Answer Man

Answer Man: Sears and Small’s and Kresge’s -- oh my

Q. I’m trying to convince a friend that Sears used to have two stores in Belleville, but she doesn’t remember one across from the Lincoln Theatre. While I’m on the subject, did Small’s clothing store have an entrance on East Main Street and what was the name of the store next to the Lincoln across from Kresge’s? — V.K., of Belleville

A. Since a picture is usually worth a thousands words, I’m going to send you a photo providing indisputable proof that you once could count on Sears at not just two but three addresses in Belleville. (That was the Sears ad slogan starting in 1962, by the way.)

The picture will clearly show a Sears store at 112 E. Main St. across from George Blanquart Jewelers and the old Lee’s Shoes. And, to answer another question, it sat between Small’s front entrance at 110 and Peskind’s at 116. (Like Ben’s today, Small’s also used the entrance off South High Street, but it was Grant’s and then Lerner’s that filled the corner store where Jimmy John’s now starts its freaky fast deliveries.)

But I remember visiting Santa Claus in the ’50s at a Sears store farther down the block. According to the 1968 Belleville City Directory, the Sears automotive center was at 500 E. Main and its farm store at 508. As for the store across North High from the old Kresge’s, it was where women kept up with fashion at the Nu-Style Shop at 101 E. Main, now Abe’s Gourmet Popcorn and the former Bracelets & More.

Per your request, I’ll also send you a complete list of major stores in 1968 Belleville from 500 W. Main to 800 E. Main for your reminiscing pleasure. Anyone else who wants to do some time traveling can request a copy by emailing me or sending a long a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Q. Did people ever use “parking lights” for parking? Since the 1950s, I have only seen them used as a poor alternative for headlights at dawn or dusk or in rain. Although the law now requires headlights in the rain, etc., even the police seem to ignore this far too often. — Earl Weaver, of Renault

A. I can’t speak for anyone else, but people who valued their chariots always used parking lights when making a nighttime stop at my childhood home at South 16th and South Belt West in Belleville.

Our house was a potential parking catastrophe. If you pulled into our narrow driveway, you had to back out onto South Belt West. Those were the days before U.S. 460/Illinois 15 was built, so whipping out into an opening on the busy Illinois 13 could be a test of sheer survival at times.

Adding to the nightmare, you could dislocate your neck as you strained to see around a line of hedges that provided an aesthetic buffer from all the cars and semis whizzing past. And let’s not forget that old tall overpass that limited your view of traffic zipping in from the east.

Even in my faithful VW Bug, I cursed that driveway every day for years. Trying to negotiate my dad’s behemoth Buick out of it? Forget it.

You couldn’t park in the front, either. At that point, South 16th becomes a narrow, one-lane, oil-and-chip road that heads toward a dead end. You didn’t dare park on the street, and we sort of frowned on people pulling into our front yard.

That left the least of three evils: a narrow shoulder on the south side of South Belt by the side of our house where there’s a brief gap in that row of hedges. That’s where the brave souls who visited us usually parked their vehicles as they prayed that a tipsy driver or young hot rodder wouldn’t plow into them. It was also where we frequently left our cars, too, to avoid an extra driveway challenge.

So, if you had driven past my house in the ’50s and ’60s I can assure you that you frequently would have seen parking lights warning you to steer clear of a stationary vehicle. In fact, I remember my parents often reminding my brother to go out and turn his on when darkness was falling. In the end, it must have helped. Although at least one driver crashed into a tree, our cars were never hit. So, yes, I think some people did use them for their intended purpose.

Now, though, most people I find online seem to think the name is anachronistic, saying they would use their hazard lights instead. I would argue that those flashing lights should be used for emergencies and would unnecessarily draw the attention of police. In any event, several sites say they still are used for parking in other parts of the world, but are usually white instead of amber.

Today’s trivia: What fruit has a variety known as Winter Banana?

Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: Since the NCAA expanded its basketball tournament field to 64 teams in 1985, only one No. 15 seed has ever made it to the Sweet Sixteen: Florida Gulf Coast. In 2013, the high-flying Eagles stunned No. 2 Georgetown 78-68 and crushed No. 7 San Diego State 81-71 before finally falling to No. 3 Florida 62-50 to end their dream season with a 26-11 record. Six other No. 15 seeds have won a first-round game, including two in 2012: Lehigh over Duke and Norfolk State over my not-so-mighty Missouri Tigers. The others were Hampton over Iowa State in 2001, Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997, Santa Clara over Arizona in 1993 and Richmond over Syracuse in 1991.

However, everyone is still waiting for the ultimate bracket-buster: After 120 games, no No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1, although Princeton came within a whisker in 1989 in a 50-49 loss to Georgetown and Oklahoma barely nipped East Tennessee State 72-71 that same year. Other than that, No. 16 seeds have been buried by an average of 25 points. Only 14 games have been decided by fewer than 10.

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