On a 2013 visit to Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, I came across this gem at a crossroads near the Pomona Natural Bridge. Finding the photos again, I was curious about what this building had been and when it closed for good.
It’s the Pomona General Store, and even the New York Times published an article about it.
At an Illinois Country Store, Nostalgia Sells Best July 15, 1987
The store was built in 1876 when Pomona, about 15 miles southwest of Carbondale near the southern tip of Illinois, was a railroad town with more than 500 residents and a shipping point for produce.
The original wooden store burned down in 1915. A rebuilt store burned in 1917, and a brick store was built the same year to replace it.
I dug around newspapers.com and found a little of the store’s most recent history starting with the 1970s, when media mentions picked up. Over the next couple of decades, the store changed hands a few times. It also attracted attention as a relic — an old-school general store in an era of big box stores. For years it seemed to be a center of Pomona community. Even after it closed, its location was used for community events like bake sales.
A few people have mentioned surprise the gas pump was in place (as of 2013) as they are “very collectible.” I found a photo from 2022 that shows the pump still there. Perhaps the Pomona community keeps a watchful eye on it.
The store must have closed between 2000 and 2002. Over the next decade or so, it deteriorated more than I would have expected. I’m reminded of what I saw of the TV series “Life After People,” which speculated how plants, wildlife, and other forces would eat away at the infrastructure and buildings humans have wrought after they were no longer maintained.
I imagine someday in Pomona the ivy will finally take over the store, and time will erase the memories.
Both my parents were born during the 19-teens and weren’t what you’d call “hippies.” We had something associated with hippies, though — incense. RANI incense cones, to be precise, usually pine. Gift? Sale? I don’t know, but my mother liked them even if we used them sparingly. I’ve continued the tradition, buying incense (if not RANI) sporadically over the years.
Something made me think of RANI, so I looked up images of the box and found RANI, marketed as “house deodorant,” came from Chicago 60616. According to the trademark database the Hindu Incense Manufacturing Co. , Inc., was located at 2620 South Dearborn St. Office? Factory? I may never know. Sadly, today it’s a vacant lot. You can sometimes find the remaining boxes for sale on sites like eBay and Etsy.
More about the RANI mark:
Word Mark RANI Goods and Services (EXPIRED) IC 003. US 006. G & S: INCENSE. FIRST USE: 19270415. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19270810 Mark Drawing Code (5) WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS IN STYLIZED FORM Serial Number 71527404 Filing Date July 5, 1947 Current Basis 1A Original Filing Basis 1A Registration Number 0500209 Registration Date May 11, 1948 Owner (REGISTRANT) HINDU INCENSE MANUFACTURING CO. CORPORATION ILLINOIS 2620 SOUTH DEARBORN ST. CHICAGO ILLINOIS (LAST LISTED OWNER) GENIECO, INC. CORPORATION BY CHANGE OF NAME FROM ILLINOIS 200 NORTH LAFLIN ST. CHICAGO ILLINOIS 60607
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED Type of Mark TRADEMARK Register PRINCIPAL Affidavit Text SECT 15. Renewal 2ND RENEWAL 19880511 Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Genieco lead me to the current Gonesh brand website, from which I learned:
In 1923, a Lithuanian immigrant named Radzukinas acquired a small company, The Hindu Incense Company. For business purposes, he changed his name to Radkins and changed the fortune of his small company by dedicating himself to the manufacture of quality charcoal incense cones and incense burners. Laurent Radkins operated the Hindu Incense Company successfully from the 1920s to the 1960s.
In the mid-sixties, the second generation of the Radkins family entered the business and Genieco, Inc. was born. Soon, the product offering was expanded to include incense sticks. The new brand name was GONESH®, named after the Hindu Elephant Boy, the God of Luck. The name Gonesh was trademarked in 1965.
The Chicago-based Hindu Incense Manufacturing Co., Inc., owned and run by a Lithuanian immigrant, marketing made-in-U.S.A. “house deodorant” incense cones to Greatest Generation housewives — a very American American dream.
According to the Hyde Park Herald, Hyde Parkers who don’t have laundry facilities in their house or building now have to go outside the neighborhood for clean clothes.
Harper & 53rd Launder Koin, the last laundromat in Hyde Park, is closing for good on Tuesday.
The property, located at 5230 S. Harper Ave., is being purchased by the University of Chicago. According to co-owner Josh Hwang, Launder Koin’s last day in operation is technically Feb. 28, but “residents should try and get their laundry done before Feb. 26.”
The laundromat has been operating off 53rd Street since 2002, predating large nearby developments like Harper Court. Back then, Hwang was only 13 years old and working at the business for his parents.
Though demand for laundromats has dwindled nationwide in the last decade, Hwang said Launder Koin still services between 500 to 1,200 people a month.
I’ve wondered if I should do a “Relics” post on the institution of the laundromat, but it never seemed to be the right time. After seeing this article in the Hyde Park Herald, I figure the right time is now. The laundromat is on its way to becoming a relic, and may be for many years.
I grew up in a trailer — no dishwasher, no washer, no dryer. My understanding is in the trailer park’s early days the women did the laundry in the building “down front” (the entrance from Rte. 20). There may have been an informal “laundry day” (Tuesday? Wednesday?). The building was shut up by the time I was old enough to peer through its grimy windows and appeared to be junk storage.
Later, my dad, the only licensed driver, took the laundry to a laundromat on South Lake Park Avenue (6000? 6150?) in Hamburg on Saturdays, mostly by himself. I think it was on one occasion when I went with him that a woman asked him, with his shock of almost snow-white hair, about his cute granddaughter. “That’s my daughter,” he corrected her. I’m sure the women at the laundromat looked at him with newfound respect after that.
Winter trips took longer because he had to dry everything at the laundromat. I tried to dry jeans once or twice in winter air, but discovered they could break (tear) when frozen.
In finer weather, the wet clothes and sheets came home so we could hang them on the clotheslines. After a few hours in the breeze, they really did smell great. They also could pick up bird droppings, stains from falling wild cherries, or, worst of all, in late spring, tent caterpillars. Around May a plague of them would infest the cherry trees over the trailer and clotheslines. You hoped to pick them off so you wouldn’t find any, or parts of any, on your clothes or bedclothes later.
I imagine the laundromat could be a social place, with regulars on Saturday morning who exchanged greetings and maybe chat — with no phones or devices to distract them. Of course, you could always step out and go to a nearby store. It wasn’t likely at that time your clothes would go missing.
After I came to the university, I didn’t need to use a laundromat. The dormitory had washers and dryers, and my apartments since have had on-site laundry machines. The first was tough — I lived on the fourth floor, and the machines were on the first. There weren’t enough, so I could go down and up the stairs several times before one was free. It used a quaint honor system. You were supposed to plug the machine you used into an electrical outlet associated with your meter. It was fascinating to me to watch the meter move with the increased load. It wasn’t so fascinating when you found someone else’s laundry running up your meter.
At the next apartment, a studio, the small laundry room was slightly below ground level in the next building, and served at least a couple of buildings. In rain, snow, or cold, I’d have to dress for the weather, carry the laundry through the courtyard and a bit down the street, pass through a gate, go down steps mostly too dark to see in the alley, and hope for the best. Then repeat back and forth until all the laundry was washed and dried. I don’t miss that, especially when the weather was grim. It’s hard to get motivated to go out a half dozen or more times in wind, sleet, rain, snow, etc., especially on a day off. If I could drive and a laundromat had been an option, I’d have used it.
I’ve used laundromats twice in the last ten years that I can remember. The first was in Anna, Illinois, during a visit to Cache River and Shawnee National Forest. The other was in the college town of Geneseo, New York, while in the area to see Letchworth State Park.
The one in Anna was almost empty at maybe 8 p.m.; I recall the one in Geneseo was more crowded mid-day. Both seemed well kept, and the one in Anna gleamed with stainless steel machines.
Sadly, I have never been to the laundromat on 53rd — I’m not sure I knew it was still open. The next closest one is in Kenwood, prominently situated in a a plaza off the 47th Street exit of Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive. I haven’t been in there, either, although I would need to wash heavier items there. It gets mixed reviews.
In my dad’s day, the big deal would be to have enough change — lots of change. No credit or debit cards, no Apple Pay, not even paper bills. If the price went up a quarter, naturally my dad grumbled. Inflation! To him and some of his peers, it didn’t seem an insignificant amount of money. “It adds up,” he might say.
Laundromats may not entirely disappear, just get farther and farther apart — like Hyde Park residents having to go six blocks further north into Kenwood. Five hundred to twelve hundred people a month aren’t insignificant numbers for a neighborhood. Some laundromats, like the one in Hyde Park, are family businesses. How long will future generations want to carry on the laundromat business in a rapidly evolving society that values money and technology?
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Substitute “laundromats” and you’ll see what I mean.
I eagerly await the Star Trek “garment reprocessor”/”cleaning processor.”
Worf: Before being allowed to play, he was to put his soiled clothing in the garment reprocessor.
Keiko: One night goes by . . . two . . . a week . . . ten days . . . by now there’s a pile of socks half a meter high!
O’Brien: Come on . . . it wasn’t half a meter.
Keiko: After two weeks I couldn’t stand it any more. I bundled them up and put them in the cleaning processor. And I’m still doing it.
The next morning I received this response from firehydrant.org volunteer Jim Q. I wondered where the hose would attach!
That’s an indicator post that controls a valve for an automatic sprinkler system. Indicator posts are used because it would be easy to shut a valve during sprinkler maintenance and then forget to open it. The indicator post eliminates all doubt as it displays OPEN or SHUT.
Interesting photo because I didn’t know the Eddy name was still in use in 1962 for indicator posts. Eddy Valve made fire hydrants. After the company was bought out their fire hydrant design continued and is still sold today by Clow Valve.
When I came to Chicago in 1979 (gulp!), you could still find a newsstand here and there. The most prominent, outside the Chicago Cultural Center at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, was the first and last thing commuters saw at street level as they left and returned to the Illinois Central Railroad’s Randolph Street Station — the perfect place to pick up a paper or magazine for the train ride home.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the newsstand predated the 1929 stock market crash. At one point it was owned by “King of the Newsstands” Robert Katzman, a fellow Hyde Parker who also owned a busy newsstand at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue.
Richard J. Daley, “da Mare,” didn’t like newsstands, claiming many (most?) were dilapidated and didn’t fit in with his beautification plans for Chicago. It also sounds like he may have had the support of one particularly vocal citizen obsessed with getting rid of newsstands. In the end, like Meigs Field, they had to be destroyed.
By then, the newsstand at Randolph and Michigan, Rick’s News, was owned by Rick Graff, who’d bought it in 1984 when he would have been about 22 years old. (That makes Graff one year younger than me — and here I would have thought a newsstand owner would have been some crochety older man, the street equivalent of Mike Royko.) It’s hard to conceive of a young man investing in a newsstand in the 1980s.
There are about 355 newsstands in the city. The city put final notices to apply for permits on 155 of the stands, and 85 of them did not respond. Those 85 are to be demolished. . . . Although the city began its work on the South Side, the most publicized case involves Rick’s News, on the corner of Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue, in front of the Chicago Public Library’s Cultural Center. Rick`s, which is owned by Rick Graff, is not one of the first 85 targeted, but the stand is expected to be demolished.
A newsstand has been at the corner for the past 80 years, but General Services Commissioner Benjamin Reyes and other Daley officials have made it clear that they want it removed.
And Richard Graff, owner of the oddly charming newsstand on Randolph Street outside the Chicago Cultural Center, lost.
The long-running legal fight between Graff and Mayor Richard Daley’s administration ended when the U.S. Supreme Court refused on May 16 to hear Graff’s appeal of a lower court ruling that the city can force him to close his business.
Never mind that a newsstand has been at that location on Randolph for at least 70 years. Never mind that Graff paid $50,000 to buy the business in 1984. Never mind that he has a steady clientele for his magazines and comic books, not to mention dozens of passersby who pat his friendly Alaskan malamute-the one usually found wearing sunglasses. . . . Even people who have never spent a dime there can see that it is an eccentric little piece of a wonderfully eccentric city. Rick’s News belongs in that spot.
Crews tore down the stand Sunday afternoon, marking the last chapter in a four-year legal battle between the city and newsstand owner Richard Graff, 32. . . .
“Do you believe it?” a passer-by muttered as he stared at the spot Rick’s no longer occupied. “This was a landmark.”
For 26 years, people new to Chicago have never browsed Rick’s News or experienced this piece of Chicago’s eccentric history.
Even if you’ve never seen a newsstand in person, you may have spotted them in vintage movies or TV shows, or in movies or TV shows set in the early to mid 1900s. One of my favorites is in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Big Goodbye.” Jean-Luc Picard, as his favorite hard-boiled private eye, Dixon Hill, didn’t think to bring money to pay “Mac,” the newsstand vendor. “Mac” says Dix can catch him next time. No wonder newsstands in Chicago were dilapidated! No cash for upkeep!
According to Yelp! there are a few newsstands left, including this highly rated one. It was out of Daley’s reach in Evanston, north of Chicago, and looks more like a store than a newsstand.
Here’s a review from March 2020:
I wish we could clone Chicago-Main Newsstand and put them all over the US because newsstands like this simply don’t exist anymore. They’re a dime a dozen in Europe but stateside if you want a Financial Times or Italian Vogue you need to subscribe. OR, you could go to Chicago-Main and get just about any magazine your heart could desire. Sports, travel, lifestyle, art, home decor, fashion, auto, literature, wedding, parenting, pet, food, architecture, naked people, crossword puzzles, sudoku, atlases, Chicago history, and a great newspaper selection. Cigarettes, candy, gum, and some greeting cards, too.
I’m glad it’s around. Where else could you get one of those elusive out-of-town papers?
I can’t say we took any great American road trips when I was a child — mostly 200-mile jaunts to visit family in the Altoona area of Pennsylvania or rare shorter ones to local attractions like Niagara Falls or Letchworth State Park. The first car I remember was a powder blue Ford Falcon. With Virgil and me in the back seat picking on each other and wondering “Are we there yet?” after 25 or 50 miles, time and money may not have been the only reason we didn’t travel far or often.
Later, my dad bought a used van with two back seats. This was such a novelty that kids stopped by to pile in. All that room! Of course it was bare bones, a working man’s van, with none of the comforts of today’s SUVs and minivans, like DVD players or even — gasp! — cup holders. We “roughed it” back in those days with tap water or water from a roadside spring in Pennsylvania kept in a jug. We’d have to pull over to drink it. And we didn’t know about “hydration,” only thirst.
We had only an over-the-air radio — no Sirius, no subscription services tailored to our tastes. You might find yourself in a part of the country with only bland pop and country & western. Our series of bare-bones vehicles didn’t have 8-track tape decks or CB radios for chatting with passing truckers. I don’t think the radio played much of a role in our trips, except to get traffic and weather.
We had games like “punch bug,” in which being the first to see a Volkswagen Beetle on the highway entitled you to punch your annoying brother, sister, or friend. We also kept an eye peeled for “beavers,” station wagons with wood-paneled sides. We’d make a pulling motion to truck drivers to try to get them to pull their air horns. We liked the ones who accommodated us. I understand the tradition continues today, although with safety first (no startling of unaware drivers) and the hope it doesn’t provoke a modern road rage incident.
Of course there were no USB ports, but there were cigarette lighters — in 1965, a whopping 45 percent of Americans smoked. I’ve never bought a car, but it sounds like what Wikipedia describes as a “de facto DC connector,” or cigarette lighter receptacle, is more likely to be used to power portable accessories (“lights, fans, beverage heating devices, and air compressors for inflating tires”). I wonder if it can be used for e-cigarettes? J’s is used for an iPhone charger. With only about 15 percent of Americans smoking today, I suspect the car cigarette lighter as such has achieved “relic” status for many of us.
Neither the Ford Falcon nor the vans that followed had air conditioning save that offered by an open window and a speed-generated breeze. I don’t know how we held conversations on the open highway. Maybe we didn’t, other than, “He’s picking on me!” and “Are we there yet?” punctuated by “Ralph, STOP!” (My mother had imaginary brakes on her side and possibly a worn-out floorboard.)
Most cars sold in the U.S. now come with air conditioning as a standard; it’s a given, not a luxury — not so north of the border. Today we “wind” the windows down mostly to take photos, ask passers-by questions, pay entrance fees or talk to booth operators, and on occasion encourage a fly or mosquito to vamoose. I say “wind” even though the push of a button opens the windows (as long as they’re powered, that is).
In the old Ford Falcon and vans, you did wind the windows up and down, just like we used window winders to open and close the trailer’s jalousie windows. I had to look that term up — jalousie windows in campers/trailers/mobile homes were common in the 1950s and ‘60s, but aren’t anymore.
Although cars.com talks about “old-school manual crank windows that seem, especially now, from a bygone automotive era,” they’re also not quite a relic. People don’t want them for themselves, but they do want the lower car price. They’re also found in many trucks. The 2015 cars.com article concludes, “For now, at least, it’s clear there are enough price-conscious new-car shoppers to keep manual windows around.”
I’ve never been a smoker, and I don’t feel nostalgic about car cigarette lighters. As with push lawn mowers and clotheslines, however, I do miss manual windows and window winders. Power windows have their advantages when you spot something and want to take a photo or video quickly (although they make enough noise to scare off animals). On the other hand, when I wait in the car I don’t always remember to open the window when the power is on, so I resort to the alternative, awkward in a parking lot, of opening the door. It doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes I want to crank open the window.
At least it’s not because someone used the cigarette lighter.
According to Lost Indiana, it was once a Holiday Inn strategically placed to lure travelers on Dunes Highway. To me it’s a metaphor for most of the works of man — a short productive existence followed by a long deterioration haunted by aging, fading memories. It’s like an example of Life After People, only the people haven’t died, just given up.
And now that I’ve seen the Doctor Who episode “Blink,” when I see the Interstate Inn, which is not unlike the fictional “Wester Drumlins,” I’ll think of this bit of dialogue: