annecdote is from Rev. Robert Bartlett's My Corner of New England (Portsmouth: Peter E. Randall, 1984 pp. 30-31) He recalls the time (1935) when he moved into the old Bartlett house on Brook Street in Manomet, and stories about his cousins who lived there, before describing the Jabez Corner store that changed hands in 1947.
Josiah [Bartlett] was a good fisherman, but sometimes he grew impatient with Martha who was prone to nag him to hitch up the horse and buggy and drive over the Pine Hills to Guy Cooper’s General Store at Jabez Corner so she could sell some eggs and buy knitting yarn and horehound candy.
I enjoyed this venerable landmark for several years until Guy retired and his successor went modern. I frequently feel a nostalgia for those days as I wander about the sterile supermarket searching for a box of old-fashioned oatmeal.
Martha was plump and good natured but Josiah was as tight as the bark on a willow tree. He kept his money in a Prince Albert tobacco can in the parlor corner cupboard. When we moved in, the can was still there but held no cash, only Martha’s collection of buttons. Josiah had proceeded Martha to the Great Beyond.
Deke [“Deacon Barnes” – Philip S. Barnes?] introduced me to Guy Cooper who was the presiding genius in the old-fashioned country emporium. Guy bobbed about in and out of view amid his collection of merchandise that filled the shelves and counters and hung from walls and ceiling. There was an area for canned goods and boxed goods, sweet milk and buttermilk in glass bottles, fresh eggs in baskets, a tub of butter, jugs of molasses and a savory round of Vermont cheese with a sharp knife beside it. There were barrels of flour, sugar, dill pickles and sauerkraut.
Garden tools were in the back and seed in bulk, where one could look a pea or bean square in the face and calculate its potentiality. There was also a kerosene tank. A customer could fill his can and view a variety of table lamps for sale. The meat counter was the main attraction. Guy sliced the best grade of beef around. When Deke tired of mackerel and cod, he drove into town for a piece of red meat. He also bought his work shoes and overalls from Guy, who carried the real thing, with stalwart suspenders, not the skin-fitting Levis that pimch the waist and hips.
In a glass case of ribbons and trimmings, needles and thread, there were pearl-headed hat pins, pink garters with rosettes, silver vanity cases, amber side combs studded with brilliants and ivory napkin rings. The medicine section offered a variety of household remedies and sets of false teeth. At the center of the rambling building a huge potbellied iron stove was circled by wooden kegs where customers sat on cool days to chat and Guy’s cronies met on wintry nights to smoke and talk politics.
If you said “charge it,” Guy would write in down on one of those little books without a grunt of annoyance, even if it were a nickle’s / worth of candy. And one did not have to produce a social security card or a bank reference. Guy called on the phone sometimes to say that he had some prime lamb chops that day, or that Nook Farm had just brought in a bushel of fresh peas and some beautiful strawberries at twenty cents a quart. He even delivered, sending out his Ford truck to any section of town. [Deliveries went as far as Parting Ways on the Kingston line]