* * * * * * *

"Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."
- Unknown

"That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."
- Handed down through the ages.

"Life's tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid."
- John Wayne

A Little Local History

In the comments section yesterday, Jen wrote, "One of the things I have always loved about your new workplace is how things were stashed here and there and everywhere - a bit like a treasure hunt!"  And that is SO true!  For example, a customer in my housewares/kitchen area yesterday asked for help locating the spices.  As I led her away from that same area and into women's clothing & shoes (where the spices are located), it struck me how STRANGE, makes-no-sense the location was!  But, those idiosyncrasies ARE part of what makes this store so intriguing to so many.  Anyway, thinking about this led me to the fun thought of occasionally sharing with you the items that are requested.  It will show how huge and varied an inventory we have.  As the unofficial slogan goes, "If we don't have it, you don't need it!"

So, the needed items my ears have been privy to lately are, in no particular order:
  • Cheesecloth (a big seller)
  • Balloons (specifically purple balloons for a 6-year old, my very first nannying charge)
  • Tiny gift-tag size cards with envelopes.
  • Girls' Crocs (we actually didn't have any)
  • Cribbage Board
  • Compass
  • Cat Litter Box
  • Electric Knife Sharpener
  • Fit-into-the-bottom-of-the-sink Dish Drainer
  • Batteries
  • Embroidery Floss
  • Electric Fan
  • Boxed Thank You Cards
  • Turkey Baster
  • Lemon Zester
  • Piggy Bank (which we have but none of us, even the people who have been there for YEARS, could find . . . until after the customer had left!)
  • Rawhide Dog Chews
  • Hair Dryer
  • Crossword Puzzle Books
  • Boxed Valentines for Children
  • Stainless Steel Coffee Percolator (only had aluminum & enamelware)
  • Small buckets with bails (as in for gift-packaging . . . and which we also didn't have)
  • Wrapping paper for a baby gift.
Annnnd, that's all my brain will allow me to recall.  See, we really ARE an old-fashioned Variety Store!

I was going cross-eyed yesterday, FINALLY finishing up the new gift bag display, when I neared the end.  I was happy to cross them off my list and also fortified to know I'd located them all and had them now ON DISPLAY.  It was only then, beginning my new project of rearranging the ribbon into ONE spot . . . that I found another drawer (that I didn't know was "mine") FULL of MORE gift bags!  Argh!  But, by that time, I was done.  DONE with gift bags.  Those new (to me) ones will just wait until my on-display inventory has dwindled.

You'll have to let me know if all this info about my new job bores you to tears!  But, right now, since the majority of my time is spent THERE, it's about all I have to write about!  :)

I have been trying to make good use of my 1-hour lunch break and town days, though, to multi-task . . . at least regarding my town errands and business appointments.  And, since I got in the lunch-hour business meeting and follow-up evening dinner appointment, I'll call it a success for this past week.  If I don't have errands to run, I usually go to Mama & Papa Pea's or My Girl's (my adopted daughter's) to eat my lunch.  It's a chance to try to (quickly) relax, take off my shoes, be myself.  Or, if the customers/people are really getting to me, sometimes I'll just go for a drive out of town - to get away from it all.

But, speaking of shoes . . . feet, really . . . I've decided that I'm adding Foot Fetishist to the list of requirements for my new man.  Since the days of our family restaurant, I've have problems with my feet, and being on them on a hard tile floor for 8 hours a day hasn't helped.  Whether I wear my Birks or shoes with my custom-made orthotic inserts, they ACHE and moan and howl by the end of each day.  So, a man who wants nothing more than to bathe my feet in scented bubbles at the end of each day and then rub oils into them for an hour each night as I fall asleep is high on my list of priorities!  ;)

Here's a fun, Spot the Differences game for you.  There are two things in this picture that should strike you as more than a little strange.  Or just odd.  Or just . . . well, you get the idea.  So, what are they?

This old building is located behind my place-of-business store and is owned by same.  It's a historical structure in our town, and I've been SO sad to learn that the owners are going to tear it down in the spring!  :(  We're currently in the process of removing all the inventory stored there.  I have yet to go into it (it's not heated), but I'm determined to wangle the OK to take some (a lot?!) of pictures before it's demo-ed.

From a book detailing some of the history of our little town, here's what I know about the building (direct quotes are in italics).
  • It was built in the fall of 1908 on the corner where the current store is, several feet to the left (of the above picture) and turned 90 degrees, facing the lake.
  • The local paper reported the "the lower floor was to be used as a saloon and the upper floors for living apartments".
  • An newspaper ad from that time reads "[So-and-So's] New Place is now open with a fresh line of Wines, Liquors, and Cigars.  His place is clean and up-to-date and his goods, as always, are the best that money can buy.  You are Treated Right at The New Place."
  • The only other info that can be found for the years between the building's 1908 construction and 1914 is another ad in the paper that "stated that his building was for rent and that it contained eight rooms on the second floor and could be used for a store, hotel or restaurant.  No record has been found of anyone renting the building."
  • The first floor was setup as a saloon and was used as such from 1909-1919.  During the years of prohibition, 1920-1933, alcoholic beverages could not have been legally sold, but the first floor remained set up as a tavern.  Change in the business . . . on October 27, 1922, stated that "In recent years [the owner] has conducted a soft drink and cigar store in his building."
  • Information about the use of the building prior to 1933 is very limited.  The discovery of an old sign in the building does indicate that the second floor was used as a hotel or boarding house sometime during the years between 1909 and 1944.  On the second floor there were seven rooms and only one bathroom, which was typical for boarding houses and hotels in the early part of the last century.
  • In 1933, the building was sold to a woman who opened an ice cream store there in July of that year.  From her new store she sold what she called [Name of Our Town] Ice Cream to restaurants, hotels, Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC] camps, other stores, and to walk in customers.  She used part of the second floor as her personal living quarters and rented out the other rooms.  In addition to her home made ice cream she sold pies, pop, coffee and snack food, including her own home made potato chips.  An ad from 1933 reads 'Announcing Our Own [the Name of Our Town] Ice Cream.  The Richest and Finest Ever Made.  Our freezer installation is the new and improved method of producing the finest, richest and tastiest ice cream ever known.  We cordially invite you to come in and see us freeze this delicious ice cream.  You'll say it's the most delicious ice cream you ever tasted - and you'll come back for more - again and again.  Because it's the richest and finest ever made.  Frozen fresh at frequent intervals right before your eyes.  Rich, cream, velvety beyond compare - flavor that tickles your palate all the way down - our new [Name of Our Town] Ice Cream surely hits the spot.  But there's really only one way to find out about it - and that's to come in and sample it for yourself!  Then you'll surely want to take some home and give the family a treat.  Never before has there been such a tasty ice cream as this - yet it costs no more than ordinary commercial ice cream.  Anyone who has not as yet been in our store is invited to come in and sample our ice cream.  Children Must be Accompanied by their parents.  Price - One Quart 50 Cents.'
  • The space was then rented, and a cafe was operated on the first floor of the building for about a year sometimes between 1943 and the fall of 1945.  An elderly woman who ran the cash register for us when we owned the restaurant and who was sister to the wife of the renters remembers working in the cafe at the time for about a year.
  •  In 1944, the property was sold to the grandfather (now in his 90s*) of my boss for $5,000 with scheduled payments and with the stipulation that [the previous owner] would remove the old building as soon as [the new buyer] was ready to build on the lot.  Because of circumstances related to WWII, [the new owner's] plans to build a new store were delayed.
*"Illegally" leaving the nursing home, he comes down on a regular basis to "work" (mostly tearing down cardboard boxes for recycling) and which, I'm told, regularly involves "stealing" salt water taffy in the candy aisle!  If we can catch him at it, we're to quietly mark it down on the sheet containing his "purchases".
  • In 1946, a family rented and operated a cafe on the lower level of the building and lived upstairs with their children.  A widower and her three children shared the upstairs with [that] family.
  • In December 1946 or early 1947 a[nother] . . . family rented the first floor and started a cafe called _____'s Eat Shop.  They enlarged the dining area and served dinners and short-order items.  In April 1947, the local newspaper reported that "the ____'s have build up quite a following for the brief time they have operated" the business.  From the information available it appears that [they] operated the Eat Shop for about a year.  An ad from 1947 reads 'OPEN from 5:30 a.m. to 12 o'clock Midnight.  Served Regularly:  Dinners and Short Orders.  A good place to meet your friends after the show.'
  • In the summer of 1952, two brothers who ran a photo service business and men's clothing shop "rented the first floor . . . as an expansion effort . . . and for storage".
  • In November of 1949, my boss's grandparents received the deed for the land and building.  Sometime prior to the fall of 1951, they had the building moved to its new [current] location.  Since then [my employer's family] has used the building for storage space for their store.  It remains as one of the oldest wood frame buildings in the business district.
So!  With all this local color detailed, can you see why I'm loathe to see it torn down?  Bum-mer!!!

And now, I've frittered away my entire morning getting this down "on paper".  But, it's worth it to me to have it documented in the annuls of this blog.

Are YOU as sappy as I am about local history?



  1. Okay, two strange things about the picture. Yes, it sure is listing to the right quite a bit! Holy moley! Second, there is a nun, in full habit, standing in the upstairs window. (Ha-ha, that's what I see anyway!) Or wait! Is it the ghost of one of the people who used to rent a room upstairs? Oooo-ooo-00000!

  2. Interesting story of this old building.
    Not only is the building listing to the right, but the building front is off-kilter. Holding a ruler to the front of it shows that the bottom panel slopes up toward the center of the building at the doorway.
    That figure in the upper window looks to me like a colonial judge with a while powdered wig and black robes.

    Strange that the side door is almost on the front corner too, they're usually placed further back.

  3. Hi, I just found your blog via The Nature Knitter's list of blogs she follows! Wow, you are one brave woman. I wished I had your guts and talent and whatever else it takes to live off the grid way up north. And about that building that is to be torn down--one thing wrong with the photo was the right side is lower than the left (yes?). I couldn't find the second, although it looked like someone was looking out an upstairs window. Maybe you could get the Minnesota Historical Association involved and they'd want to save the building--especially with your knowledge of its history. Were you born in upper Minn? I had a friend who grew up in that area. Anyway, great blog--you are one high-energy person!! And I love it that you love the cold weather!!
    - Mollie

  4. Waaah! :( I wish someone would rescue that building. I've often wanted to go it there myself. I sure hope you get the chance. waaah! I HATE it when old buildings get torn down.

  5. P.S. I think that's George Washington in the upstairs window. :)
    Also, my verification word is mornable, which this news is.

  6. I can't enlarge the photo, but it looked like George Washington to me too LOL! Hey add to your list of completely random items in the store the flap ear hat, purse, and pocket knife we bought there all in one shopping trip - the place is awesome, if you can't find it there, you don't need it LOL!

  7. I was bummed out when they tore down that old theater last year and I'd never really even known that building WAS a theater! Wonder what sort of unintended consequences will occur as a result of tearing it down - more pigeons out of a home and set loose on the rest of downtown? And what do they intend to do with that space anyway?

    I've purchased Tevas, fake Crocs, hair scissors, flannel pants, sun hats, birthday cards, snow boots, cheezy toys, and laundry line in your shop and lusted after cast iron griddles. I go in there regularly just to wander and see what I can find :)

  8. This comment will suffice as my post this AM . . .

    Mollie, WELCOME! I made a slight edit to your comment because you used a place name, and I'd really prefer no one do that (see my blurb above under 'Leave your comment'. But, you can always e-mail me via the Contact Form on the blog (right-hand column)! :)

    Mom, a nun??? Wellll, I'm not sure about that. ;) But, to those of you who see George Washington or a fellow dressed in a colonial style, you're RIGHT! I haven't yet asked the story behind him, but it IS a display dummy dressed as such. The first time I noticed him, he gave me quite a start! (Wonder how long he's been there that I've never before noticed?!!)

    And, yup, the building is l-i-s-t-i-n-g . . . hence their desire to pull it down. Apparently the 2nd story floor is exactly the same. I'd assumed it would just affect the ground floor walls.

    I *love* your personal additions of the miscellany you've purchased there! :)

    And, I juuuust might contact the Historical Society to ask them if there are any monies available to save the building. Or, better yet, ask my bosses if they've done the same.

  9. Hi again Chicken Mama,
    Oops, I'm sorry. I didn't read the info above, which is very unlike me. Or maybe that was the young me with more brain cells! Still admire what you do!


  10. Maybe it is the ghost of George Washington's mother in that window? I love local histories, too. Our little town was such a bustling place - until 'they' decided to straighten the main thoroughfare and cut off the main portion of town. It's just a whisper of itself now. Loved the post!


  12. I am with you Chicken Mama! I love local history! I grew up in the same small town my parents did and there is so much history that I am still finding. I get lost in it and have to remind myself to get back into the "real world".

    Glad to find your blog! (I found you through your mother's)

    Have a great day!



If you are familiar with me and where I live, please respect my right to retain some anonymity by not referring to me by anything other than Chicken Mama nor mentioning city/town/villages by place names. Thanks!