What made downtown Trenton unique in years past were businesses such as the Dime Store, Mulias and Ellias and the old Trenton Hardware store, which carried one-of-a-kind items.
The old saying, “If you can’t find it, go downtown Trenton,” was our mantra. There is still a business downtown where you can find many one-of-a-kind items, including many you may not have been looking for.
Three Coins Coin Shop, located on West Jefferson Avenue, has a lot more interesting things than just coins. It has vintage jerseys and jackets, and other non-sport antiques for sale. Many interesting items can be seen right in the front-window display, before you even enter the store.
While wandering through the store you are likely to come across unusual objects – just as I did when I discovered two old Trenton telephone directories from the years 1951 and 1953 and immediately purchased these pieces of history for $5 apiece.
The fact that these books survived all these years is amazing. After all, most people can’t wait to throw out an old phone book when the new ones are distributed – and nowadays the necessity of the phone book lessened with the advent of the Internet.
The books that I bought contained the telephone numbers of residents of not only Trenton, but also Grosse Ile, Flat Rock, Rockwood and Wyandotte – plus the business numbers of those communities as well.
The books are less than 200 pages and are easy to read with large lettering. This was the day when telephone exchanges consisted of two letters and four numbers and you would dial the operator and she would put you in contact with the party you were seeking.
Do you remember how Andy of Mayberry made a phone call? “Sarah, put me through to Ernst T. Bass.” That’s basically how it was here as well. You would dial the operator and state, “Trenton 1234,” just for an example.
On another trip to Three Coins I came out with an old letter “T.” I was told by Craig Bond, the store’s co-owner, that it came from a Trenton High School sweater.
I was a bit unsure because it was purple rather than the bright blue that we are accustomed to seeing at Trenton sports events. However, I convinced myself with, “It’s probably been washed so many times it has faded to purple.”
By Tony Mazzella
Sometime later I learned from Dick Hood and the other unofficial Trenton historians at Elliott’s Bakery that this was a letter from a Trenton High sweater – and that it was indeed purple because, before 1954, Trenton’s colors were purple and gold.
This sparked quite a discussion and one of the younger historians asked, “Why did they change the colors to near identical Wyandotte Roosevelt’s colors, considering that Wyandotte is arguably Trenton’s most contentious rivalry?”
Another former Trenton alumni offered, “I believe it was for the admiration of the University of Michigan Wolverines ‘Maize and Blue.’”
Whatever the true reason for the change, the colors are now steeped in Trenton tradition.
I hope I can find more gems in this old-town Trenton store. It may not seem like much finding these dusty mementos, but they reveal so much of the past we never knew.
Tony Mazzella welcomes readers to friend him on Facebook, where he frequently shares his recollections about some of the interesting people and businesses in Trenton’s past.