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Last of Its Street Market
This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News in August 1948
Dayton, This Year, Is Seeing Last of Its
By Bernard J. Losh
Daily News Staff Writer
               A century old Dayton tradition is about to give way to progress. At the end of 1948 the downtown street market will disappear. It will almost literally fold its tents and silently steal away.
               There is no exact record of the beginning of Dayton’s street market. Michael Kurtz, 123 Cliff st., who has a five-acre gardening plot says it was well established when he knew it 62 years ago. City officials believe the market has been operating, in one form or another, for at least 100 years.
               Kurtz has his garden plot within the city limits and raises all his own garden produce. He is one of 15 who have stands this year and the space is confined to the west sidewalk around Library park between Second and Third sts.
               Fred Walton, superintendent of markets and public property for the city said the revenue from the 15 stands does not bring $1500 a year and the cost of cleaning up and policing them is more than the income. Next year the market will disappear because the stands will not be sold.
               In Walton’s view there are many contributing factors to the slow death of the street market. Chief among them is the city’s stringent health code. Another is the advent of the super-markets. It used to be that farmers would do their own butchering and bring their fresh meat to the street market. The city health code stopped this sale but if it had not the farmers themselves would have quit. Of late years they found it more profitable and less work to sell directly to the packing houses.
               Roadside stands have sprung up on every highway. Many farmers have set up business in front of their homes, in some cases building permanent stands. There is no rent to pay here, no health rules to meet over and above normal precautions and no hauling back and forth.
               Housewives of a generation back -- and some husbands who get a kick out of buying groceries, still go to the street market but the younger generation does its marketing at the super-markets.
               At one time only meat was permitted to be sold in the Market House on Main st., above which were the city offices. The police department is still quartered there. Green groceries, vegetables and fruits, were obtainable on the streets but patrons found it too much trouble to go to Library park to buy greens then make the trip back to the Market House for their meats.
               The “outside” market on Wayne av. is suffering a like fate. The Market House is still going, on Saturdays, but the outside stands have all but vanished. At one time there were 60 stands to the rear of the Wayne av. building. Now only one or two merchants show up.
               There was formerly an outside market in the East End, on Huffman and Linden avs., on the south side of Third st., but it was abandoned years ago because of traffic conditions.
               The only prosperous outside market Dayton has now is on the south side of Third st., from Williams to Broadway, on the west side of Williams st., south of Third st., and on the east side of Broadway south of Third st.
               There are about 40 stands there.
               At one time there were hundreds of stands in the center of the city. They were spread along the east side of Main st. from Fifth st. to Second st., on Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth sts. between Main and Jefferson sts., and on the Jefferson st. between Second and Fifth sts.
               Some of the stands were free. Farmers who raised their own produce could occupy space without charge. Others who bought from commission merchants or from other sources, had to pay. Each year the pay stands were auctioned to the highest bidders and some of them -- those at intersecting corners -- went for as high as $500 a year. Others sold for as little as $20 annually.
               When the market was large, city sealers were kept jumping inspecting scales and weights and although there were frequent complaints there was little call on the police. Disputes were adjusted on the spot. But when the market was over it required all the city’s street cleaning force to haul away the refuse, vegetable tops, spoiled fruits, paper and such.
               The market area was shifted around from time to time to meet the city’s expansion. Before the final stand at Library park it was located on Jefferson st. from S. Market st. to Sixth st., and on Sixth st. between Main and Jefferson sts.
               Saturday there were 12 stands around Library park, all but one selling vegetables or flowers. One farmer had a few butchered chickens in an ice-filled case.
               City officials say the Main st. Market House and the Wayne av. market will be kept going, as well as the outside market at the West Side but the downtown outside market is doomed, this time never to return.
               One doesn’t’ have to be too old to recall the days when street cars (not too many automobiles then and no buses) were filled with chatting women gaily comparing prices and the quality of their purchases. The air was heavy with the pungent odors of onions and garlic, spices and perspiration. Huge market baskets -- which also seem to have faded from view along with the outside markets -- clogged the aisles. They held the choice foods for a week and no one minded trudging the couple of squares from the car stop to home with them.
               It is an era, the pleasantries and charm of which are sacrifices on the altars of progress.