Southside Landmark Memories

Scurvy Erv's

by Bill Cook

Author's Note: This article is one of a series about some of the memorable landmarks on the Southside during the Fifties. If you have a favorite landmark that you'd like to see featured here on the website, please contact me and we'll get a picture of it up for viewing. And if you'd like to write an accompanying piece for it - please let me know - another perspective besides mine might be refreshing to our readers.

ho among us can say we never had a Coke at Scurvy Erv's Soda Fountain? I know I can't. I can still smell the mustiness of the place and see the display windows piled high with merchandise that only Erv Himself could sort through for a customer.

When you walked into his store, your first impression was that you'd entered someone's garage and that they were getting ready to back up a dump truck to the place and cart everything off. There was no rhyme or reason on how Erv arranged things. Only he knew the key to find whatever it was that you wanted and usually in less than 30 seconds, he'd find it and ring it up on the cash register.

I first met Erv when he drove a Crosley. Rumor has it that he had parked it one day on the street at the north end of the Southside High School building and a bunch of Clionian's or Alpha Zeta's carried it up the stairs of the school and put it into a hallway. Erv, shocked as to how it got there, was left with the task of getting it back outside and onto the street. This was almost believable because a Crosley was about half the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and weighed almost nothing. So maybe it happened. Anybody know for sure?

Most people don't know this, but my Dad (Clay, the barber next door) owned the building that Erv had his store in. For some reason, he would seldom admit it in public. My dad bought the building back in the mid-40s and opened up a soda shop, moving his barber shop into the building (prior to that, he had been located over on Luce Street, just off Maple Avenue). In the early Fifties, he sold the soda shop to a pharmacist who converted into a drug store - it remained that way a very short time until about 1954 when Erv bought the business and started converting the store into what it finally became when we were teens at Southside, a mish-mash of paraphernalia on which Erv made his living. Erv finally bought the building from my dad in 1959.

Scurvy Erv's (as it came to be known by Southsiders) was open all hours of day and night. Erv usually worked the night shift and you could stop in after 1AM and find him asleep in the phone booth. You'd go back, tap on the window of the phone booth and wake him up to make your purchases. Just another piece of Fifties trivia that we find unbelievable today. But this is the way it was back in the Happy Days decade of our teen years.

A few SHS grads will admit to having worked there. Dan Reibson ('58), Nancy Wood ('58), Steve Eastman ('59), Mike Reidy ('60), Bob Allen ('62) are among them. Anyone else out there who'd like to come clean?

In 1998 I visited Elmira and took the picture that you see at the top. This is how it appeared then. It has since been torn down. Scurvy Erv's had gone out of business some years prior to my visit, but it was still piled high with junk, and if you approached the front window and peered in, there it was just like when we were teen-agers. It looked like Erv just got tired of coming to work one day, locked the door, and left.

Bill is an author and columnist now residing in New Smyrna Beach Florida. You can usually find him wandering about town looking for a story. Maybe yours will be his next tale. You can read more of Bill's published stories at his website - or write to him at POB 1029, New Smyrna Beach FL 32170.

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