These superb photos from Downers Grove, Illinois, apparently a two-Jewel town in the early 1960’s, were taken by Donald Hodges and come to us through the courtesy of his son Paul. These photos have a lot of detail, so you'll want to click on them to see the enlarged versions. Downers Grove is 19 miles west of Chicago in DuPage County. In the early 60’s, “Downers” (as many residents lovingly refer to it) was well along in transition from a once-rural area with a quaint downtown to a full-blown suburb. Today Downers Grove, along with DuPage cities Naperville, Lisle and Wheaton (among others) form an affluent suburban corridor that is home to a growing number of corporate headquarters and has long been considered the “hottest” part of the Chicago area in terms of growth. Many of my near west suburban peers from high school and college days have migrated to DuPage in the last 25 years. Despite the area’s tremendous growth, Downers Grove has done an admirable job of preserving a “small town feel” in its thriving downtown area.
The first photo, from June 1962, shows the Downers Market Shopping Center, which was located at the intersection of Ogden Avenue (US 34) and Saratoga Avenue. In addition to the Jewel, the center featured a Woolworth’s and the locally owned E-G Home Center among other stores. Barely readable at the corner of the Jewel store is an oval “Burny Bros.” sign, a popular Chicago bakery that had departments in many Jewel stores of the era. As a kid, I can remember riding with my parents as they drove on I-294 and passing the Burny Bros. bakery plant in Northlake with its pink sign glowing at night. The plant later was later operated as an Entenmann’s facility and is now something else, I believe. Maybe the most interesting aspect of this photo for those who grew up in the area is the sign for Texas Tommy’s Silver Dollar Coffee House (Yee-ha!). I’ve never seen any interior photos of this long gone restaurant, but I have to think it sported wagon-wheel chandeliers. Or should have, at least.
Not long ago, the original shopping center was razed and a modern (and massive, by comparison) Jewel-Osco now sits on the entire site. One other note about this photo – behind Texas Tommy’s sat another supermarket. I’d love to know what it was.
The second and third photos are wonderful February 1961 views of Main Street (you expected some other name?), and in addition to the tiny, porcelain fronted Jewel there can be seen a Walgreens (back when soda fountains were a given at these) and a tiny Sears store that would have been either a Type “C” store or catalog desk store, in addition to many other local favorites.
To provide a bit more detail, below is a close-up (cropped from the second photo) of the Main St. store along with a line drawing of the same early 1950's prototype.
Update: I happened to find a newspaper article about the downtown store's grand opening in my files after I posted this. From the Chicago Tribune, dated August 23, 1951: GALA CROWD OF 6,500 HELPS OPEN STORE IN DOWNERS GROVE - "A gala square dance jamboree was held in Downers Grove last week at the opening of a new Jewel Food store in the village. Downers Grove Police Chief O.A. Springborn estimated the crowd at 6,500, more than half the village population. Some 14,020 hot dogs, ice cream bars, soft drinks and sacks of popcorn were consumed. Thousands of gas filled balloons added to the merriment. A 7 foot helium filled balloon belonging to Oscar Mayer broke away from its mooring. A $50 reward is being offered for it return. Six groups from Downers Grove, Lombard, and Oak Park gave square dance exhibitions and instruction."
Those were the days. And that hot dog-shaped balloon must still be floating around up there somewhere, don't you think?