Wagon Yard Days Continued
One block northwest of the wagon yard was Wilbanks Blacksmith Shop ( that old corrugated iron building has now been torn down). I used to go in there and watch Mr. Wilbanks working at his forge, and I can still remember the smell of that blacksmith shop caused by that burning forge.
In my later years when reading about a village smithy (with those strong and sinewy hands) it always brought to mind the teams of horses and mules being taken from the Wagon Yard to the Wilbanks Blacksmith Shop to be shod. The first time I saw the one of those iron shoes put on a horse I thought it was terrible that the smithy drove those long nails into that poor horse’s foot and was greatly relieved upon learning that it did not hurt the horse because of it’s thick hoof.
THE WAGON YARD GROCERY
As the automobile began replacing the horse drawn vehicles here in central Texas my father recognized his error in getting into the Wagon Yard business. Naturally as the horse and wagon days expired so did the Wagon Yard and to keep the family afloat Papa converted one half of his big hay barn into a grocery store. Thus from 1919 through 1927 he operated a feed and grocery store in conjunction with the dying Wagon Yard.
In the early 1920’s the motor truck had not entirely replaced the wagon, therefore the Wagon Yard was still used to accommodate those farmers and ranchers still using horse drawn vehicles.
One big item, especially to we kids, that Papa carried in the grocery department was soda water. Of course by this time the word “soda” had become “sody” and the “water” had become “pop”. Papa paid eighty five cents for a 24 bottle case of “sody water” and we sold “Sody Pop” for a nickel a bottle.
From out of the past I can still hear the familiar call of the boys coming into that old wagon yard grocery store on a real hot summer day, flopping a nickel on the counter and saying “give me a cold sody”. Then as I plunged my hand into that cold ice packed soda water box the call would come again “make it a red’un”.
Not only has the old time “sody water” vanished into the past but the “soda fountain” and the “soda jerk” of that era are increasingly hard to find.
In addition to selling groceries at the Wagon Yard store we also sold kerosene which, in the l920’s, was a necessity in most homes. We did not get electricity until after we had lived in the house on College & 12th street a good many years. Prior to that the light in our house was primarily provided by kerosene lamps. It was difficult to study under these lamps but Mama saw to it that we studied every school night. Another reason for bringing up the subject of kerosene is to explain to the young how kerosene and potatoes went together in a grocery store
Every kerosene can had a screw top lid and a spout and invariably people would lose the cover for the spout and many would even lose the screw top lid. Now kids, this is where the potato comes to the rescue. In such cases we, meaning the grocery store people, would stick a potato over the spout and if the screw top lid was missing we stuck a potato in the top also. While people nearly always lost the original top covers they seldom lost the potato stoppers, if they did we just stuck on another potato.(The cost of a small potato back in those days was next to nothing).
If we sold kerosene we naturally had to sell lamp chimneys, and this brings me to a story about Papa and the non-breakable lamp chimney.
I was in the store one day when a salesman came in and told Papa he was selling unbreakable lamp chimneys. This sounded too good to be true because lamp chimneys were made of glass and were easily broken. Papa told the man that seeing was believing so the salesman took a lamp chimney out of his case pitched it up to the rafters in that old barn type store, it fell, hit the floor and bounced, it did not break. We couldn’t believe it so the man did it again and again and it still didn’t break.
How many do you want the man asked Papa, and before they were through Papa not only bought several cases of the chimneys he also contracted for the exclusive agency for McCulloch County.
I happened to be in the store the day Papa’s shipment of unbreakable lamp chimneys arrived. We hurried to open a case, Papa took out a lamp chimney, threw it up into the air, it fell to the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces. We tried one out of each of the other cases and every one broke into small pieces. I am not sure of what Papa said at the time but I would imagine it was something like this: “Barnum was right, there is one born every minute”.
Although I knew that Papa had been taken for quite a ride I never found out how much he lost on that deal. It wasn’t a total loss however, for we were able to sell the lamp chimneys along with our other chimneys, and, Papa did not have to re-order that item for a long, long time. The puzzle to us was: how did that fellow get those chimneys of his to bounce when they hit the floor instead of break, as ours did.
I found the answer to that puzzle some 60 years later in a book I was reading on a plane trip home from a visit in Maine. My wife’s sister had purchased a book by a Maine humorist and was going to send it to her nephew in Michigan. I started reading the book the day before we were to catch our plane for home, and was so taken by it that I talked my sister-in-law into letting me finish it on the plane trip and then I would send it on to the nephew.
Among the many funny stories the author (I have forgotten his name) told was one about his dad being “hooked by a crook” selling unbreakable lamp chimneys. Just like Papa this man’s dad had bought a large order of these chimneys and in addition had bought the exclusive right to sell them in his county. Oh how I laughed at that story when I realized that Papa was not the only “sucker” in the U.S. of A. However, this man’s dad found out what made the salesman chimney bounce. It was made out of some kind of new stuff like our present day plastic. It would bounce, but it would also burn when put on a lighted lamp. So much for kerosene, potatoes, and lamp chimneys.
NOTE: Oct. 31, l992 I received a note from that nephew in Michigan. He also sent me a copy of the “unbreakable lamp chimney” story. It seems that this fellow’s dad received his unbreakable chimneys and sold 500 of them the first day. However, the next day he had to refund all of the money because every lamp chimney he sold blew up the minute the lamp was lit.
Ending: He wrote to the chimney salesman but his letter came back stamped “Address Unknown”.
All of this was happening during the years 1923 to 1927. Durng those four years I worked with Papa at the Wagon Yard Grocery every afternoon after school and every Saturday. Thus it was customary for me to walk from our home on 12th and College to the Wagon Yard every day except Sunday. And you could bet that on every Sunday all of the Bodenhamers were at the First Christian Church which was on the hill just south of the Wagon Yard
Bill Bodenhamer had this corrected footnote for his column last week; but, the Mason editor failed to insert the correction into the final edition of the paper. We apologize for the oversight.
If there is anyone living in or around Mason who remembers anything about the old time Mason Wagon Yard(s) I would be happy to include any information given to me in the Wagon Yard story that follows.