Monday, March 2, marks the 50th anniversary of my business career in Kiron, and many things come into my mind when reminiscing over those days. Changes of all sorts have come about during these years and have come so gradually that it is hard to realize that so many changes have taken place.
In partnership with my brother-in-law, P. E. Nordell, we took over the store at Old Kiron from Lester & Cole. This store was opened by the Swede Brothers, about 1882 but the stock was closed out after the death of Erick Swede and the building was vacant until the spring of 1890 when Lester & Cole put in a stock. At that time the main business of the community was done at Odebolt and Deloit and Denison with Kiron as the dividing line between these towns.
Out merchandise was hauled from Odebolt over all kinds of roads. No graded or graveled roads at that time, and times they were almost impassable. Generally we made two trips a week, each trip taking the full day.
Our stock was mainly the necessities of life with but few of the luxuries of today. Very few canned goods, besides tomatoes, salmon and sardines, were sold. Bananas were unknown. Sugar came in 300 pound barrels. Green and unroasted coffee was generally sold. Roasted coffee, Arbuckles, Lion and McLaughlins, came in 1 lb. Packages but people were very skeptical about it for some time. Dried apples came in barrels and 50 lb. Boxes, prunes in 100 lb. Bags. At that time paper bags were not in common use and it required skill to make up the packages in brown straw paper which became very brittle when it dried out. Spices were sold in bulk as well as Norrköping and Goteborg snuff.
Store fixtures were few and crude; even balance and platform scales were used. There was no refrigeration. Syrups and sorghums came in large barrels and had to be measured out, which was no job for an inexperienced clerk. Calico was 5 to 7 cents per yard and was the usual material for womens dresses, requiring 10 yards for a dress. Womens’ and childrens’ shoes had high tops and come in lace and button. There were 12 pair in a case and all one width.
Men usually wore high top boots and were usually carried only in the heavy cow hide for work and a calfskin for dress. Plow shoes came into use in two styles, buckle and "Congress", which had elastic gussets on the side. One width only and plenty of wooden pegs left in by the factory which had to be rubbed out when sold.
That was the day of the celluloid collars and cuffs and stiff bosomed white shirts.
Butter and eggs were the general barter for merchandise and there were good butter makers and others. Good and bad was dumped into a barrel and in the summer it required water tight containers to hold it. Eggs were bought without any regard to the vintage and was brought to the store in all kinds of containers, some in nail kegs packed in corn meal or oats, washtubs and wooden boxes. Butter was generally from 5 to 15 cents per pound, and 10 cents was common price for eggs. The most common soaps were "Santa Claus" and "White Russian" for "bath toilet and laundry." Toilet soap was not so common.
Winter footwear for boys and men were felt boots and German socks. Only 1-buckle overshoes were known for men, women and children. Rockford blue and white socks for men were the only kind of socks except some white ones at 5 cents a pair. Womens hose were all black and sold for 10 cents. A few aristocrats wore 25 cent ones.
The common brands of chewing tobaccos were Spearhead, Burr Oak, J.T, Climax, and Battle Ax. Smoking tobacco was Tom & Jerry, Old Style, Honey Dew, and Posey. No cigarettes at that time. Stick candy was displayed in glass jars on the shelf. A barrel of sweet cider in almost every store, sold well, especially after it got a little "hard." Cheese usually was 12 to 15 cents a pound.
Rice, sago and tapioca were among the most popular farinaceous foods. Sago came in 140 lb. Bags and sold for about 5 or 6 cents per pound. Such items as gelatin, Jell-O, olives, baby foods, catsup, Glo-coat, Sapolio, canned spinach, were strangers. Soda crackers, sweet crackers and ginger snaps came in 30 pound wooden boxes and comprised all in that line.