I have some great memories of living on the east side in the '60s and '70s. The Franklin and Utah Street area where I lived was definitely working class, and there was a sense of community that you don't find in urban areas these days. You could sleep with the doors unlocked and your neighbors looked out for you. The neighbor across the street, for example, would mow our lawn on hot summer afternoons, and my mom would bake an extra cake or a pie for our neighbors to show her appreciation for all their help.
One of the great things about living on the east side was going to O'Connor's Drug Store and the Ben Franklin. I can close my eyes and still see the TV tube testing machine next to two pay phones to the right of the door as you walked in the front entrance of the drug store. (Yup, TVs once had tubes and you needed a place to test the ones that went bad; O'Connor's was the place to go to test them.) If I walked through the front door and turned left, there was the counter that had the peanuts and cashews that they kept warm under a light bulb. I can't tell you how many times I purchased a ten cent bag of cashews from the O'Connor Drug store, usually on the same day that I purchased the next week's TV Guide at a bargain at just 12 cents an issue. I was surprised by an announcement one week that they were forced to do something that they didn't want to do — raise the price to a whopping 15 cents. Imagine a magazine feeling bad about having to tell their customers that they are raising the price of their magazine by three cents...that wouldn't happen today, would it?
If you had to pay your Michigan Bell telephone bill or your Consumer's Power bill, all you had to do was walk to the back of the store and the people at O'Connor's were happy to serve you. If you had to wait in line, you could always check out their great selection of paperback books and magazines that was near the bill-paying window.
Now, if you couldn't find what you were looking for at O'Connor's, there was always the Ben Franklin store next door. Naturally, the bins of candy were the first stop for any kid — chocolate covered peanuts and raisins, orange jells, those pink spearmint discs, jawbreakers, red and black licorice. Everything had to be weighed and priced before you took it to the counter to get rung up. Imagine being a kid and going to the Ben Franklin store and coming home with a twenty-five cent bag of chocolate covered peanuts. Those were the days.
And if it wasn't candy you were after, there was that great section in the back with toys! One side was filled with the "guy stuff" like balls and model airplane and car kits, and the other side had all of the "girl stuff" like dolls, doll accessories and toy dishes.
Another unique thing about Ben Franklin was that it was the only place where they sold the hits of the day by no-name, sound-alike artists that nobody ever heard from. The company was called "Hit Records" and they sold 45 rpm's with a black label. Each record was a two-sided hit and the sound-alike artists did the best job that they could to sound like the original. At just 39 cents a record, it was a bargain.