Dick Nieman’s store was just up the alley from my home in Pottstown. It was a small place, but played a big part in everyone’s lives. It was a time when small grocers existed in every neighborhood, but were starting to feel the loss of revenue from the large markets that opened. A&P, Acme, Weis- they all played a part in crushing out the warmth that came from the smaller shops. In my extended neighborhood there were seven small grocers operating, all making a good living. Closest were Steven’s and Dick’s. They were a half block apart, both serving the same neighbors. Both had reputations for heart- helping those in tough spots, donating to church and scouts. Steven’s was a bit larger than Dick’s and offered butcher services. Fresh meat. Extensive dairy. Dick’s was all dry goods, with the ice cream and soda treats every kid sought. During the summer, Dick’s front porch was a hang out. We’d come back from the river or a baseball game and gather at Dick’s for sodas, chips, and Tastykakes.
I missed the place. Google maps street view is wonderful for that. I’ve walked to work again in Philadelphia and Boston. I even walk around the farms and villages of England, the streets of Paris and Rome. I can spend hours lost in a sight seeing spree. But when I dropped in to the old neighborhood and walked up to Dick’s, it was gone. Not just closed, but totally gone. Even the beautiful maple that stood beside the store only left a decaying stump. Then from a different direction, Google had updated and the lot included someone’s gardening shed. Other stores were closed, but you could still see them in the apartments and garages that they’d been turned in to. Dick’s, I guess, was spared that indignity; but I really wanted a last look. Really.
I grabbed a screen shot from street view and took it in to Photoshop. I built Dick’s store again, where and how I remembered it. The tree was from some place else but looked just as I remembered it. It’s very satisfying. I didn’t do a fantastic job- every time I look, I see something that needs to be adjusted- the tones of the walls, the angle of corners, shadows that distract. I opened and tweaked the version used here at least three times before I could close it and walk away. Now, though, I know it works; for me, anyway. I can spend more time on different scenes. Maybe I can do the inside of BiRite with that awe inspiring full size Lone Ranger cardboard cut-out on top of the Coke machine. Down by the tube tester. Yeah. I have to find some resources.