Wednesday, May 14, 2014

William Hain and the General Store

In this photograph my Uncle Billy is working in a general store in Nassau County.  He was a half brother to my father, Joseph and they shared the same mother, Anna Maule. The photograph shows a young man sitting at the counter where my Uncle worked. The boy is wearing Knickerbockers which tells us that this was taken in the early 1920's. My Uncle Billy was born in New York on August 22, 1902 to Anna Maule and Diedrich Heins Sr. most likely the photograph was taken when Uncle Billy was in his late teens or early 20's.

"The American general store flourished throughout the 19th century but declined rapidly in the 20th century, particularly after the 1920s. It was mostly succeeded by specialized stores, each handling a relatively narrow product range or a particular type of good....The general store served as a meeting place for members of the community, of which the storekeeper was an important member not only because he supplied material goods but because he was also the source of news and gossip. Because produce from the land and forest tended to yield a seasonal return, the storekeeper also sometimes extended long-term credit of from six months to a year to his customers."

The concept of the general store where customers were assisted with there orders as opposed to self service was practiced during that period of time. My Uncle would not only gather the order but ring it up and bag it as part of the service. This was all done while the customer sat waiting for his order to be filled. Cans goods lined the shelves with price tags on the shelves displaying the current cost. Every nook and cranny was filled to capacity in an orderly manner. Popular advertisement lined the top shelves while below a coffee grinder appears to be waiting for use. Gas light fixtures were probably converted to electric by the time the photograph was taken.

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