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Memories of the
Pantall-Martin Store

by Richard Pantall Martin

Richard Pantall (photo) and his wife, Charlotte (photo) came to Millburn, Illinois nearly a century ago and began a general merchandise enterprise in what is now a garage in the residence, referred to by all old timers, like myself, as the Jamieson house.

Later this genial old gentleman was to operate a boot and shoe, or cobbler's shop just north of his home or south of the Martin house.

The third move was to have the front part of the present store constructed in 1862. Then in 1887, the Pantalls brought my father, the late Edward Martin (photo), to Millburn and the two men worked together for a period of twenty years. During this period, the back part of the store and the basement were added. While the former back wall was being removed and the new part still under construction, the sturdy Scotch woman, "Grandma" Pantall, who was a correspondent for one of the local Lake County papers, had published this very stern warning, "All burglars beware! Eddie Martin sleeps in the bay window next door with a loaded shot gun to take care of all prowlers." What a character! Amiable, but definitely firm.

Besides selling groceries and general merchandise, Richard Pantall was the postmaster (1864-1904) when rural delivery was established. It was only recently that the post office boxes were returned to their original position. For a while they held the evening newspapers along with various brands of cigarettes. Now, I believe they hold a collection of coffee cups including an oversized one belonging to its late owner and marked "Pop"!

Before his death, Richard Pantall turned the business over to Ed Martin and retired to the home of his daughter in Chicago. The store was then continued under the Martin name for another fifty years.

Perhaps some of you still share with us the memories of the old days - the front porch, the horse block, and the long iron hitching rail. Inside there were shelf after shelf of groceries, hardware, dry goods, boots, shoes, and paint. Besides all these, there were the pickle barrel, the cheddar cheese in the glass case with its roll up door, the aroma of tea, which came in its oriental case lined with tea lead just as it had arrived from Japan; coffee in large bins ready to be ground in the old red grinder; the plug tobacco, which was cut in the tobacco cutter according to the wishes of the customer; the Pantall mortar and pestle of an even earlier day; the barrels of molasses and vinegar (white and cider) pumped into an old wooden gallon measure, the egg candler. yes, there was even the chicken that hatched from a basket of eggs that had been brought in to be traded for groceries and merchandise. Incidentally, it was Mrs. Jamison, the wife of our expert and kindly country doctor, who came to the rescue and took the chicken home and raised it.

The tea lead, mentioned above, was used by Millburn young women to weigh down the skirts of their bathing suits at the turn of the century.

Many a School Board meeting was held in this old general store with members seated on the dry goods counter, an orange crate, and apple box or a sack of potatoes. Some of the older lodge members may recall the general meeting nights during the hot summer months when they would adjourn early and then walk across the street for crackers and cheese and a bottle of pop from the old ice box. (Or who could forget the "round steak" sandwiches)? It was generally far too hot inside, but the old front porch and horse block held quite a few, and the aroma of Dutch Masters and White Owl cigars from the case inside soon filled the still summer air.

For a number of years, the annual meeting of the Millburn Cemetery Association was conducted in the back part of this old store not far from the flour counter and was surrounded by the nuts and bolts and other hardware, including the piece of railroad track on which Ed Martin shaped length after length of stove pipe every fall as the housewives prepared for the cold winter months ahead.

The Ferry Seed display announced the arrival of spring, and then pail after pail of corn, peas, and beans were set out for the earliest possible planting.

For the women, there were the colorful piles of gingham and calico, stockings, high button shoes, the ribbon case, and notions too numerous to mention.

For the farmer himself, there was a counter heaped with various sizes of over-alls, (many a time I took a nap on this pile of blue denim with perhaps a horse's sweat pad for a pillow) while box after box of work shirts, Rockford socks, as well as shoes and heavy woolen underwear and caps, were stacked just behind.

There were remedies too for aches and pains galore - Castoria and Carter's Little Liver pills - but Lewis Pe-Ko was the great grand daddy of all patent remedies. As a panacea it was good for anything from dandruff to fallen arches. The clock on the north wall well proclaims its merits, as well as pointing out the time to Millburn folks for several generations.

We children of another generation should never forget the penny candy in brown paper bags. It was for sale just west of the grocery counter but was often handed out to children of families who had been doing their Saturday night shopping just before the wooden blinds were belted to the front of the glass doors and the shades drawn in accordance with the New England type Blue Laws concerning the Sabbath. Just behind the candy counter were the large wooden pails of chocolate drops and bright colored sugar candy. Then there were the pressed glass trays of peppermints, wintergreen lozenges, sugared almonds, lemon drops, horehound, rock candy, and the peanut brittle; and then, too, the penny suckers seemed so much larger than they are today.

Shall we ever forget the old coal stove on cold winter nights - and Vivien Bonner too? She often "tended store" and had the urge to send "the boys" on their way before she locked up for the night. Then she banked the fire to hold until morning and tossed in the coal from the Scuttle still mingled with tobacco spit. Oh! and how she hated to hear it sizzle so!

Are you reminiscing now? You have your memories, and I have mine and it has been a pleasure to share them with you.

Go to Pantall or Martin biographical sketches.