The article following is provided by that
wonderful publication, the “Puslinch Pioneer”, which for over thirty years has
been dedicated to coverage of
Life in a Country Store
Lyla M. Hayden
(from the Puslinch Pioneer, v. 16, issue 9, May 1992.)
In 1914, when I was a few months old, my parents, Mr. & Mrs. George Lewis, bought the Aberfoyle General Store and we moved from the farm at Puslinch, now owned by Jack Smith. It was not a new adventure for my father as he had worked there when he and my mother were married in 1902, and had lived in the house where my sister Edna Bell now lives. So, my life was spent seeing the changes as I grew older.
General meant everything from coal to shoes for the whole family, material and accessories for ladies’ clothes and men’s overalls, smocks and shirts, to groceries, etc. Groceries did not come in packages. Raisins and currants were in large wooden boxes, candy in wooden pails, sugar and oatmeal in 100 pound bags, and peanut butter in a tin pail. Large and small wooden drawers were built into one side of the store. These held rice, tapioca, icing sugar, cream of tartar, baking powder and baking soda, etc. Whatever amount you wanted was weighed up in paper bags. Large wooden barrels held the sugar and oatmeal. Bananas hung from the ceiling from the stalk they had grown on. They came in a tall basket about 5 feet high. I still have one in my garage. The candy which came in large wooden pails was then taken out in small quantities and put on trays in a large glass case. In one cellar were barrels which held white and cider vinegar and this was pumped out with a small wooden pump. Molasses had a wooden tap at the bottom of its barrel and as the old saying goes... “It ran as slow as molasses in February”. People brought their own containers for these. In another cellar was the coal oil tank and this was pumped up by an iron pump into a room at the back of the store.
My father had a large wagon like the Conestoga
wagon and a beautiful team of horses and he covered a large area of
One of the horses died and by this time motor vehicles were around, so my brother Charlie used the truck. He took the orders in the morning and each one was put in a box and delivered in the afternoon.
A local girl clerked in the store in the daytime, a couple of these were Mary Maltby (Mrs. Andrew Ord) and Margaret Black (Mrs. Jim Leachman). As youngsters, we weren't allowed in the store. Behind the door was the rack which held the horse whips and the clerks were told to chase us out with these. One clerk whipped it around our legs when we were testing. It sure did sting. Peanut butter in the large tin pail, with a long handled wooden spoon in it, was one thing we could take and get away with. We, (George and I), would slap a spoonful onto our hand and then run out the door that went into the house and outside would sit on the grass and lick our fingers for a long time.
In the evening, all the men from the village would walk to the store for an hour of chatting. In the winter they sat on a bench or on nail kegs around the pot bellied stove and chewed their tobacco. There was one old bachelor, Isaac Kidd, who could sit at one end of the bench and spit into the coal scuttle at the other end and never miss. Another one was not allowed to chew at home so when he was ready to go home he would take out his handkerchief and wipe all traces off his face and head home to his wife. As the generations changed, so did their habits. By the time I was a teenager, a card table was set up and the men played euchre.
In the winter, the ice had to be cut on the Aberfoyle Dam to fill the ice houses for summer use. The ice was pulled out by a large derrick, hand operated by two men, and put on sleighs. The really large ice house was called “The Cold Storage” and it was on the property where my mother built her home when she retired from the store. The eggs and butter were kept in this one and the small one, for the ice in the store, was where Edna now has her garden. It would take a day cutting the blocks which would average about 18 inches by 24 inches. This was done with a large ice saw pulled by horses. It took two days to fill the buildings and also Mason’s Butcher Shop. The cold storage was filled by horses pulling the blocks up on a pulley with two men putting them into place. The blocks were pushed by hand up a slide into the small one. The ice was packed in sawdust from Paddock’s Saw Mill. In the summer when a block was taken out it had to be washed clean before putting it in the ice box.
The weigh scale was directly across the road from the store and all pigs and cattle sold by the farmers were weighed here. Two or three men would stand at the side of the scale with sticks to make sure that each foot of the animal was on the scale. They wanted to make sure they got the correct price for their stock.
Election night was a big night for the Township officials. The old hall had no telephone and the results were phoned into the store. Killean was the exception for reporting, because that was long distance, so they had to wait until the ballot box was delivered. The results were put on a large blackboard, but you could scarcely see them because the store was packed with men, each one smoking a pipe. When all the results were in, they would then walk over to the hall to get the results officially and hear the speeches.
Living beside the then called Aberfoyle Show Grounds, permitted us to see anything going on there. We could step out the back door and not have to pay. A Garden Party was held every summer and before electricity, it was lit at night with coal oil lanterns and later Coleman lanterns. We had electricity before the hall and so one year we provided the lighting for one big event. Jack Hohenadel (Jr.), the electrician, strung wires from
our house over to really light up the place for one night. Try and do that now.
In the early twenties, just before Aberfoyle Show, George and I got the measles and at that time you were quarantined. Johnny Martin, caretaker of Duff’s Church, and also working for the Board of Health, came and put the large quarantine sign up on our house. We had to be content to sit at the bedroom window and look out over the show grounds. People felt sorry for us and we had more popcorn and peanuts thrown up to us than if we had been there. That year and 1982 are the only two years I have ever missed the fair.
In 1937, my father passed away and my mother and sister Dorothy ran the store until 1948 when my mother sold it and had a bungalow built on the lot where the cold storage had stood.
Pictures were not as plentiful then as now but I did have some from back to the early twenties. Last year my granddaughter Ronda gathered information from my sister Edna, brother George and myself on what we could tell her of the old store. She put it together for a topic to speak on for her class at Aberfoyle. I gave her my old pictures, which she mounted on a sheet of bristol board and took to the school. In some way, these disappeared and so did my memories in pictures of “Life In A Country Store”.
Lyla M. Hayden