Newspaper Clippings for
11 August 1939
YOU CAN FIND MANY THINGS AT MARTIN'S
General Storekeeper at Millburn Goes on in
Old-fashioned Way, Providing for Human Needs
BY GLADYS PRIDDY
It's quite a while now. It might be truthful to state that it
is actually a long time since 1887 when a young fellow, one
Eddie Martin by name, bought out Richard Pantall's general
store in Millburn and went into business for himself. "It's
too long ago," Martins says. "Guess I'm all out-of-date and
just don't know it."
Well, general stores were common back in those days. So, the
venture into business was of little note except, perhaps, to
the neighbors who probably said to each other, "My goodness,
wonder how that young whippersnapper will get along."
He did all right. And he's still doing all right. The
Batterschall general store at Hainesville is gone now. No
longer is the Mather general store in Prairie View the meeting
place for all the country people 'roundabout. And the Kelly
general store in Russell has abandoned many of the
"generalities" in favor of groceries.
Keeps Full Line
But Ed Martin goes on. He adds a frill now and then, but he
doesn't balance it by cleaning out an old stock. Just because
he sells modern men's shirts is no sign he is going to discard
that little glass-topped box full of old-fashioned cuff links.
No, sir. That box has been in a little niche under a counter
for a good many years now, and it would be near-sacrilege to
throw it away.
There is a gasoline pump right on the front porch of the
little store that stands along Route 45 in Millburn, just
across the way from the Millburn church. That pump fails to
modernize the old wooden porch, though, or the old doors and
Those doors and windows, by the way, are handmade. Handmade by
an undertaker! Time was when Millburn had four general stores
and a drug store, two blacksmith shops and an undertaking
parlor. The mortician was one John Hughes. "If you up and
died," Mr. Martin recalls, "Hughes just measured you and went
home and built a coffin to fit. He always had lumber on hand.
Then he covered the box with black velveteen, and there you
were." It was Hughes who turned his talents to constructing
the store doors and windows. And Hughes also cut the heavy
store shelves from his stock of coffin wood.
Lamps on Shelf
Lamps and glass chimneys now stand on a shelf over the counter
where the electric fuses are kept. Martin admits that there is
little sale for the lamps, "because we have electricity all
around here now, except a little west and north of us. But the
lamps are there, they might was well stay."
Crochet hooks and crochet cotton, Martin has them in stock.
Bolts of cloth for the baby's diapers, knitting yarn, percale,
up-do-date paper towels, those tall, covered pails called
"combinets", pitchforks, shoes, Martin has them for sale.
"I have some nice warm long winter underwear here, too,"
Martin says. "I sell these suits to men. Sold half a dozen
pairs last winter. But the boys buy these things." Martin
looks contemptuously at his stack of shorts.
Martin operates a sort of community telephone, too. Folks make
long distance calls, and Martin explains that the charge
"depends on how long you talk," but sometimes a woman forgets
that part and runs up a bill, "and then she's provoked at
He's Got Everything
Postcards and combs, fish hooks and candleholders, lamp wicks
and paint brushes, Jack-knives, oil cans, razors, powder,
sunglasses, Milk pails, hair tonic, spades, brilliantine,
envelopes, water colors. If at first you don't see what you
want in Martin's store, look, look again. It's there!
Of course, there are groceries. Martin keeps his teas in an
old-fashioned canister set, the kind with hand painted
pictures on the front. He has a big electric refrigerator,
"the only modern thing in the place," he says. In it, he keeps
meat (the meat wagon calls three times a week), butter and
eggs. There is fresh bread left at the door every day. The
fruit wagon stops every other day. Times surely have
The habit of using the general store as a sort of social
center lingers on, though. The customers come to buy but stay
simply to sit. One woman spent the afternoon there yesterday
insisting that she was "in no hurry, no hurry at all." From
her chair in the middle of the store floor, she watched the
Millburn stream of life come in wearing gingham dresses and
short hair. She watched the Millburn parade drink pop and buy
sugar. After all, a chair in a general store is a ringside
seat. It has the "house by the side of the road" completely
Buys Tobacco by Pound
Tire boots, harness snaps, bolts and rivets, they're all
there. Tobacco too. "I used to buy my plug tobacco 100 pounds
at a time," the little storekeeper tells, "but look here. Now
I get it a pound at a time, and the pound is all cut up in
these pieces and wrapped in cellophane. And look at these
little bags of cut tobacco. Look at them. Used to buy this
stuff 100 pounds at a time, too, in batches of 10-pound pails.
Now I get these things."
Martin pokes through a desk-like affair at the front of the
store. He finds a box. "This is my junk department," says he.
Out pops cuff links, a bone for a woman's stiff collar, a bit
of this, that and a deputy sheriff's star. Yes, Martin is the
law as well as a storekeeper out Millburn way.
From 1860 to 1904, the Millburn general store was also the
postoffice. In those days, folks simply told the postmaster
when they wanted to stop a magazine or newspaper subscription.
The postmaster then wrote the cancellation letters. The old
records there show the names of the publications, the dates of
stopped subscriptions. On the books, the Waukegan Gazette and
Waukegan Patriot appear. There are, too, the Lake County Call,
the Golden Rule, the Racine Agriculturalist. The books
includes a list of boxholders at the office. Robert Strang had
No. 1. John Minto, 2. Some others were James Thain, Dr.
Tombaugh, one Capt. Pollock, Scotch Smith, John Jameson, James
Clock 60 Years Old
The 60-year-old clock keeps time in the store. In the back
room, the 75-year-old scales still stand. A set of drawers
from the old drug shop are placed under the shelves. These
drawers have "real china pulls on them."
Just because the cuff links in stock are a bit outmoded, the
women's hose aren't. They're strictly 1939, and "from $1, I
can go down to 25 cents," Martin quotes. Handkerchiefs, big
red ones and small dress ones, neckties and ribbons, rickrack
and elastic, Martin carries them all.
Customers come and go. They may drop in just to pass the time
of day -- and they're welcome. They come to ask favors. The
storekeeper says, "Help yourself, help yourself." From his
drug stock (yes, Martin carries a few pills) Millburn folks
find relief from minor ailments.
In these days of high pressure salesmanship, it's restful to
find a place like Ed Martin's general store. Yes sir, it's
just plain restful.