Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a busy store. One of my earliest blog posts was about the store owned by my great-grandfather Walter Davis. Since I had been blogging for less than a month and only about a dozen people saw it the first time, it’s safe to assume that this “new and improved” version of that blog post will be “new” to the Sepia Saturday gang and other readers.
I always knew that my great-grandfather Walter Beriah Sylvester Davis owned a grocery store at the corner of Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Shenandoah, Virginia. Since summer visits to my cousins in Shenandoah always included a pilgrimage to “the store” like some religious shrine, it is no wonder that growing up I always thought it was THE store. The ONLY store.
Plus, I had studied some history. It was the Depression. Weren’t people poor and out of work?
|The Davis Store as it looked in the 1920s-30s|
So I was surprised to read in Shenandoah: A History of Our Town and Its People that in the early 1900s Shenandoah was experiencing an economic boom and businesses flourished. There were several hotels, lots of restaurants, hat shops, clothing stores, bakeries, meat markets, bowling alley and skating rink, dance halls, an opera house, furniture stores, jewelers, a business school, bicycle shop, saloons, not to mention multiples of hardware stores and general stores.
|The Davis Store as it looked in the 1980s|
from Shenandoah: A History
of Our Town and Its People
No matter which store shoppers went to, they probably all looked much like the Davis store: shelves with neatly displayed canned goods, sacks of grain, boxes of cigars, and a coke machine dotted around a central wood or coal burning stove.
Judging by the receipts in Walter Davis’s accounts book, he carried many staple items like coffee (38¢), sugar (45¢), bread (24¢), peanut butter (25¢), butter (25¢), soap (08¢), salt (09¢), lard (40¢), soap powder (05¢), matches (02¢), oatmeal (10¢), and potatoes (40¢ ).
This scale from the store must’ve been used for weighing fresh fruits and vegetables, and bulk items like coffee and sugar.
Even though Shenandoah was a boom town, shopping for everyday items wasn’t easy for everyone. Among the memorabilia that my family preserved for 80 years is a small stack of receipts paper-clipped together. Dated from 1924-28, the receipts are all from one family. They bought on credit and paid down a little here and there with cash. Occasionally the bill was paid by hauling goods.
Some people left diamond rings at the store in exchange for goods. Sadly, the owners never came back for them. After my grandmother died, my mother had a ring made from the mismatched stones.
When I wear this ring, I wonder whose worried hands reluctantly pawned a prized possession as barter for food at my great-grandfather's store.
You might want to head over to Sepia Saturday to see what the other bloggers have in store.