I am sending you a print copy and a disc of three wonderful stories written by my father, Stanley Klein, about growing up in Marlinton in the early 1900s. I hope that your readers would enjoy learning about my father’s adventures in Marlinton over 100 years ago. Stanley Klein was born in Marlinton in 1905. His father, Lou, died in 1918 and some time in the 1920s, his mother, Mattie, and her children moved to Baltimore. My father always talked about his love for Marlinton; but it was not until 1978, a year before he died, that he gave me the three stories that he had written in 1947. Recently, I was looking through a pile of old papers and found a copy of a 1971 issue of The Pocahontas Times. I was delighted to learn that the paper is still being published. Sincerely,
Lois Klein Farrah
Highland Park, NJ
My Father’s Store
Stanley M. Klein
My Father’s store was really two buildings that were connected by an archway placed halfway down the middle wall. At this section the cash register and charge account books were kept. One building was devoted to the things that the women shoppers were interested in and was under my Mother’s eye, that is, when she could spare time from taking care of three children, helping our girl of all work prepare dinner, keeping the accounts in proper order along with the multitude of other things a housewife in a small town had to do. The other side of the store was my Father’s department. There men and boys were waited on. In a store of this type, in the period of the early 1900s, the storekeeper was prepared to outfit the Mother, Father and the children at one time. A great many of his customers came to town with their entire family, twice a year, during the season when they could best make an arduous trip, and when their farms could be left conveniently. In the fall, men and boys were outfitted with new shoes and high boots, heavy underwear, wool shirts, along with gloves, new caps and all that they would need until the next spring and summer.
Succumbing to a salesman’s hypnotic power, Father had bought a quantity of fancy shirts, and try as he might, his customers would not buy them. All his salesmanship could not sell them, the reason being that outside of Sunday, work shirts were worn all the time. The farmers liked the patterns and Father or Ellsworth, his chief clerk and store assistant, would almost have them sold, but either the customer’s wife or the husband himself would say “no,” muttering “can’t afford them” or words to that effect.
One day when a particularly good sale had been complete, my Father’s joy was lessened as again he noticed the unsellable shirts in the showcase. This time he put a lifetime of selling experience behind his efforts. Jed Wallace was completely fascinated by the graphic description of New York and Baltimore, and the tales of how the finest gentlemen eagerly bought the same patterns that were being offered him. Actually he was ready to tell Father to put three on his bill when a word from his wife and soon-to-be married daughter, about the size of her trousseau purchases caused him to sadly shake his head. Father was crestfallen, but took his defeat philosophically.
They soon were talking of other things when Mr. Wallace told him about his Winesap apples, the best his trees had ever borne. Winesaps were Father’s favorite. “Lou, tell you what I’ll do. I’ll trade you a barrel of Winesaps that I have on my wagon for a dozen shirts. The boys and I could use them.” Father was overjoyed, but keeping a poker face even while thinking of apple pie, apple charlotte, applesauce and just plain eating apples, he said, he would consider the trade but on the basis of six shirts. This of course was the opening move in any barter deal, and both men would have been hurt if it were arranged differently.
Finally after much banter and friendly insults, the trade was made. The shirts were wrapped and the apples were taken to our living quarters above the store. That night Father praised Mother’s apple dumplings as never before and went to bed a happy man.
Everything was fine for the next few days. Arnold and I filled our pockets at all times. Father achieved the satisfaction of a golfer making a hole in one when he succeeded in peeling an exceptionally large apple without breaking the peel in the process. Then one day Sam Arbagast and his family drove in from the nearby town of Hillsboro to make his fall purchases. The sale proceeded as usual and once again Father tried to sell his shirts. Mr. Arbagast had heard about Jed Wallace’s deal, and so he was prepared. He had a barrel of Grimes Golden on his wagon. Father said no, he couldn’t do that, but was reminded about the years of dealing they had enjoyed, and also that the current purchase was one of the biggest. Father weighed all the facts and thought about Mother’s favorite apple – the Grimes Golden. The upshot was another barrel trundled upstairs. Mother was dubious about the two barrels she now had, but Father reminded her that they had to keep their customers satisfied. Next week Jethro Williams came to town and the same formula was followed. Father protested, but to no avail. He was told that unless he took the apples Mr. Williams would go elsewhere for his dealings. Besides in all fairness, why apples from Wallace and Arbagast, but not from him? Were not his orchards the best in Pocahontas County and hadn’t he won the blue ribbon at the county fair? Up went the apples. Mother was frantic. She had given as many away as would be taken. As a matter of fact, ‘most everyone in town had apple trees on their property and anyone was welcome to all he could carry away. The apples were rotting and Arnold and I couldn’t keep up the task of culling the good from the bad. The farmers kept coming in and we had Winesaps, Jonathans, Delicious, Grimes Golden and all the varieties grown in the surrounding country.
Finally one day as Father was helping to bring another barrel upstairs, Mother was supervising the carrying of a rotten barrel down the other stairs. This was the last straw and as Mother said, “the last barrel,” too.
After a great deal of discussion, it was decided, with the help of our family doctor, that Arnold and I must be sent to Belington to visit our cousins and the reason given out was that a rare illness caused by our eating too many apples made the trip necessary.
The next day Father and Mother told this with such sad faces and worried looks that our oldest customer, Will Johnson, hadn’t the heart to argue. A present of the last two shirts made him and my Father happy — but for many years fancy shirts and any kind of apples were subjects best not discussed around Father.