by Jim Bulls
It was every boy’s dream to own a bike, expand your horizons of exploration or visit friends across town. The Cadillac of bicycles was the Schwinn Phantom with a springer front end. Mr. Parkinson was our Schwinn dealer in Reedley. His store was one of the last buildings on G Street with a board walk. It sat between Allied Equipment (the International Harvester dealer) and Enns’ Pontiac used car lot–almost directly across from Harmony Home.
Mr. Parkinson’s nickname was “Sparky.” He was a very nice man, who had been scarred from a fire sometime in his life. It would be years later, when naive little me would realize the pain he must have felt when the kids called him “Sparky.”
I dreamed of owning a Schwinn, but reality was a J.C. Higgins Hiawatha on lay away at Bob Suderman’s Western Auto Supply. I finally made the last payment and was able to retrieve the dusty bike from the mezzanine at the rear of the store. Now I could visit friends after school, go downtown to Conner’s Record and Radio Store, check out the auto dealers, Jones’ Toy Store, the library, movies, swimming pool, or even all the way to Reedley Beach! All that pedaling makes you thirsty and that brings me to the point of this story.The first watering hole was compliments of the Women’s Christian Temperance Society. This group of determined ladies installed drinking fountains in front of bars and saloons throughout California as an alternative to beer and whiskey. Reedley’s fountain has been completely refurbished and now stands in Pioneer Park.
The coldest water in town was at Penner Bros. Auto Parts store. This monster water fountain was two feet square, with a porcelain bowl that probably weighed 100 pounds. It was so old and rusty that it was held together with Champion Spark Plug bumper stickers. If you wanted cold water, it would make your teeth ache. Those bumper stickers finally gave out, the porcelain bowl caved in and the coldest water in town is now history.If you were at the south end of G Street and couldn’t afford a cherry coke at the Goody Good Drive-In, you could go over to Reedley Lumber where the water fountain sits outside. Just like 60 years ago, you can still take a drink. It is cool and refreshing, but look down and notice the little copper tubing dangling behind the cooler. You can watch the excess water drip down on a clump of moss behind the fountain and then trickle across the sidewalk and into the gutter. This is the only survivor of Reedley’s “historic” watering holes.
Jimmy Smith was my best friend at the time, and every Friday after school we pooled our change from lunch and would buy a 45 rpm record at Conner’s Record Store. One Friday I spent the night at Jimmy’s house. We had bought “The Green Door” and played it all night long. The next day we were so sick of the record that we took it out to the backyard and put it on the water hydrant that stuck up about three feet in the back yard. “The Green Door” melted from the heat of the sun; the shiny black vinyl dripped around and down the hydrant, never to be played again. Just watching it made us thirsty–the taste of cool water slightly tainted with rubber can even taste good.
It is hard to believe that I have lived in Reedley for over half of its existence–and during what some would say was the “best of times.” And that brings me to the best watering hole in town–Sunsweet, aka the “Peach House.” You wanted to get in good with the foreman because not only could you get a cold drink of water, you could grab a handful of dried peach or apricot culls to munch on while you headed over to the swimming pool or Reedley Beach.
Today we text, twitter and blog all while drinking bottled water.