My memories of Saturday night during my growing-up years took place in a town slightly larger than the one I now call my hometown. We stopped at the grocery store first to unload crates of eggs from the car trunk where they were traded for mother's pantry supplies for the week. Dad parked the car near the grocery store for mother's convenience and we six children ran off from there, promising to be back in two hours. We roamed the streets, met up with friends and spent the ten or fifteen cents we were given as our allowance. We younger ones must have had some guidance. It is possible we were assigned to our oldest sister's care, but if we were, it didn't dampen our spirits. We had money to spend as we liked and a couple of hours out and about on the lighted streets.
As our evening drew to a close we always stopped at Lynch's News Stand on the way back to the car. We weren't interested in the newspapers, cigars, pipes and tobacco in the front of the store. We headed directly to a section at the back with tins of penny candy. If we had not spent our money earlier on a new coloring book or box of colors, we spent it on candy. We chose from miniature wax bottles filled with a couple of ounces of sweet nectar, licorice sticks, pink or brown taffy, all-day suckers and jelly beans. During Lent we didn't eat the candy we purchased but took it home. We were expected to fast from candy during Lent. At home it went into the jar we used to store our personal cache of sweet stuff, not to be eaten until Lent ended for us at noon on Holy Saturday. When it wasn't Lent, however, the youngest ones in our family rode home chewing some sort of sweet and sticky treat.
The years moved along and while in grade school we continued to look forward to those Saturday night outings. My younger sister and I liked to go to the dime store to look through the sheet music, no longer interested in spending time at the candy store. We alerted our older sisters if we found a song we wanted to learn to play on the piano or wanted them to learn. They were more affluent than we were as they had babysitting money. Sometimes they bought the music we were wishing for.
The drug store had an ice cream parlor along one wall and shelves of comic books and movie magazines. It was a good place to find friends and to spend time leafing through the selections. It was movie night for our cousins and friends who lived in town. Our farm chores took so long we rarely got to town on time for the start of the early show. We went to the lobby anyway when it was time for the early show to let out. We checked out the posters advertising coming attractions while waiting for our friends who would give us a review of the movie they had just seen. At the same time we could enjoy the wonderful smell of freshly popped corn filling the place. A bag of buttered popcorn was often our choice for the last purchase of the evening.
Saturday night eventually became date night. Going to a movie and having a hamburger or grilled cheese sandwich later with a lemon coke or a chocolate milkshake was standard. Sometimes we went to a youth dance or a wedding dance at the Eagles club.
Marriage and then parenthood found us spending many Saturday nights doing what we had done earlier with our own parents, the only change being the roles we played. We went shopping and when there was a special dance we attended that afterward. Our town not only had a lovely ballroom, but two grocery stores, both men and women's clothing stores, a couple of hardware stores, a fabric shop, a movie theater, a bowling alley, an ice cream parlor, a restaurant and several taverns.
Mothers could stay in the car with their little ones and still be entertained. People window-shopping their way up the street stopped to visit at open car windows. If there was nothing else to watch, there was the inevitable gathering of boys with their friendly pushing, shoving and general horsing around as they scoped out the parked cars. The evening ended for many when someone alerted the guys in the beer parlor or bowling alley that "the ladies are ready to go".
The disappearance of the shops was gradual, the theater closed and the number of dances scheduled for the ballroom declined. The street is no longer lined with cars from one end to the other on Saturday nights. No children scatter to meet their buddies while parents shop.
Currently we are apt to go to church on Saturday night and out for pizza afterward or we have friends over to play pinochle. The occasional wedding dance at the ballroom is the only time cars line the streets these days. The lone grocery store is open. There may be a few cars parked there or near the bowling alley. The magic of Saturday night as I remember it has diminished as surely as has our interest in browsing through comic books and sheet music, sipping lemon cokes and dancing the jitterbug.