After a hectic (but exhilarating) morning working the counter at the Post
Office, Daisy was ready for lunch and a few moments of relaxation. She
grabbed a book that she kept in a small cubby she was given in a common
lounge the female workers shared and made her way out past the stables
and into the Peoria streets. Since she came in so early she took lunch before
the normal crowds clogged up the sidewalks.
She heads down Main Street towards the river, passing the YMCA and
courthouse, the undertakers and watchmakers, glancing in the windows of
Trefzger’s Bakery, book under her arm and money in her skirt pocket.
She passes the stationery stores and booksellers. Jacquin-Oden was her
favorite place to browse because they sometimes gave her free stationery.
Working in the post office she gained a respect for the texture and quality of
good paper and, by extension, became fascinated with the world of
She always loved to read and someday hoped to have a library of her own
at home filled from floor to ceiling with books – fiction and non-fiction,
classical novels, Greek and Roman mythology, natural sciences, philosophy,
she wanted to read it all whereas other girls her age were more interested
fashion or jewelry.
She had read somewhere that books “adorn the mind” while fashion “merely
adorns the body” and after immersing herself in the school library she began
to understand and experience the truth of it in her own life – especially at her
new job and in her interactions with shop workers and street vendors in the
Today, her destination was Davis’s Drug Store on Main and Washington,
down near the river. It was her favorite place because she could usually find
a quiet corner in which to eat and read. If Davis’s was too loud, it left her
only a block from the riverfront where all the steamboats and barges
comingled. There she could sit in peace without having to worry about
anyone bothering her.
Depending on the time and weather, she would sometimes go to Durkin’s
Drug Store which was a lot closer to the Post Office. Durkin’s was a popular
place in downtown Peoria and for a while was open 24-hours a day.
Main Street and Adams were brimming with drug stores – more than 20 in just
a few blocks – where you could get everything from prescribed medicines
and various sundries to a good, cheap meal and something cold to drink the
While each had their own unique charm, there were many similarities: the
squat glass cases in front containing soaps, perfumes, cough drops, kitchen
utensils and cigars; the larger upright glass cases behind with various
powders and medicines (including laudanum and cocaine); and the
requisite soda fountain, fitted with copper and brass.
All the glass and polished metal refracted light to the point that they literally
sparkled in the autumn sun. These were also the unofficial meeting places
where various downtown office workers congregated to discuss the issues of
the day and the ever-shifting political scene in Peoria. Daisy didn’t care
about that though; she just wanted a cold drink and a quiet place to read.
After grabbing lunch at Davis’s, catching a few moments of quiet solitude
and reading a few pages in her book – last year’s popular release, Stephen
Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage” – she begins making her way back up
ever-crowded Main Street to the Post Office where she is ready to finish out
her day, before hopping on her bike and riding home with the setting sun
and the city behind her.