Businesses close and people carry on. Something else eventually opens in the same storefront, then that closes, and on it goes, at least until it someone puts up some storage sheds at which point it stays storage sheds forever. As I always used to say to out-of-town friends asking me about how Mattoon was doing, “It’s great; if you like car dealerships and storage sheds.”
And with that I bring to you, from the Nov. 28, 1988, edition of the Journal Gazette this business page article by Patty O'Neill about Icenogle’s Grocery re-starting home-delivery.
Of the three selling points mentioned in the article -- wooden floors, narrow aisles, and small carts -- the only one I remember with any clarity would be the floors, probably because I was one of those annoying towheaded Children of the Dammed who was always running into things because he walked around looking at his feet all the time. I distinctly remember they weren’t wooden floors the way we think of wooden floors now, all shiny and polished. No, these were individual planks worn down to a grubby, dull, almost black, finish, each one making a very pleasant thunk when you’d walk on them, like you were on the deck of a Spanish galleon...that had groceries on it.
Sure makes me wonder if you could get away with something like that now, especially when it comes to health codes and the meat department. Although, just check out Ralph Coverstone on the far right of that photo. There's no way that dude didn't keep his meat department tight and right. They didn't hand out paper hats to dudes who didn't have their act together.
I can’t speak to the benefits of their “narrow” aisles, and “small” shopping carts. I can say that I’ve never been in County Market and thought “You know what, my life would be a lot easier if I didn’t have to make that two-foot journey from one side of this aisle to the other.” I have noticed a lot of grocery stores now starting to provide more of those mini-carts, and, well, I’m not saying that I need to feel like Mad Max at the grocery store, but pushing around one of those stubby blue half-carts just isn’t a good look.
My clearest memories of shopping at Icenogle’s have less to do with the groceries, since I would have still been in my single digits at the time, but more to do with fun near-the-checkout impulse items like Topps trading cards featuring The A-Team, A.L.F., or Return of the Jedi, all sealed in waxy packs with the chewing gum; the Pac-Man "Candy Maze" game where you had to maneuver candy bits through a maze and even then had to decide of you wanted to eat the little ghost or if you wanted to "play" the maze again by reinserting it in the "play again" slot in the back, and, of course, comic books.
The promise that my parents always held in front of me during each and every insufferable trip to get poked and prodded at The Link Clinic was that if I could keep it together, afterwards I could get a comic book from Icenogle’s. Probably doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but you’d be surprised as to how much I’d look forward to that; and I mean really looked forward to it, almost to the point where every little detail of walking into Icenogle’s is still burned into my brain: the scrape of my dirty soles on the pebbly cement steps, the warm feel of the smeary, metal push-plate bolted to the wooden framed door, and yeah, the wood floors thumping under my surely untied shoes.
I think it also had something to do with the fact that this comic-after-doctor tradition started at just the right moment to get me hooked, what with the first issue of “Who’s Who,” a super-hero telephone directory of sorts. And just for the record, if you’re wondering what DC Comics character managed to be first in alphabetical order back in 1984, the answer would be “Abel,” the “host” of the 1970s “House of Secrets” comic.
But the one that really got me was Green Lantern; and whoa Nelly did I ever pick a fantastic moment to drop into that particular comic book: issue 176, May 1984, which saw Green Lantern Hal Jordan farting around out in space and thus unable to stop his girlfriend Carol Ferris’s aircraft company from being destroyed by "The Demolition Team", a group of baddies each individually armed with methods of destruction based on construction themes, including (I’m not kidding) “Scoopshovel,” “Hardhat”, “Steamroller”, (natch) and “Rosie,” with her red-hot rivet gun, who ranked second only to Spider-Woman in leaving quite an impression on my little-kid brain.
Not to spoil a nearly 30-year-old storyline for anyone, but Hal ended up resigning his position in the Green Lantern Corps a few issues later, all for love. I remember quite clearly how that issue ended, with Hal Jordan, back on Earth with Carol, promising how he was home for good, while looking up at the stars that were going to be protected by…well…I don’t know who.
Because the appointments eventually stopped and I couldn’t convince my parents to let me have a comic book as a reward for going to the shoe store, I never quite found out what exactly happened in the next issue, to be titled “Take This Job and Shove It!”. I’m sure it’s possible that there’s another similar snot-nosed kid who bought the issue I needed from Icenogle’s and has spent his or her own life wondering what happened before their issue.
There are no more places here in Mattoon for me to just walk in and buy a comic book since my former comic shop is now a "Heritage Park", and Waldenbooks is just a dark, vacant hole in a wall. Now I usually just wait until a hardcover collection is available from Amazon. It works for me, but still, it would be nice if I could just stop by Icenogle’s again to get some trading cards and check on my buddy Green Lantern. But of course I can’t; it’s a bunch of storage sheds now.