!

Trucks were big in my life in the '40's and even today I drive a '94 red GMC Sonoma. As a kid I remember that twice a year I borrowed a ton pickup and delivered corncobs and coal to our upstairs apartment. I would use an old metal basket to climb 20 plus steps, making 30 some trips in order to empty the truck. The only enjoyment came in driving the old Ford back and forth to the Panola Elevator.

I worked for a while loading the bread trucks at the Minonk Bakery. They had 2 or 3 trucks of different sizes. One was an elongated van somewhat like the vans used by highway crews, except this one had no rear windows. The van was equipped with wooden trays that would slide out the rear for easy loading. Since the bread was fresh, we took special care not to squash the loaves. I recall one "historic" night when the rear truck door wasn't securely locked and the load flew out the back as the driver turned a corner. Somebody spent a lot of time reloading what once was bread!

It was either difficult to find good loader help or the bakers let a lot of mischief slip by. As an example, certain white loaves were left unsliced. Princess Sweet Shop preferred to slice their own for sandwiches. We found the crusts on these loaves especially tasty, but now what to do with the soft inner dough? We wadded it into small balls and practiced our pitching by throwing them at the large floor fans! Very entertaining results to say the least!

Later I worked on another truck delivering flour to the bakery. Every so often a box car of flour in sacks was parked on the I.C. siding. Our job was to load a truck, drive to the bakery and unload the 100 lb. sacks. We carried these on our shoulders as it was easier than stooping to pick up and hoist the sacks. Don Smith easily carried two sacks at a time.


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Grocery stores delivered their products during those days. I worked mostly at Visserings, the larger of the food stores in Minonk. John V. and his family had a small pickup truck and a very small 4 cylinder Ford van to use for delivering foods to those who couldn't or wouldn't venture out. I loved this store mostly because the butcher would slice choice canned hams for us to snack on and we would pay back our appreciation by callously filching jars of boned chicken to eat down in the basement.

I remember arguing with others as to who would deliver big orders to one customer who always sent something back to be exchanged. A couple of other customers ordered sugar by the 100 lb. sacks and than wanted it stored in the basement or attic.

In winter on icy brick streets or muddy roads the pickup would slip or get stuck, but the little van didn't have enough RPM's to even spin the wheels, so it worked great in bad weather.

Another truck story involved a man named Johnson (not related) who borrowed money from my dad in order to buy an old blacksmith's shop behind Young's Garage. He wanted to start an auto body and paint shop. I wanted to paint my '35 Ford coupe so I went to work there. One day the Minonk Dairy delivered one of their small tanker trucks to the shop. Earlier a load of milk was being pumped out, and the relief valve was not open, so a small cave-in appeared at the top of the tank. The tank was stainless steel and the dairy wanted the dent to be straightened. My job was to climb into the dry tank with timbers, shims and a large jack screw and try and devise a way to locate the jack and force the bulge back out. I began turning the jack screw when the make-shift frame slipped and shot timbers and jack around the tank like missiles, barely missing me. I exited in one piece, but never told my folks. The owner then reverted to plan B, which was to use the torch to cut and reposition the metal. I quit this job as soon as my car was painted. When it had dried, what else but a bright yellow body, blue fenders, and red "solid" rims? My mother always bragged she knew where her son was.

I finish by posing this story and betting that all others of my era will remember where they were that first week in August 1945. I was climbing aboard a stake bed farm truck, heading for a field to detassel corn. Some one at Suttons Station turned up the radio and new names like "Enola Gay" and "Hiroshima" came blasting out. The Great War was now predictably over!