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A New Years look at Old Madera

Madera County Historical Society

Madge Cook remembered Friedberger and Harder’s grocery store. They made home deliveries.


Can it be? Have 29 years passed since Madge Cook came to a meeting of the Madera County Historical Society and shared some of her memories of early Madera? This presentation, which was videotaped and transcribed, is a treasure trove of local history, as Madge described life in Madera as it was in 1912.

As we head into a new year, we would like to revisit Madge and allow her to speak again about the town into which she was born so many years ago. She begins by talking about her days in the old Lincoln School.

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“When Lincoln Grammar School was finished in 1912, both the Eastside and Westside schools moved to the new location. I was in the second grade at the time. I took my lunch in a little tin bucket with a lid. Lard was sold in these buckets in five and ten pound sizes.”

“The main part of town was about three blocks long on Yosemite Avenue, with a few businesses scattered on the side streets. Before the avenue was paved in 1912, it was very dusty in the summer — full of chuckholes. In winter, it was muddy and sloppy. The sidewalks were of board or just dirt — both quite uneven.”

“There were several grocery stores. Rosenthal-Kutner was located where the old Penney’s used to be. They sold general merchandise and had everything from a pocket-handkerchief to a harness and groceries.”

“Others were Franchi’s Grocery, Rochdale, Wehrman-Meilike (had a nice little deli) Petty’s, and Friedberger and Harder. The grocery stores and two butcher shops were in the downtown area. These stores opened at 6 a.m. The housewives could order their groceries and have delivery before noon.”

“Due to the fact that we did not have refrigeration...only an icebox or ice under a tub (the ice was wrapped in a blanket), we couldn’t keep meat very long in hot weather. Mama would wake me up very early in the morning and send me on my bicycle for some beefsteak from Mr. Knowles’ butcher shop. For twenty-five cents, we got a big round steak which Mama fixed real tasty for our breakfast, with hot biscuits, gravy and jelly or jam.”

“Lacy Robertson’s saloon was on the corner of D and Yosemite and had a swinging door on the corner. It was one of many saloons in Madera. The old rumor had it that there were 14 saloons on Yosemite Avenue. Delores Brammer Saunders told me that her grandfather chose our town over Merced to start his new shoe store because it had 23 saloons. He must have thought that was a sign of prosperity.”

“There were two banks in the same block — First National on one end and Commercial Bank on the other end of the 200 block. There were several Chinese restaurants. Mugler’s harness shop had beautiful saddles and a barrel of buggy whips on the front sidewalk. Of course, there were blacksmith shops to care for the shoeing of horses and repairing of farm equipment.”

“McCabe’s Rooming House was on South D Street. If you were downtown at the right time, you could hear Vivian McCabe Stadile practicing her voice lessons from her parents rooming house.”

“Curtin’s Livery Stable on the corner of Yosemite and C Streets took up a quarter of the block. There was a white barn, fences, and corral neatly kept by Billie Velasco. When he finished his work and sprinkled the barn and barnyard to keep the dust down, he would sit out front in a bar chair. The stable boarded horses and also rented out horses and buggies.”

“Brammer’s Shoe Store has been in business since 1893. Their ad read ‘across from the post office.’ Mr. Brammer was a huge man. I remember him standing in front of his store and greeting people as they went by. First he would give you a smile and speak, and then look down at your shoes. Men’s shoes were $3.00 and up--women’s shoes, $2.50 and up.

“Preciado’s, where Wells Fargo Bank is now located, was a family store. They sold sporting goods, papers, millinery, stationery, and there was a nice ice cream parlor with home-made ice cream. In the same block was Tighe-Breyfogle Co., a department store with yardage, shoes, and men’s and women’s clothing.”

“Hunter’s drug store was so cool in the summer. They had ceiling fans over the front door and inside. Also, there were ice cream chairs and tables, and Lena Hunter, a daughter, made the best ice cream for the fountain. It was a popular place, and some women would come to Hunter’s dressed up with gloves and hats on, in the middle of a summer afternoon, for an ice cream treat. W.W.W. (Doc) Hunter was a druggist and was a great one to have a cure for your ailments.”

“Jay’s undertaking parlor was located on the alley across Yosemite from Curtin and Fleming. It was started in 1893 by Richard Curtis Jay. Papa would take the undertaker into the mountains to get a body and bring it to Madera. I remember Grandpa Jay dressed up in a blue serge suit with a gold watch chain across his ample middle, sitting at his desk. He was very kind to me, but I never stayed longer than I had to.”

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Coate Tales will continue its presentation of Madge Cook’s memories of Madera next time.


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