Saturday night is when the ole home town comes to life.
At least that’s the way it used to be. Some communities have even attempted to mimic those good old days with similar affairs, recalling times of seven decades and longer ago. Yet, as admirable as the efforts are, there is little similarity to what it was like when Saturday was truly the big day in farm towns.
Actually we came in on the tail end of Saturday being the heyday, but our recollections are vivid of Main Street parking starting to fill up in the afternoon and being such that there were no spaces left by dark. Travel was still limited in the ’50s and ’60s, when farmers only came to town once a week, and that was on Saturday.
Business and trade were the reasons for the trip, and many, if not most, had to bring their eggs and cream to sell. Since it was a major ordeal to come to town, all dealings had to be handled, because it’d sure be another week, and longer for some, before return.
Stores up and down the street were typically bustling as the country shoppers found and purchased their needs. It was a lonely life, so to speak, living in those days, without the modern communications and travel taken for granted now, so having the opportunity to see friends, visit and catch up on news was a big deal, too.
The livestock auction was also on Saturday in our home town, so that brought even more and earlier crowds than in some of the neighboring communities. Even if they didn’t have anything to sell or no intention of buying, farmers liked to go to the sale to watch and visit, typically dropping the Mrs. and kids off downtown on their way through.
Children found it an exciting time as well, often getting to purchase a penny piece of hard candy and perhaps even a nickel root beer in a chilled mug at the drugstore. There was always a night show at the movie house, and occasionally a matinee, which drew not only the younger set, but often the entire family, for Tom Mix, Gene Autry, and the like.
In towns that didn’t have a theatre, movies were often shown on the side of a building, or a makeshift screen, during the summer months. Sometimes the in-between ages crowd would dance to a jukebox, or maybe a startup local-yokel band, at the VFW.
By our time, the town was usually starting to shut down by 9:30, with most doors locked an hour later. However, we’re told stories of earlier days when business was often still going when midnight rolled around. One service station operator recalls doing literally dozens of oil changes during the day into the wee hours of the next.
It got so by the ’70s few farmers considered Saturday their main shopping day, and many would come any time during the week, sometimes frequently. We still kept our grocery open Saturday night, but time was mostly spent doing once-a-week cleaning.
Nowadays, Main Street is often bare on Saturday afternoon and typically locked up by 5 o’clock. Oh, how times have changed. Yet, those busy days made it easier to follow the orders for Sunday as in Leviticus 23:3: “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest; ye shall do no work: it is the Sabbath of the Lord.”