• By Kirk Gaw

Remembering Jacob's The Center Of Walkerton

It must have been a difficult decision to demolish the Hudelmeyer Opera House. It provided a diner, clothing store, "Irish's Pub," and an upstairs event hall space. It was one of the oldest buildings in town and even hosted top talent's like "The Riviera's." It was the rockin' upstairs spot at Illinois & Roosevelt where the youth could dance "The Twist!"

In 1968 Mahlon, and Patty Jacob came up with other Walkerton investors to build what became the "Jacob's" store. They planned to have departments including the pharmacy, one of the inspirations for the rotating corner sign that eventually, said, "Jacob Drugs."

In 1968 urban renewal was a common happening across America. Big cities and small, alike, got into demolishing historic properties to affix, the modern, universal, streamlined style of glass with concrete. Jacob's, it may be said, was to provide the clean "box-store" lines that shoppers expected during the late 1960's. The Hudelmayer Opera House met its destiny with the wrecking ball.

Charles Sherland provided these construction photos of the arrival of the Jacob's Store. He and the WAHS make this article possible.

Upon completion of the upscale store customers quickly descended on the "Jacob's Fountain." The circular countertop diner was placed around an actual statue water fountain at the rear of the establishment. It became a destination for diners.

Between, ice-cream desserts, pie, "Patty Melts" (I'm certain named for Patty Jacob?), cheeseburgers, milkshakes, malteds, grilled cheese, meatloaf, and complete soda jerking / blending equipment for a sparkling soda, or a flavored Sno-Cone ice treat followers kept them busy. At one point 3 servers would work the busiest parts of the day and were expected to cook.

These early b/w photos are compliments of Ken Rohrer.

Next to the diner was a tobacco pipe shopping area complete with sofa for smokers, and a play area for children while customers tapped into their tobacco pipes. I remember being propped behind a playpen on the other side of the ice-cream bins and would navigate the toys while my caretakers sat on the blue sofa waiting for their prescriptions and smoking from their pipes. The fountain area was a community meeting spot. (Sorely missed today.)

Jacob's provided a newsstand, photo developing, books, beauty supplies, cosmetics, a wedding planning area, gifts, ornaments, candies, chocolates, liquor, and toys! Don't forget the complete pharmacy, behind the counter and over the counter. If you needed to find a birthday, anniversary, wedding card? Jacob's was your place to get it. Magazine's? Housewares? Personal Hygiene Supplies? "Jacob's." By the 1980's they removed the child play area and added more customer seating for the restaurant. They also, created an art gallery with art supplies for sale. Sadly, Mahlon and Patty who were pillars of the Walkerton community passed away. The store today has been re-purposed.

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