Eugene's Modern Era in Photos

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Stephen McDonald
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Eugene's Modern Era in Photos
1 month ago

Before these three buildings went up, that contained a school and two businesses, our growing city had been stuck in the past. The first is Eugene High School, dated 1953. The second is the El Pronto building, dated 1949, home of the town's first drive-in restaurant. The last is the Stanley's Market building, dated 1948, the first modern grocery. Oddly, in a sprawling town that covers more area than New York City, these three places are within a long stone's throw of each other.

This school was built on a swamp, that in Pleistocene times, held a lake. Rumors had spread that it once had three stories and it sank until the ground floor was buried and sealed-off. It once held 2,250 students, when it was the only public high school in town. The old school was a crumbling and moldy hulk, that was torn down a few years later.

The El Pronto's opening was a shock to the arch-conservative culture in Eugene. Most of us were forbidden by our parents to go near it. It represented a new social awakening, that induced younger people to evade the authoritarian control of the past. Some of the carhops actually wore roller skates. Many different restaurants occupied it over the years, but sadly, it's now used as an office building. It was the home of the "Pronto Pup", a batter-dipped hot-dog on a stick, that tasted much better in our imaginations, than for those who got to eat one.

When Stanley's Market opened, there was nothing in town that resembled a superrmarket. But it quickly became very popular. It wasn't very large by today's standard, but it was new and brightly lit and had four separate departments. The green grocery, meat market, bakery and canned and packaged food sections were independently owned, but used a common checkout counter. Within a year, half a dozen even larger modern stores whose owners had gotten the message, opened and thrived. Small, crowded corner groceries closed and either became residential houses, convenience stores or were torn down. You can still spot many of them around, that have only a few clues showing of their pasts. I think it was at this point in the post-war era, that people first saw a new future opening for this previously backwoods area.

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