When the subject of the conversation turns to the good old days, the younger crowd tends to go into automatic eye rolling mode. I am sure that I did my fair share of eye rolling when I was young but people my age had to be careful because the nearest adult was likely to give you a dope slap to the back of the head if they perceived rude behavior in your eye movements. So back to the good old days. My friend, Jon Harris and I have had an ongoing conversation about the businesses that once occupied the various buildings around Ryan. In an effort to gain insight, I repaired to “The Parlor” to do some research. The best that I could do was a book of maps prepared by the Sanborn Map Company of Chicago, Illinois dated May, 1914 with an update in April, 1923. What this collection of maps tells us is that with the exception of a few businesses, one bakery and a few boarding houses, the business district of Ryan went from 1st Street to 7th Street between Taylor Street and Lincoln Street. The thickest congregation of businesses was on Washington Street between 5th Street and 6th Street. In that one block there were multiple drug stores, general stores and hardware stores. There were also three banks, two were in their present locations and one was across the street in the middle of the block. Ryan also had an opera house and something called an electric theater. I am assuming that this was an early version of a moving picture show. A great many of the buildings on this block were two stories tall. Living quarters and offices occupied most but a few did house businesses. In the middle of the intersection at 5th Street and Washington Street, there was a grandstand. I am told that this would have been used for outdoor concerts and public meetings. On the west corner at 5th and Washington (where the American Legion building now stands) was a two story hotel. Going north from there were two garages. That was a surprise to me. I would not have thought that there would have been that much need for garages in 1914. On the alley next to the garages was a meeting lodge. The maps did not explain who owned the businesses in any of the buildings, nor did it show what lodge was meeting on 5th Street. The only building occupants that are shown are the local churches. The Baptists, Methodists and Nazarenes were in the places that we still associate with them. The Church of God stood where the Church of Christ is now and I could not find the Assembly of God or Catholic Church.
Let the eye rolling begin and y’all be kind to one another.