Thursday, February 05, 2015

Hampell's store

I have fond memories of the time when my parents were the switchboard operators in Guss, Iowa, an unincorporated community.  The mailing address there was actually Villisca.  Just down the road was Hampell's store:  They sold gasoline, chicken feed, and groceries.  My parents had good credit there, and would sometimes send me down the road for flour or sugar or some other necessary item, telling me to have Edgar put it on the charge account.  There was a time I had the desire for something or other that Hampell's sold and Mother said we couldn't afford it.  I suggested we just charge it, and I got a lengthy explanation to make me understand that when a person charges something, they eventually have to pay for it.  I imagine I was five or six years old at the time.

If Mother had hens that weren't laying any eggs, she would catch them, bind their lower legs together with twine, hand them to me by their feet, and send me to Hampell's, who would buy them and truck them on down the road.  Any money Hampell paid for them went on our charge... it was usually only pocket change.  Those hens would squawk pitifully all the way as I carried them upside-down to their final destiny.  

Hampell's was really the center of the community, a wonderful gathering place.  There were huge stacks of livestock feed just inside the door, and I recall scaling to the top of the pile and playing "Old Maid" with some little boy I knew from school.  Mother and Daddy were always good for an ice-cream-cone if I asked nicely.  On the Fourth of July, everyone in the surrounding area would bring whatever fireworks they'd bought and we could all enjoy them together.  It usually made for a nice show.  Great memories!  

When you walked inside the store, you smelled Edgar Hampell's cigar smoke.  He had a cigar in his mouth most of the time, although it wasn't usually lit.  He lived right next door to the store, and his wife kept the house looking like a showplace.  She had Good Housekeeping magazines neatly stacked underneath an end table, and I'm sure that's where she got her decorating ideas; she had a lovely yard and garden, too, with sweet peas growing on the fence on either side of the gate.  I recall eating an evening meal with them once; it's the first time I ever heard of "Harvard beets", which I've loved ever since.  Back when Canasta was the popular card game, neighbors would take turns gathering at one anothers' homes for card parties; Hampells' were one of the participants in these parties, and they often hosted the events.

In the background of this picture of me is a building that was directly behind Hampell's store, and that was where he met me to take charge of the hens I'd carried down the road.  You can tell how close the store was to our house.  

Here's what the place looked like in 1996;  there was still a hint of its former glory.  Edgar's house is in the picture too, but all hints of its former glory were gone.  

And when we passed through in 2011, the store was barely recognizable.

Although Edgar's old house was not only still standing at this time, but occupied as well, it had deteriorated even further.  It was extremely hot weather at the time, and the occupants were sitting outside trying to keep cool.  One of them, a man, approached us, and I told him we were just going down memory lane and that I had lived in Guss as a child.  

I'm not sure, but I think I heard banjo music in the background, and we left pretty quickly.


Diane@Diane's Place said...

I love your trips down memory lane, and I totally got your reference to Deliverance, lol.

My mama loved pickled beets, but I just cannot make myself like them. I've put up gallons of them over the years for other people, and every so often I'll try them, thinking my tastes may have changed, but nope, they still taste like dirt to me, lol.

Jon said...

I always enjoy reading about your memories.


Hampell's sounds like a wonderful place. What terrific memories you have. When I was a young married woman I used to walk to an old country store with my newborn.

Margaret said...

Banjo music--that cracked me up! Trips down memory lane can be interesting, but sometimes depressing.

Barbara In Caneyhead said...

Neat memories! Thanks for sharing them. I love the color of the bricks in that old store.
Life & Faith in Caneyhead

Back Porch Writer said...

It's amazing how things change over time. I remember as a little kid traveling to different cities and getting to experience a difference of stores and restaurants. Now it's almost ditto of every other city. We search for the "different" things. I remember some stores like that in my past. There was Kedron's Grocery where Dad took Mam-ma and Grandaddy on the weekends. Lot of memories there eating bologna crackers and sliding the coke out of the Coke drink machine cooler. And then there was "Joe Tom's Grocery" that was a neighborhood grocery near our house. Mom worked for him a lot while he was on vacation. He gave me free snow cones when I would visit. I loved getting an icee or snow cone or a snack when we would go. I think Kedron's still exist as it was so far out in the country Walmart hasn't hit them so hard. lol Joe Tom's is not his anymore and i'm not even sure it is a store anymore. I'll have to check it out next time I'm down there. That will be a fun blog entry. I'll also take pics of the house I grew up in.

Ramona I. Lynam said...

Donna - Really enjoyed this post about a bit of our shared past. One of my earliest memories is of going to a 'movie' at Hampell's. It was projected onto the back wall. People brought lawn chairs or sat on blankets.
When the kids and I moved 'back home' in the late 70's and were looking for a place to live, I heard that the store and house were for sale. I had big dreams of opening an antique shop or some such in the store. We went to look at it. The house was a mess; six inches of water in the basement if I remember right and the store wasn't much better. Scotched those big dreams! But, like you, I remember it when the Hampell's lived there - her beautiful flowers and yard and the rare treat of going to the store to get something!