Growing up at Thousand Island Park was a summertime adventure. My first recollections were around the age of four and to a little boy going “up to the corner”, as my Grandmother would always say, was a highlight of the day. The corner, of course, is the main intersection of The Park; St. Lawrence Ave and Rainbow Street to be exact.
In that time period, late 1930s and beyond, at TI Park if you wanted something from a store at the corner you walked. Golf Carts had not been invented and cars, if one was available, were seldom used just to go to a store. During the war years, gas rationing made limited use of a car mandatory. You were lucky if you had enough ration coupons to even get to The Park, much less drive a mile or two just for stuff.
Everything you needed was at the corner. And that included drinkable water. There was water available in every cottage but it came directly from the River, to the standpipe, to the faucet. It was not unusual to have wisps of seaweed coming out of the tap. That has reversed today, of course, with fully processed water safe to drink from the faucet and the town pump declared unsafe.
That pump, across the street from the grocery store, provided drinking and cooking water and that meant an almost daily walk with pails, jugs, bottles, whatever, for getting the precious liquid back to the cottage. There was another pump behind the Wren Cottages, at Outlook and Eden, but for some reason we always went on further, to the corner.
The four main locations at the corner were the grocery store, the Brownie Gift Shop, the Post Office and the Ice Cream store. Back then, what could be sold where, was dictated by the Association, a condition which I believe exists to this day. Newspapers, comic books and other publications came from the Gift Shop. Food from the grocery store, with treats like candy, soda and ice cream from the ice cream store. In the late 1940s, a dairy farmer from Grindstone Island had the idea of delivering fresh milk, via the River, to the Park. By rule of the Association; definitely not allowed! An outboard stationed guard putt-putting back and forth, in front of the boat houses along Coast Ave. each morning, was a subject of much derisive laughter.
The grocery store was exactly that, a full-service grocery store with everything needed. As you walked in the far door, a full-time butcher provided fresh cuts of meat. A produce counter to the rear and a cooler with dairy products, off to the left, took up the wall space. Shelves of dry goods filled the center of the store, with the checkout counter also in the midst of everything. Beer? Not a drop. The origins of The Park as a religious camping ground held firm for generations.
Located in the Wellesley Hotel building, the Brownie Gift Shop was a wondrous place for a kid. Toys, interesting trinkets and comic books filled the shelves and display tables. Also, years later, a source of employment for me one summer, long past. The space once occupied by the gift shop is now the location of the Thousand Island Park Museum. A stop well worth the hour or so it takes to look over objects from the Park’s past.
Ahh, the Ice Cream Store. Go up the steps to the green screen door, which would close behind you with a soft bang, and into wonderland. Glass counters to the right, as you walked in holding bulk candy as far as a little boy’s eyes could see. The counter was straight ahead, where Viola Nunn held sway, dishing out frozen delights for years on end. Small tables with wire back chairs filled the room while another glass counter rested against the wall to the far left, offering a selection of drug related items: Aspirin, Band Aids, corn plasters, iodine and other assorted medical sundries.
Occasional limited funds notwithstanding, an ice cream treat would often come my way, thanks to Grandma Maddie Parkhurst. A cone piled high with chocolate ice cream, my favorite. Maybe a sundae instead; vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, another favorite. Perhaps I should just admit that anything that came over that massive counter was a favorite.
Jumping ahead to my teen years, the ice cream parlor would be a hangout place and meeting point for our growing band of River Rats. Movies were shown three nights a week, at the Tabernacle, so after getting up the courage to ask a girl for a date, the movie evening would end with a stop for something sweet. On non-movie nights, someone of our group would host a Coca Cola Party. A case of 24 bottles, purchased from Viola Nunn, would be iced down that afternoon with the empties taken back the next morning for the refund.
I assume there are many opinions on how The Ice Cream Parlor became “The Guzzle.” As I remember it: Our gang had grown to include about fifteen to twenty young guys and gals. Some were siblings, including Carol and Alan Yehle. Alan was two or three years younger than the rest of us but got a pass to be a part of the group, as he was Carol’s brother. I cannot recall the exact circumstances, but for some reason he began calling the Ice Cream Store, The Guzzle. Reciting over and over again: “let’s all go guz, guz, guz at the Guzzle.” We all picked up on it and the name stuck for the ages. (If anyone has an alternate theory regarding the creation of the name “Guzzle” I would love to hear it.)
In 2014, my first return visit to the Park in many years, offered the opportunity to buy ice cream cones from The Guzzle for my grandsons. Little did I know that less than two months later that iconic location, along with the other stores, would be reduced to charred timber and ashes.
Down the street from the Ice Cream Store were store fronts and the Post Office. One of the store fronts served as the Corporation Office, while another had several different uses throughout the years, including a sporting goods store and a curio shop. Before my time,it was a Japanese gift shop. My Great Aunt bought three prints that hung on the dining room wall of Grandma’s Ontario Ave. cottage, for years. My parents recovered them before selling the place in the early 1980s and they hang today in my family room. Not sure when the store closed, but it surely did at the onset of WW II.
Lastly, the Post Office, a regular morning meeting place. The Mail Boat, moored at the Main Dock, would leave for Clayton, early every morning. Passengers were welcomed and it was a common practice for folks to ride over to the mainland, shop for whatever was wanted, then ride back to The Park, along with sacks of mail.
The husband and wife team, who ran the mail boat, (wish I could remember their names) had a Ford business coupe, parked by the shuffle board courts, which they would drive down onto the dock, load the mail sacks into the trunk and then up to the Post Office. A curtain would be drawn down over the service window and the sorting would begin. Everyone would wait for the curtain to be pulled up, signaling that the sorting had been completed and then the orderly scramble for everyone to see what had been delivered.
All that has changed now, with a new Guzzle/grocery store building nearing completion, as this is being written. If I read history correctly, this will be the fourth Ice Cream Store at that location. The first was a tent with the two following buildings destroyed by fire, the latest a recent disastrous memory.
I would like to think that someone, 80 years from now, will write about memories of “the corner” at Thousand Island Park. By then “writing” might be holographic images extracted from brain waves. No matter what the media, I hope those memories are as warm then as mine are today.
By Deane C. Parkhurst
Deane C. Parkhurst was born on June 8th 1934, in New Jersey. He writes; “So-so grades in school, endured ten months of the year in NJ, happy at TIP for two. In college, ‘majored’ in the college radio station instead of class. Drafted into the Army in 1957 and served two years in the Signal Corps.” He worked in commercial radio and television in New York State until moving to Mid America. He completed his career selling high end computer systems to media companies; retiring in 2005. Deane has written three other articles for TI Life. In August 2013, Deane wrote Remembering TI Park and the Hurricane of ‘38 , in September 2014, he wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again!” (Or Can You?) and “Rocks in The River, in February 2016. Today Deane lives in Olathe, KS, on the border of Kansas City, MO. He writes, “Living in the Kansas City area has been great, it's just so hard to find ocean front property.”