Sights, smells and tastes downtown

Julie Colgin Buchanan

My own earliest food-connected memory ... besides family cooking ... is of Losavio's grocery store at 15th and Austin Avenue.

The store had a wooden plank floor. I can see the shelves lined with cans and the butcher shop at the back, though only from a low perspective looking upward, as I was very small. It seemed that Mr. Clark was always sweeping that floor, but he never forgot to stop and give me a piece of Juicy Fruit gum, a real treat as my mother discouraged gum chewing. I still have a spaghetti recipe from Losavio's which they gave to my mother.

My daddy, Dr. Merchant R. Colgin, loved history, and being used to my grandmother's wonderful cooking, he appreciated good food. He would drive me all over town, showing me where places had been and talking about their specialties. He often bemoaned the loss of Chris' Cafe in the 1953 tornado. I wish I'd paid better attention. What I wouldn't give for just one more of those Sunday afternoon driving excursions.

Guess I was blessed with a lovely childhood or maybe I have a selective memory, but tastes and smells are so evocative.

I have fond memories of the old Spudnut Shop on 25th Street, just around the corner from Otis Stahl Drug and across from O&H Rare Foods.

We lived nearby on Austin, and I'd somtimes walk my dog down there to be hypnotized by the cutting and dipping process visible through the large front window of the shop.

The owner was fast as lightning with that doughnut cutter! With the practiced skill of a surgeon, he would cut each spudnut, giving the cutter a small, quick twist upward and catching the circle of dough on his thumb before dropping it onto the frying rack. He could fill up a large rack with dozens of raw spudnuts in just a couple of minutes.No machine could have done better. I still don't understand why doughnuts of potato flour aren't made by someone. They're so much lighter and better and stay fresh much longer.

People were so upset when the owner died (I'm embarrased to say I can't recall his name) that the newspaper printed a little article reassuring the public that the Spudnut recipe had been bought by someone (I don't think it said who) and the Spudnut Shop would reopen. But it never did.

Many times, Daddy would meet a patient at his office on Columbus ... yes, doctors used to do those things ... and we'd stop at the Toddle House on the way home for magnificent omelets and hash browns.

Other times, we'd go to the barbecue place on 25th between Washington and Columbus and get a Horn O' Plenty. That was chopped barbecue served in a cornucopia shaped roll, which I've actually managed to duplicate with either refrigerator crescent roll dough or breadstick dough wrapped around a cone shape and baked, then filled with barbecue. I'll bet lots of people remember those.

We went to the House of Lyons on Austin Avenue for Mexican food on many Sunday nights. I remember the cages of parakeets Mrs. Lyons kept. That would probably be illegal nowadays ... not considered sanitary.

The hamburger place catty-cornered across Columbus from olf Waco High made the best fried pies. When I had first-period speech or drama and we were practicing for a contest, we'd sometimes be allowed to go there for a treat. My favorite was coconut cream.

For lunch, often a group of us would take out running for the cafeteria at the old Karem Shrine building on Washington. We'd run across Columbus, through the old bus station, up the back metal stairs and into the kitchen in order to have time to get in line for our lunch and eat.

I usually had fried chicken and a salad. The choices were much better than the fast-food the kids eat nowadays, certainly less expensive. I guess the run there and back kept us from getting fat, and we were sad when it rained.

Julie Colgin Buchanan is a long-time Waco resident.

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