Latest Issue

The Jaded Eye … A Double Dip on Broad Street

The white, bent, rusted pole that held the “Tall Fox Novelties” sign remains close to the curb on Broad Street in Montoursville. But the orange, blue and white Rexall thermometer in the alley by the old store is long gone.

Let me bring you some warm memories on a cold day. Maybe you frequented one place or the other, but I got the pleasure to do both on one day many times over!

My mother, Marie, did plenty of baking for us, especially cakes or pies on special occasions. Usually, there would be a “theme” to the cake, not just a chosen flavor. For example, if my birthday fell on the same day as the Indy 500 race in May, she’d search out small racecars and made a track on top. Using icing as “guard rails” she would need to “garnish” it with the important stuff.

Off to Tall Fox Novelties we went. We walked the narrow sidewalk to the back of the store and opened up a wooden door that lead us up steps to the second floor. A massage parlor now resides there in that building. Still has the white paint, still the narrow sidewalk, but it shows how times have changed.

Once inside Tall Fox, you’d see shelves full of boxes with things to decorate with. Mother would tell me to look for the plastic cars and checkered flags to put on the birthday cake. Meanwhile, she was searching for things to put on wreaths (small birds?) or other items to decorate the house with during the holidays.

It was fun as a young lad to be able to pick out what was going to be on your special cake. If I couldn’t find what I was looking for, the helpful clerks at Tall Fox would step up the search. But I really liked doing it myself, as they had so many bins to sort through. (I do the same thing these days at auto swap meets or antique stores).

Mother always smiled within this place. I mean, we were buying nickel and dime plastic and tin stuff, no doubt made in Japan, but it might as well have been diamonds from Belgium. You needn’t ask why — it’s because she knew these various knick-knacks were going to find a place on a cake or delicious delicacy as decoration to make someone happy.

Like the fluff on a parade float! Oh yes, Tall Fox also sold the colored candles for me to blow out! At that point in time, all 10 or 11 of them.

I’m not sure where you find these bakery decorations and paraphernalia these days. But trust me, it’s not at a massage parlor. Maybe the local dollar store.

The cakes looked spectacular after a jaunt to Tall Fox. They also had plastic animals, flowers, butterflies, letters, and numbers in all sizes to customize your concoction. I remember one year my mother put zebras and giraffes on my brothers birthday cake. Our house was already a “zoo” at the time, so maybe she was just continuing a common theme.

The day wasn’t done yet. From there we walked about one or two blocks west to the Rexall drug store/pharmacy. An Edward Jones investment firm building now resides there.

Rexall had licensed their brand name to as many as 12,000 drug stores across the United States from 1920 to 1977. The “Rex” in their name came from the Rx abbreviation for medical prescriptions.

The small one on Broad Street in Montoursville was typical of the time; a swiveling rack of paperback novels, a magazine rack with the latest periodicals, drugs for colds, congestion, diaper rash (A+D to the rescue), vitamins, lip balm, toothbrushes, gels, creams, and everything in between.

On a Saturday afternoon in the early 1970s, it could easily become as busy as a department store because prescriptions had to be filled and delivered.

It’s here where mom would get a bottle of aspirin (Lord knows she needed it for family bred headaches), a few cards as in “thank you” or “happy anniversary.” And maybe something on special like Easter candy or Halloween decorations. She also let me pick out a car magazine off the rack to read that Saturday af.ternoon. Another simple pleasure now usually replaced by an Internet screen.

Sorry to say, I still like to HOLD my reading material, and secondly, I kept all those magazines my momma bought for me. Great reference material. Not just for road tests — but memories!

As we left the store, I’d peek around the corner to look at the long, colorful thermometer they had mounted on the brick wall of the franchise. Mom would ask, “What’s the temperature?” And I’d say, “It’s wrong because its always in the shade. The sun never hits it!”

In less than 15 minutes we would be back home. Another glorious Saturday growing up. No school, a new car mag to peruse, and a cake to decorate with miniature cars or elephants. The sky was the limit, and the kitchen smelled good.

Yea, yea, I know Rosencran’s bakery was a stone’s throw from Rexall, right across the street. They had plenty of cakes to choose from. However, my mother liked donning the oven mitts the same way Mario Andretti slipped on Nomex racing gloves.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *