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Jack’s Mid-Missouri Memories: Downtown Sedalia Tour

Downtown SedaliaAs a nostalgia nut, I am always happy to talk about my days growing up in Sedalia, and I love to hear or see something that triggers a memory from those days. On Monday, June 24, I got a good dose of nostalgia as I took the tour of downtown Sedalia with the Sedalia City Council and some other interested citizens.

While the tour had the practical purpose of informing council members on the condition of downtown Sedalia’s buildings and infrastructure, it also served as a memory probe for some of us. As we made our way past buildings and vacant areas where buildings once stood, our guides John Simmons and Meg Liston or someone in the crowd would point out what they remembered about the area from years ago. Older people like myself and Councilman Bob Cross remembered landmarks like the old Pacific Café, Louis Shoe Store, Cash Hardware and Coney Island and others without prompting. Some memories only came when they were pointed out by those who had done the research, like local author and historian Becky Imhauser. Fortunately, some of the buildings have not changed a lot. The Uptown Theater, the Trust Building, Bothwell Hotel, and Cecil’s Bicycle Shop are as recognizable as the Pettis County Court House from years ago, when my friends and I would go there to see the bear and press our noses against the glass cases that held so much of the county’s history.

While downtown Sedalia has changed through the years, some good changes, and some not so good changes were noticed on the tour. Gone are the stores that brought large crowds to the downtown area in the pre-’70s era like JCPenny’s, Montgomery Ward, Flowers, Woolworths, TG&Y and others. We now have apartments where doctors and lawyers offices once did business. Instead of the chain stores that now draw people to shopping centers and malls, we have specialty stores and storage buildings.

I believe those who have worked so hard to restore downtown Sedalia have accomplished a lot with the Streetscape project, and I look forward to the next phase of the program, but they can not do it all. Some of the buildings of downtown Sedalia need some work by the owners. As our guides pointed out, some are as simple as a coat of paint. Sedalia is fortunate to have dedicated people who are working on the remaining problems in  downtown Sedalia, and I also believe there are a lot of reasons to shop there. I am looking forward to the renovation of the Uptown Theater, a place many of us spent so many happy hours in our youth, and hopefully will spend many more in the future. Sedalia is still the Queen of the Prairie, but we need to keep polishing her crown.

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