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As I Remember Edgerton

By C. M. Callender

From The Edgerton Earth




In this, as in previous articles, I shall deal with happenings and conditions before and soon after the turn of the century in the village of Edgerton.

We shall first consider the method of merchandising. There were no supermarkets or self-serve stores. In the grocery stores most merchandise was on the shelf. Sugar was under the counter on a tip out platform. Crackers were in bulk only and were usually stored in a glass case at the end of the counter.

The farmers brought their eggs and home churned butter into town and exchanged them for groceries. Sometimes they would owe money and sometimes the merchant had to pay the extra to them. There were a lot of good butter makers and a lot of poor ones. The good butter was kept separate and used for the retail trade. The poor was dumped into a barrel and sold along, with the eggs to produce man once each week. Sometimes it became very smelly or rancid. However you would not dare tell any woman she was not a good butter maker. Some of the better butter makers would receive a cent or two more per pound. Arbuckle and Lion Brand coffees were tops.

Edgerton had no exclusive clothing or dry goods store during this period. There were three general stores and all carried groceries and bought eggs and butter. As I can remember there were two hardware stores. Previous to the turn of the century there were thirteen saloons at one time, five doctors took care of the sick, one bank, three barber shops, two shoe cobblers, two pool-halls, a lawyer’s office, two livery barns where you could rent a horse and buggy to take your girl friend a ride.

At that time there were two blacksmith shops, a wagon making shop and a 'cooper's shop where barrels were made.

A grocery and barber shop was located just south of the railroad on the corner. One blacksmith shop was across the street east of the Catholic Church and one where the Fisher Implement store now holds forth. There was also a woolen mill where farmers brought the wool and had it woven into blankets and batts. This mill was located on south main street at the corner that leads to the cemetery.

Previous to the big fire, the buildings were of wood construction, excepting the three-story building where the state bank now stands. The fire took all the business section from where Days Furniture now is to the Edgerton Hardware, excepting the three story brick building on the bank corner. The fire happened in 1893. Most store buildings were heated with wood stoves and there were very few furnaces previous to 1900.

The grocery store where most of the loafing was done had a large pot-bellied stove and a square frame around it on the floor which was filled with saw-dust. Cuspidors (called spittoons) were set around but most of the tobacco spit missed these and the saw-dust had to be renewed quite often. Also every morning the cuspidors had to be emptied and scrubbed. Around the stove sat the men who spinning their yarns and exploits of former days. Many of these yarns remain with the writer who was a clerk in one of the grocery stores in his younger days. (Who began work at the age of 15).

Now to give you some idea of some of the hardships encountered in the way or transportation. There were no paved streets. In the spring or the year when rains came and the ground thawed the mud would sometimes reach to hubs of buggies and wagons. The winter sleds were used when snow permitted. A favorite winter sport was hopping bob-sleds for the boys. Some farmers would slow their horses to a walk, then when the sled was filled on each side he would whip-up his horses so one was afraid to Jump off. He would sometimes take you out in the country a mile or two and you were compelled to talk back.

The streets were dusty in the summer time and the dust was kept down with a sprinkler wagon. The wagon was secured from a large elevated tank which was pumped from the river. This method is used at race tracks as you no doubt have noticed. This service was provided by the property owners and business people. However not all streets had this service.

There were no paved streets, no electricity available, no water system, no sewer. The house used oil lamps. On each street comer of the town there were lamp posts about 8 ft. high, with an oil lamp inside a glass enclosure. Every evening the lamplighter with a horse and small wagon would light these. In the morning he would gather up the lamps refill oil and clean the shades (as the oil caused them to soot up) for the next day. This method did not provide much light in the middle of the block, but you could tell where the next comer was. The sidewalks were made of wood and a loose board caused many a fall.

The town hall was extensively used for shows, commencement exercises, debates held often, band room where practice was held once or twice a week by the city band. Boxing was very popular and the council permitted the use of this room for this purpose. Road shows would make a stand of a week or so and were usually well attended. The auditorium of the hall was heated by 2 wood and coal stoves. When seats were reserved for events no one wanted a seat near these stoves and no one desired one at the far end of the room. Those who sat near the stove nearly roasted and the ones in the corners shivered.

This will be all for this time and in future articles more will be written about the town as I remember.


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