Kansas Collection books

The Country Store

assortment of barrels and drygoods

    It stood at the crossroads, just opposite the old church, a rather small wooden structure with a false front and a covered porch at the entrance.  There was a wooden bench outside where the spit-and-whiffle club gathered to discuss politics and the weather.  There was also a lean-to shed where Uncle Will stored his non perishable goods.

    Inside was a long wooden counter that the storekeeper got behind to wait on his customers.  On one end of the counter was a glass showcase.  That was what usually got my attention because that was where the candy was kept.  On the rear half of this counter was a Fairbanks plafform scale.  It was designed to read both weights and total price.  Most everything in the store was weighed on this scale.

    Behind the scale was a red, hand-cranked coffee grinder.  The coffee beans came in a burlap sack that stood beside the grinder.  Uncle Will would weigh out the correct amount of beans, dump them in the grinder and catch the ground coffee in a paper sack.  After carefully folding down the top of the sack he would tie it with a piece of string and mark the price on the outside with a pencil he always wore behind his right ear.

    Also on the counter was a head (roll) of cheese and a large carving knife.  I was always amazed how close he could guess how large a piece to cut that would weigh very close to one pound.  The cracker barrel was close by and for 1O cents you could have a quick snack of crackers and cheese.

    Behind the counter were shelves of canned goods that included various vegetables, jams, jellies and some spices.  On the lower shelf was the smoking tobacco, chewing tobacco and snuff.  The chewing tobacco came in big slabs and had to be cut into smaller plugs with a big cutter that stood close by.

    Across the room were the dry goods.  You could buy denim overalls, jackets, socks or chambray shirts.  Most of these items came in four sizes: large, medium, small and children's size.  There were also some bolts of gingham and flannel cloth that Uncle Will would measure and cut with a large pair of shears.

    In the small lean-to shed beside the store, Uncle Will stored a barrel of kerosene, some ground corn for chicken feed and sacks of wheat bran for livestock feed.  He measured the kerosene into a quart measure and poured it into your container.  The corn and bran he weighed on a small platform scale.

    There was no delivery service in those days.  All of the merchandise came in by train to the depot just a block down the street.  Uncle Will had a small two-wheeled cart to haul his merchandise from the depot to his store.  He usually got deliveries once a week, but sometimes more often.

    Uncle Will was a relative by marriage and he would carry charge accounts for relatives and some friends.  When the bill got too large or he needed money, he would personally remind those who owed him that he couldn't stay in business unless they paid up their accounts.  I made it a point to be along when Grandpa paid his bill.  That meant that Uncle Will would open up the candy case and give me a sack of candy of my own choosing.  He also sent a sack of gumdrops home for Grandma and a complimentary can of Prince Albert tobacco for Grandpa and his pipe.

    Uncle Will was an English shop-keeper and ran his shop in our village much the same as he had the one in England.  It was 3 1/2 miles to the nearest town by muddy roads so the little store was very much a part of life in our village.  Uncle Will became ill and sold it to another local man, and the store continued for some years.  Finally it went the way of many other things.  All that is left today are some fond memories of what used to be.

divider line of two flower vines

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