Thursday, September 25, 1947
Expatriate Recalls Old Days In Country Store
HISTORIC LAWSON GENERAL STORE
BY P. F. LAWSON
In The Register of September 4 there was a story by Mrs. John E. Woodworth on "Country Stores, As They Were Known 50 Years Ago." Im sure the person who most enjoyed reading that story lives in Texas. I am that one. It was sixty-five years ago this month that I came up from Halifax to Waterville on the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, and for the first time saw the general store my father had opened in that village.
As time went on, I became acquainted with all the stores in Berwick in spite of the long three miles between Waterville and Berwick. Right here I want to tell Mrs. Woodworth that she is liable to get a protest from The Registers New York, correspond, Roy Chipman, for her omission, of the store of Mr. A. L. Chipman, who conducted business in Berwick for a number of years, and who sold out to Mr. L. A. Forrest.
Aimee Huntington was on the staff of a newspaper in Windsor at the time Mr. Chipman had his Berwick store. She will pardon me considering her somewhat of a newcomer to Berwick. I can recall when I was told by Miss Mary Newcombe and her mother that John E. Woodworth and Aimee Huntington were to be married. The Newcombes lost a boarder when Mr. and Mrs. Woodworth set up housekeeping. That was about 50 years ago, the period covered by the recent story in The Register.
Mrs. Woodworth is the Dean of Nova Scotia journalism. If my long sojourn in the somewhat enervating climate of the Deep South, to say nothing of advancing years, had not made me so lazy I would consider writing a series of articles about such a remarkable woman. Her continuance of the "Here and There" column in The Register has been most gratifying to me, and despite the fact that I have access to many publications there is never a week but what I get some enlightening information from that column. I do not believe there is any weekly paper on the continent of America whose files from the beginning can be of so much assistance to future historians as The Register.
But I am digressing. What I started to write about was country stores one in particular, that conducted by my father in Waterville from 1882 to 1893. My roving had commenced and I was sailing the Caribbean at the time the Grafton or rather the Buckley Corner store was opened. My visits to my home in Grafton were spasmodic and generally brief. At Waterville, I was on the store staff. From eight years of age onward I new the prices and could sell a plug of Napoleon chewing tobacco for 7 cents, McDonalds black chewing plug for four cents and Star smoking for 3 cents. As I grew taller, I was allowed to sell from behind the drygoods counter, under which was piled the factory cotton. The cheapest factory cotton (domestic, they call it now) was 5 cents a yard, and twilled cotton was 12 cents. I became quite familiar with ginghams, prints, flannels and flannelettes, and could measure off the yards on the brass tacks along the inner edge of the counter.
In the back shop, we had a big tank of kerosene and in the cellar we kept the hogshead of molasses. I was supposed to fill the molasses orders before filling up the kerosene cans, otherwise there might be an oily smell on the molasses jug. The barrels of salt pork, corned beef, pickled herring and sauer kraut were on the main floor of the store, and at times were a bit messy; but Waterville didnt have any sanitary inspectors.
When there were a lot of customers, my father would have my two brothers and myself all taking part. We didnt have a cash register. Much of the business was "trade". Farmers of the surrounding area and the fishermen over along the Bay shore would bring their products. I can recall trading in: butter, eggs, poultry, rabbits, muskrat and mink skins, carcasses of pork, lard, tallow, smoked herring, pickled herring, dried codfish, dried pollock, dulse, oats, rye, cord wood, maple sugar, wool, hides, axe handles, baskets, metal junk of all kinds and bones.
It was with difficulty that my father could keep track of the market for these commodities, mostly in Halifax. The bones went to Windsor, where they were ground into bone meal.
Speaking of bones: Fresh, as well as weather beaten bones were taken in, as the mill did not object. Many a jack knife, or other desired commodity came into the possession of the boy who would rustle around and get a bag of bones. Frank (Dinah) Walker was a pretty regular trader-in of bones. At one time, a part of a skull and what looked suspiciously like other human
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Bones were found in one of the lots traded in by Frank. A little research discovered that at one time on what we boys called Walkers Hill there had been a cemetery-said to be French. Frank had struck a pay streak.
My memory rolls up a string of interesting happenings in connection with my storekeeping days in Waterville. There is a lady living today who can recall when she was sent to Lawsons store to buy a piece of crockery such as was used in the old time bedroom. I was in charge of the store that day, and both of us were about 14 years of age. We were both embarrassed, but the sale was made, and half a century later we laughed over the recollection.
We had three-coil and four-coil bustles for sale. On one occasion, a customer came to me for the purchase. The bustles were wound tightly and the springs kept under control by the buckling of the waist belt. As I opened the box and took out one of the articles, the belt slipped and with a bound of the springs the four-coiled article flew into the ladys face. In those days I blushed easily, and was my face red!
I might go on for several columns recounting happenings in that old store and experiences such as never come to the storekeepers of today. They would be interesting, were the old timers alive to read them, but the present generation is not fond of hearing or reading reminiscences.
In closing, let me give a partial list of the customers we had in that old store. Many of their children and grandchildren still live in and around Waterville: Robert Pineo, William Healey, George Pineo, Henry Pineo, Isaiah Pineo, Woodworth Bowles, John N. Bowles, Leonard Bowles, Martin Skinner, Henry Bond, William Charlton, Wesley Sanford, George W. Sanford, Noble J. Lyons, Moses Shaw, Henry Shaw, John Brown, George Brown, David Congdon, William Buchannan, William Johnson, Benjamin Stevens.
There were more, of course, but the above old-timers come to mind at the moment. Along in the prime of life at that time were such men as Charles I. Wolfe, John Wolfe, Nathan Best, W. W. Pineo, W. V. T. Young, Finley McIntosh, Thomas Margeson, Anthony Rafuse, Norman Messenger, Leander Bowles, Charles White, Joe Lyman, Charles Mahar, Ambrose Burke, Norman Bowles, Free Ratchford, C. O. Nichols, Gordon Day and others whom at the moment I cannot recall.
They were pretty well divided as to "Grits" and "Tories", and they took their politics seriously. Berwick was a strong "Tory" stronghold, but the "Grits" used to lead at the Waterville polling booth.