y memories only go back to when I was in third or fourth grade. That would have been in the late 50s. Back then I remember my dad, Dick Mathew, working long hours at the store. The M & M store was a 50s version of Alco, plus a soda fountain. We called it back then a "five and dime". It was located where Leti's is now and was situated next to the Crystal Theater, across from McAdams jewelry store and Kenny and Martha Franks' sporting goods store and on the same side as Beavers' drug store.
When I was in grade school my most vivid memories were of the wonderful bulk candy section and the arrival of Christmas toys. I made my list out immediately. I never did get that plush stuffed skunk I had my eye on, and I think that was to teach me that I could not get everything I wanted. We only went to Ft. Wayne about once a year to Wolf and Dessaurs, so the M & M was there for all our needs. Back then I told everyone that M & M stood for Marge Mathew, but I am pretty sure it stood for Dick Mathew and Ray Mathew, my grandfather- though my grandfather spent most of his work hours managing the pool hall a few doors down. I was not allowed in there much, but I do remember the brass spittoons that were strategically located. My brother, Rick's most vivid memory involves the many times Sam Patton and Jerry Lee tricked him into going into the back stockroom or the basement to retrieve something and them lock him in. Rick admitted to being a pest occasionally.
During my teen years, I remember the M & M differently. Back in those days, Ligonier High School had an open hour lunch and most of the student body made their way in their GTO'S, old Chevy’s, Mailbu's, or in my case Cutlass F85's, or by foot to my dad's soda fountain for lunch. The specialties were wonderfully steamed hot dogs in the softest buns ever, barbecue beef sandwiches, and my favorite, toasted cheese. We quenched our thirst on the nickel Cokes or larger sized dime ones, flavored with cherry, lemon, or chocolate. Some opted for the delicious milk shakes, malts, or sodas. Hearty ones finished with the ever popular banana splits. After school, my best friend, Jennifer Rex and I usually walked downtown, for the exercise of course, after ironing our hair and listening to our favorite 45's. Our daily treat was a small Coke and a pretzel. Those were the footlong ones for a penny. We would visit with the employees and our friends. Back in those days it was definitely the teen hangout. See, the Crystal Theater was right next door and most teens would catch every movie brought in, then arrive next door to the M & M hangout. I think the movie tickets were 35 cents. The popcorn was amazing and only ten cents.
Some of my memories relate to working at the M & M store as being my first job. I don't remember wanting this job or applying, but it was part of being in my family. One summer I was the opener. My first job was to bring in the pies that had been delivered to the front door. These pies were a delicacy and most adults coming in for a meal, would top it off with some of the best pecan, cherry, pumpkin, and mince pies. We had no fast food restaurants, just the M & M, Anderson's drive in, Crossroads, and Laurer's Truck Stop Diner, so everyone in town frequented my family's soda fountain. I learned many things working at the store. My grandmother, Hila Mathew, was my supervisor and she made sure I never had any idle time. She appeared to be much harder on me than the other employees, and this caused many a sigh and eye rolling from me, but I still carry many characteristics with me now that I was taught working at the store. The customer is always right, no matter what because we are here to serve them. All people are to be treated with utmost dignity and respect and all people are equal. Each person you meet should be treated as the special, important person that they are. I still believe wholeheartedly in these ideals today and I know it is very valuable in working as a school counselor in my community for the last 26 years.
Many people touched my life at the M & M store during those years. I will never forget the loving, caring Ethel Shireman, the funny, friendly Lucille Hunter, and the funloving, hilarious Donna Summerville. Other great employees included Sam Patton, Linda Rex, Sue Seniff, Jerry Lee, Barb Becker, Connie Becker, Pauline Holm, Mary Lou Stratton, Donna Stage, and many more great people.
The best perk of my family owning the M & M store was the "After Hours Club". My friends and I would go to the dances at Sunnyside, then I would use my key at about midnight to get in the store and fix all my friends sundaes, sodas, and milkshakes. Ah, those were the days.
Growing up in the 50s and 60s in Ligonier was full of great times. It was a slower paced time, a time when I felt very safe and cared for. A time when I would have never gotten into trouble, because the whole town would have told my parents. It was a time of long walks, lots of pretzels, and wonderful friendships. It was a time that civil rights demonstrations were happening (But not in Ligtown or River City as we called it), a time when JFK was shot, the time the Beatles made me crazy, and a time that I first knew of war. It was a time of bobby socks and full skirts, that eventually changed to hot pants and deck shoes, a time of great school spirit and some interesting pranks. But most of all it was a wholesome, safe, loving community in which to grow up. I often told my parents, Dick and Rosemary, that I never made it very far in life. I ended up only several blocks from my house on Chapman St., but I am right where I want to be.
My dad sold the M & M store in the late sixties to devote full time to his Ligonier Cartage Company. Mr. Leedy bought the store, then Ed Sprague and Ron Pyle, the barber, and their wives put in an interior decorating store, the Bucket and Brush, followed by Edgell's pizza restaurant, and then (and now) Leti's. Though no longer in existence, the M & M store will always be a Legend of Ligonier.