You can feel it. You can just feel it.
The wooden barriers have come down from around the front of Bresee's recently. People slow down and stop while passing by, shielding their eyes as they peer in. Not that there is anything to see.
It's amazing how a simple thing like removing a wooden barrier around a store can create such a stir. Of course, this was no ordinary store.
The lore of Bresee's has reached mythic proportions over the years. All generations of Oneontans have sentimental memories of our very own "superstore."
For more than a century, it was a reliable commissary of general goods, high fashions and home-style meals. Plus it had a great Santa Land, a giggle-inducing coin-operated horse at the foot of the "moving stairs" and Muriel Ross, chirping away behind the Health Bar counter since time immemorial.
Yes, it was quite a place. It was "our" place.
So when "our" place disintegrated under the weight of urban blight, disappeared into a vacant vacuum and finally succumbed to the unrelenting claw of the heavy machinery, we all wondered what was next for this sprawling building site, long considered the "heart of Downtown Oneonta."
Well, after a long stretch of inaction, we mostly assumed that the answer was ... nothing. We watched the windows get dirtier, the bricks fall and the signs vanish.
But it made it. It stood. It was sold, and things began to stir. A little. The back came off. The 1950s aluminum facade came off. Press releases were, well, released. People started to buzz. "What's happening at the Bresee's store?" they asked over coffee up and down Main Street.
And then, in a final dramatic move, the storefront of the building was recently shrouded in wood, hiding the progress being made. The buzz died down.
When I got a call at the radio station recently saying, "Hey, Big Chuck, the wooden barriers are down in front of Bresee's," I took off my headphones and ran around the corner to take a look.
I wasn't alone. A large knot of city residents, mostly old-timers, was already there taking in the sight.
The new bay windows. The new architectural flourishes. The three new separate store entrances. It was actually exciting. People were laughing and telling stories of the "old days." I think the sun came out while I was there and a rainbow dipped down from over Sport Tech as cartoon bluebirds flitted around our shoulders.
It really was like that.
So what is next for our old friend? We don't know. But we are trained to expect the "whatever" to happen later, rather than sooner.
But still, to see the new configuration of the store has brought a welcome sense of movement, excitement and positive energy to the downtown community. And that is a very good thing.
We cannot preserve the "old Bresee's" in amber for us to take out and gaze at once in a while. But we all have memories, and they are everlasting.
I think the most enduring snapshot of Bresee's that we carry closest to our hearts is the restaurant. Don't you just love that name: "The Health Bar."
The big booths, the counter with the pie cases, the Shopper's Specials. The Health Bar was really Oneonta's "Cheers," a place where everybody knew your name.
Before writing this column, I asked my daughter Frances, now living in Los Angeles, for her Bresee's memory. Again, we go to the Health Bar for the story.
"Well, Dad, what I remember is the great food at the restaurant in the basement. I remember the chicken soup with the dozens of little perfectly diced carrots floating on top. But my forever memory happened near the end of the store's life," Frances began.
"My best friend, Sarah Keating, and I went in after school for their famous hot roast beef sandwiches. We both ordered one. After we were served, a couple sat down in the booth behind Sarah. We heard them order the hot roast beef sandwiches also. 'Sorry folks, those two young girls over there got the last ones,' we heard the waitress say as she pointed to us.
"The store closed the following day. Here we were, two young girls in our St. Mary's uniforms, and we got the very last two hot roast beef sandwiches ever served at Bresee's." Frances said with a laugh. "And they were delicious!"
Funny the memories that get all stirred up just because a couple of wooden barriers come down, isn't it?
I'll catch you in two ...
"Big Chuck" D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.
You can feel it. You can just feel it.
- Big Chuck
Gilbert Lake a jewel among N.Y. parks
New York does quite a few things right, and misses the mark on things almost as many times. But nobody does a state park quite like New York does.
Baseball cards: Different spokes for different folks
Baseball cards as an investment? Fugetaboutit!
It's just a short drive down my memory lane
Oh, if my old man's car could talk.
Sept. 11 Museum is sobering, inspiring
I visited the September 11, 2001 Memorial Museum in New York City last weekend.
Remembering the singing cowboy
There were not a lot of job openings for a kid of 8 back in 1957. Some of my friends wanted to be firemen and a couple wanted to be professional baseball players. Maybe a cop, a teacher or a soldier or two. And the weird kid up on the corner wanted to be president of the United States some day. Dreamers, all. Thinking way above their heads. Me, I was a realist. I wanted to be a singing cowboy.
- Monday, May 19, 2014
The plain plane truth ruins CNN
Bye-bye CNN. It's been nice to know you.
- Monday, May 5, 2014
Laurens mall was no mere child's play
Shop local. And shop often.
- Monday, April 21, 2014
Woodstock continues to provide memories
I went to Woodstock last weekend. No, not the concert site. The village.
- Monday, April 7, 2014
Let's put a check on 'check engine' light
The absolute worst thing that can befall a driver happened to me on the way to work this morning. The one singular auto event that can send shivers of fear and panic up the spine of even the most seasoned road warrior.
- Monday, March 24, 2014
Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks
It has been a while since we opened up the readers' mailbag, so let's see what is in there.
- Monday, March 10, 2014
1965 Oscars? Thanks for the memories
Well, the 86th Academy Awards are over. And for the record, I did a pretty good job in my Daily Star Oscar picks. I got them all right except one. Cate Blanchett was the spoiler in my clean sweep. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
- Monday, February 24, 2014
There was just no telling about snow days
Winters get harder as we get older. Things change. It snows more. It snows less. It gets colder. It's a lot milder. It all changes as our knees start to creak and the thought of shoveling a foot of snow seems positively daunting.
- Monday, February 10, 2014
And the music goes round and round
The day has finally arrived.
- Monday, January 27, 2014
When did pranks turn into vandalism?
I was a teenage vandal.
- Monday, January 13, 2014
Happy and sad memories of Jan. 7, 1966
Jan. 7 is always a big celebration day in the D'Imperio family. My twin sisters, Teri and Mary, plus my youngest daughter, Katie, all share it as a birthday. The date, however, is not without a dark significance.
- Monday, December 30, 2013
Lesser known greats that passed away in 2013
The year 2013 is drawing to a close and as it does I would like to give a tip of the hat and a fond goodbye to a group of famous people who left the world stage. Their departures will be noted here in this column although they may have missed a final adios in the major media outlets. Letâ€™s give them their moment in the sun.
- Monday, December 16, 2013
Reunions all the sweeter amid WWII
There is nothing like running into old friends in the most unexpected places. Like on a vacation, or in a mall or even in the supermarket. It is always a time for a â€œHail and how are you?â€� moment.
- Monday, December 2, 2013
There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|
Winter weather is here. And so are outdoor winter activities.
- Monday, November 18, 2013
Vroman's Nose hike is no walk in the park
I haven't gone on a hike since 1961 when President Kennedy asked all Americans to take a 50-mile hike for physical fitness. I did it then. With a large group of my schoolmates and friends. We walked from Sidney to Oneonta and back.
- Monday, November 4, 2013
Being a grandpa will be better than just OK
I am going to be a grandfather.
- Gilbert Lake a jewel among N.Y. parks