The Street and Neighbors
My aunt’s original shop was located at 1922 Grand Avenue. The Pet Shop opened in December of 1952, so the cover picture for this blog post was taken five years after opening. I was curious about her neighboring businesses, and the following photos help me understand what was there in the earliest days. I was one year old in 1952 and I don’t believe I ever went to the original pet shop as a child. My earliest recollections are of the bigger shop located where the Super Bi-Lo Market was as shown in the following images. I even found an image of the back entry.
The Aunt Who Gave Good Gifts
I don’t recall when my aunt gave me my first aquarium. It probably was before I was in Junior High School. If I had to guess, I would say around 1959 when my brother Claude was born. The first aquarium was a 10-gallon tank with a black slate bottom and a stainless-steel frame. This image is probably a good idea of what it was like. The picture shows my aunt in her store in 1959. She delivered the gift to our home in Naperville, Illinois. I’m not certain when she opened the store in the new location (where Bi-Lo Market had been), but I believe it was 1959. That is the store I remember as a child.
Education 1959 and 2020 Mollies
One of Aunt Vera’s priorities was proper care of animals. If an animal was injured, she wanted to nurse it back to health. The parrot named Kelly that we had in our home when I was a boy couldn’t fly. The Great Dane, Tish, that my aunt loved had been mistreated. She rescued and loved that monster of a dog. I remember Tish, because that dog was a giant.
Even in her gift to me she made education a part of the puzzle. I didn’t just get the aquarium, supplies and fish. She gave me books to help me take proper care of the fish. The following image is one of the books I still own from my aunt’s store. Note the retail price was 35-50 cents for most of the books she gave me. In 1959 that was a lot of money! The book about mollies stands out to me, as that is what I keep in my home office aquarium today. They are a helpful freshwater fish for keeping algae out of the tank. They love to eat algae, perhaps even more than “algae eaters.”
The final images are a reminder of the hard work a shopkeeper had to perform to keep inventory as a part of owning the business and to pay income taxes. Page after page of handwritten descriptions, counts, prices and totals must have taken hours to complete. The cover page summarized the entire inventory. What I found interesting is that one of the books my aunt had given me was still an book available in her 1976 inventory.
Final Word: Why This Matters
My goal continues to be to honor my aunt’s desire that her life work and love was not forever lost. Of course, in time even my blog may fade from the internet. But for now, I hope this brings you some joy and for those of you who remember The Pet Shop, I hope it provides reminders of some wonderful pets and visits to The Pet Shop. Even if it doesn’t, I’m keeping my commitment to my lovely aunt.