Thursday, March 24, 2011
Remembering Hampel's store
There was one other place of business in Guss, Iowa, besides the blacksmith shop: Hampel's store, just a short walk up the road. In fact, you'd be able to see it in the above picture if it wasn't for the mailbox hiding it. The shed you see was behind Hampel's store. If Mother had an old hen that had stopped laying, she'd wrap a twine around it's legs so it couldn't escape and I'd carry it upside down, squawking all the way, to Edgar Hampel; he'd give me some change (not much, maybe a nickel) and put the hen in a cage in that shed to be shipped off to market. Edgar always had a cigar in his mouth, and the smell of his cigars permeated the store.
Edgar and Blanche lived in the house next door to the store, which you can see here. She kept a wonderfully stylish home. She had Better Homes and Gardens magazines stacked neatly on an end table, and the interior of her house looked very much like some of the pictures in the magazines. Back when Canasta was all the rage, my parents went to card parties at the Hampel's house. I went too, of course; but I wasn't playing cards; I passed the time however I could, patiently waiting for snack time.
Walking into Hampel's store, on the right you'd see bags of livestock feed just inside the door, stacked almost as high as my head (which probably wasn't that tall... I was a kid). I loved to climb up on top of that pile and survey the store from my perch. I remember once playing Old Maid with some little boy atop the sacks of feed. The feed came in cotton print material that was used by most housewives to make clothing. My mother made most of my dresses out of chicken-feed sacks when I was small.
To the left as you entered was a case displaying various wonderful flavors of ice cream, and I ate many an ice cream cone in that store; oh, the agony of having to choose between butter-brickel, black walnut, and chocolate ice cream. Toward the back of the store there was a display case with cookies of various sorts. What fun it was to look through the glass and admire those lovely cookies!
Hanging from the ceiling were those big, slow-moving fans that stirred the air during hot summer weather.
My parents must have kept a running tab at Hampel's, because I remember asking for some frivolous thing I wanted to eat, and my mother answering, "We can't afford it."
"Can't you charge it?" I asked.
Mother laughed and laughed, and tried to explain to me how things weren't free just because you charged them. It didn't make any sense to me. From what I'd seen, you picked up whatever you wanted in the store, said "charge it", and went home with it.
On the fourth of July, everyone in the community bought a few fireworks and gathered together in front of Hampel's store to light them off. I was afraid of the "chasers", which were then commonly called by a name that is no longer used, and I don't want to get in trouble by saying it here. We used the same term when playing "Ring around the Rosie". Looking back, it seems horrible and racist; but we didn't know what we were saying.
Those were good times. I wouldn't trade my childhood for anyone else's, spoiled little girl that I was.