I wandered today, to the store. You know the store you found, but only because you lived there first. I would have found it had you not found it first. You know that store. Fonks. To the outsider, I’ll bet they have no idea what a Fonks is or was. Fonks? Fonks! What’s a Fonks?
Imagine you are sequestered in a small town, working on your doctorate in whatever and have nothing to do when you aren’t typing. It isn’t Friday or Saturday, so no football games to attend. It wasn’t snowing yet, so no skiing. In fact, it’s just fine weather, but such an uninteresting plain day you could just choke on the void.
So you think to yourself, why not let’s take a walk. Contrary to big city life, where a walk thought never invades your mind, a walk here seems like it should happen. So gather your paultry pocketbook, house keys and sweater, just in case and let’s go.
The town, such as it is, is located in the Palouse. The what? The Palouse. It’s definitely a place like no other. Let’s say it’s the most north eastern part of the Pacific Northwest. Maybe named after a Native American tribe, maybe not. It’s a pristine land, a strikingly ornate land of hills rolling on forever, alternating freshly plowed and velvet green and wind blown gold, growning legumes and wheat with gusto. Picturesque strikes me as too prim and proper, for this land is not fussy, nor pretentious. It’s a hardy, basic land beautiful only because that’s the way the farmer carves it. This is open, billowing landscape of laid back empty, publicizing its greens and browns and golds.
I digress. I’m in Northern Idaho, in a town called Moscow (that’s pronounced moss co, rhymes with whoa and no - no cows in Moscow) probably the epicenter of “The Palouse” and I’m trying to find a store called Fonks. What’s this place famous for? Absolutely not famous. What goes on here? Well the University of course, but beyond that . . . well lots of churches and on Friday night there is football. I mean serious football. If it snows during the week, you’d better believe all roads will be plowed clean by Friday in time for the 8 man football to live on. Not kidding here. This football is serious business.
Now back to Fonks. Catchy name - Fonks. Nice sunny day and no where to go, mostly because there is no where to go. I mean, this was before coffee houses, and fast foods (for the most part) and stores like that, so what was left? 5 and dime stores. We called them the 5 and 10 cent stores. A variety store. As I strolled down the street, past J.C. Pennys, and Martha’s Dress Shop and Billow’s Hardware and then abruptly a change. Here was a find. A surprise piece of chicken in my soup. Butter instead of margarine. A find.
Walked right in. Noticed, right away, the ambience. Back then it wasn’t called ambience, it was called sawdust on the oiled hardwood floors. Yep, they used saw dust because it cleaned the floors as customers scuffed along. I’d never seen that before and it smelled great! Good impression right off. Then I lifted my eyes to see what might crop up in this, so far, unusual store. I saw the green weigh yourself with a penny and get a fortune machine holding it’s place near the front door. I could see the cosmetics counter all sectioned off by short glass particians: lipsticks, rouge, powders, hand lotion, nail files and emory boards. I saw a table of colorful women’s underwear all folded and neat. And next to that an equal size table of men’s sox and ties quietly holding it’s place.
All sorts of stuff. So interesting and tell tale of the rather isolated farming community. No huge drug stores, no Walmarts, no Home Depots, only Fonks, the grocery stores and such. This was a treasure store. And the hair accoutrements. Wow. Bobby pins, brushes, combs, hand mirrors, barrettes, all what today, we might call old timey stuff. But, since I was on my small town walk about, and having nothing to do but study, research and write, I was hooked.
Oh, and the toy section. I mean yo-yos, army men in a bin, magnets, all kinds of balls, dolls, blocks, model airplane, ships and car kits. And all the paints and glues you might ever need.
I can’t remember all the stuff there was, but it was such a comforting and homey place. I mean it smelled of trees and no sales ladies hanging over your shoulder. There was one more area of inerest . . . the candy aisle. I mean licorice by the stick, bubble gum by the piece, jaw breakers from a jar. All kinds of goodness.
Since I had but pennies, almost literally, I bought a yo-yo, a pack of Double Bubble and one jaw breaker. Wow, what a find. I was happy. My legs were happy with the walk. My mind was clear and freshened. Back to the dissertation writing, chewing on a piece of bubble gum with a broad smile on my face, a jaw breaker on my desk for future conquest and most fine feeling of contentment.