Milestones and Memories - 1927 - 1930

By Henry A. Steiger

          The trades and industries that were prominent eighty-some years ago are quite different from those of today.  I would like to mention some of those that I remember as a boy, their location in the town, and some of the citizens who were associated with those business places.

          The earliest event that I can remember occurred on January 7, 1927,  when Main Hall, the dormitory on the campus of Mercersburg Academy, burned to the ground.  My parents wrapped me in an Indian blanket, and we went from my house on Main Street to East Seminary Streeet and passed the Methodist Church to witness the tragic loss of “Old Main.”

          Years later I learned that the Waynesboro and Chambersburg Fire Companies assisted the local fire company on that call.  In fact, the Chambersburg Co. truck was loaded on a railroad flat car and brought to Mercersburg by rail.  Water lines were run from the gymnasium, but to no avail; the only portions of the building that remained standing were the pillars located over the main entrance.

          Let’s start on the east side of North Main Street and East Seminary Street where we had Hege & Myers that sold clothing, furniture, and later a full line of grocery products was added.  I remember quite well that a wide selection of boots and shoes was displayed in the basement. 

          Continuing north on Main Street, we find Crist Barges’ Pool Room and Sandwich Shop, followed by E. K. Gift’s Restaurant.  Hershey’s Ice Cream and fudge-sicles were favorites of mine.

          In the McKinstry Alley at the rear of that building, but not a part of the restaurant, D. J. Lininger had two store rooms for his funeral business where he kept a supply of undertaking materials, and the fabrics were selected and installed in the caskets.

          Continuing north across the McKinstry Alley, we find the A. E. Steiger Sunoco Service Station that was established in 1930.  Boyd’s Hardware Store previously occupied that space.  Russell Shaffer’s Pen Mar Grocery Store was in the next storeroom.  A few years later, Shaffer moved to South Main Street, where he opened a store.  The Pen Mar store remained at the North Main Street location for several years; however, after a serious basement fire it was permanently closed.

          Jack McLaughlin’s Drug Store was a part of  Hotel Mercer.  With a  soda fountain, sandwiches, home-made ice cream and a  juke-box that was really a meeting place for high school and Academy students.  The latest newspapers and magazines were also available.

          Hotel Mercer was operated by Jack’s parents with hotel rooms available and a lavish dining room serving meals three times a day.

          Across McLaughlin’s Alley “Billy” Ott operated a small A & P Grocery Store; a few steps north we find Elmer Bailey’s Barber Shop.

          Now let us cross to the west side of North Main Street at the Fendrick Alley and proceed south where we find Myers Restaurant and Bakery, which preceded the Harriet Lane Coffee Shop, followed by the Blue & White Restaurant, later the Penn Appliance Store.  Now it is the home of the Fendrick Library.

          Next we find the Harriet Lane House, a portion of which housed D. F. Agnew’s Dry Goods Store; then in 1930 Gipe & Oyler’s Hardware Store occupied this space.  At some time in the 1940s the store room was removed, and the building was renovated to its original appearance as the Harriet Lane House.

          In the 1930s the next business located to the south was the Farmers Bank of Mercersburg.  Next to that entrance there was a porch over the sidewalk with a doorway leading to the house of Frank E. Myers.  Metcalfe Brothers had a shoe store on that northwest corner of the Square.  The Charles F. Fallon house and the associated Fallon’s Hardware Store completed the area to the north side of West Seminary Street.  I remember Miss Annie Fallon was one who had a great interest in keeping the flowers properly watered that were planted in the urns that were placed in the perimeter of the Fountain.

          Now to continue west on West Seminary Street, we had Charley Keefer’s Butcher Shop and then the Long and Drury Barber Shop.  Next were the office and printing plant of the Mercersburg Journal with Fred Unger, owner and publisher.  The large printing press and the linotype machine were of great interest to me.

          Crossing Fnafrock Alley, we find Earl  Rice’s Pool Rooms and Bowling Alley, followed by Frank Myers’ Star Theater.  Movies were shown six days a week and closed on Sundays.  Edgar Fallon’s Garage was next where Reo Flying Cloud cars were sold, and the Mercersburg Fire Company housed its equipment.

          Whitmore’s Bake Shop and confectionary completed the merchants on West Seminary Street.  I remember getting a penny’s worth of candy either going to school or on the way home.

          As we continue east on the south side of West Seminary Street, we come to Ice House Alley, where the Mansion House had a small building that was used to store ice for use at the hotel.  John Karper and Cal Suffecool had a broom- making business at that location.  They also delivered ice to many households and businesses in the Mercersburg area before mechanical refrigeration became available.

          On the west side of South Main Street we have one of the oldest buildings in the town, the Mansion House.  I have a bit of history from the bar room.

          To continue on South Main Street from the Mansion House, we had Trimmer’s 5 & 10 Store.  Remember the Christmas decorations and the lighted trees that were in the base of the Fountain.  At that time these decorations were also placed there by the volunteers of the Mercersburg Fire Company.

          The First National Bank of Mercersburg was located on the west side of South Main Street, and continuing south Thomas’ Restaurant and a small tailor shop (unknown); then there was Krebs Drugstore that later became Walker’s Drugstore.

          Crossing to the east side of South Main Street, we find Elmer D. Hawbaker’s Electric Shop, C. B. Zitzman’s Meat Market, and Stouffer’s Grocery Store.  Russell Shaffer bought this grocery store, and in later years Albert Myers purchased the business.

          In a brownstone building, the original First National Bank building,  adjacent to the grocery store J. C. Miller, jeweler, conducted a sales and watch and clock repair business on the first floor.  On the second floor Dr. William B. Grove, a dentist, had an office.  I have many vivid and painful memories of climbing that long stairway twice a year for visit to Dr. Grove’s office.

          Located next was Dr. J. M. Kuhn’s house and pharmacy.  On the south side of East Seminary Street there was a one-chair barber shop (I do not remember the name; it might have been Grove).  Mac Bradley operated a small grocery and tobacco shop, and at the intersection of East Seminary and South Fayette Streets, we find Bingham’s Shoe Shop.  Continuing eastward, A. C. Hoffeditz’s Chevrolet Garage was located, and then begins the Mercersburg Academy campus.

          On the north side of East Seminary Street ((Cooper’s Corner) were the Mercersburg Electric Shoe Repair Shop owned and operated by G. A. Grimm, John S. (Mack) Shaffer’s tailor shop, the Mercersburg Lehmasters & Markes Electric Co. office and appliance showroom, the United States Post Office (Lee Steiger, postmaster), Shank’s Barber Shop, and, located  back the hallway, the office of Dr. Henry Heefner, dentist.

          Some businesses that were located in areas of some distance from the town center were the W. D. Byron and Sons Tannery, perhaps the largest employer at the time; the Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Station with E. H. Wenger, agent;  the Mercersburg Builders Supply Co., with John Z. Faust, manager; Mercersburg Grain & Supply; the Ford Motor Company, with J. E. Ward, agent; William Selser Furniture Store (furniture and bicycles); John Bosserman Grocery Store; William Clark Barber Shop; Zeger’s Garage, Clyde Bowers’ Garage near the tannery; Rice’s Goldfish Hatchery; Wolf’s Elevator; L. H. Lenherr, a photographer; M. C. McCulloh, painting and paper-hanging; J. B. Dennis & Co. Meat Market; D. F. Agnew, department store; A. B. Smith, saddler and harness shop; Mrs. Ruth King, confectionary;  J. M. Philips Flower and Seed Store; Caleb Philips’ Stationery Store; and the Mercersburg Mill and Elevator with a water wheel and race.  I can remember Etta Commerer, North Fayette Street, Jenny McCune near the railroad station; John Z. Faust, Justice of the Peace and real estate and insurance; D. Emory Meyers, insurance; W. E. Shaffer, electric; and S. Lloyd Wagner, auctioneer.

          I am sure that I have overlooked some shop and shop-keepers, and perhaps you can remember those that I have missed.  You must remember the time-frame mentioned above was between the late twenties and the early thirties.  Some others who come to mind are the milkmen, Ruby Ensminger and Monty Cramer, who had their customers and delivered their products door to door.

          I remember Bob Stine who came to town with his horse and wagon and announced his bill of goods with a loud and clear voice, ”Sweet corn, apples, green beans,” and other home-grown vegetables as he slowly drove over the streets in town.

          Both Albert Hoch and David Armstrong had meat markets in the town, Hoch on North Fayette Street and Armstrong on East Seminary Street.

          Do you  remember the “Trubinizing Plant” that was built on the present Lions Club grounds on South Park Street and was part of the shirt factory on East Seminary Street?  The process was used to provide a permanent starch in collars and cuffs of men’s dress shirts; however, with the advent of World War II this operation was suspended.

          In 1941 I was a student at Mercersburg Academy, completed one year, and on January 11, 1942, I left Mercersburg and enlisted in the United States Army.

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