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Store Of The Past, Present, And Future


Jamie L. Rustad

The store of Humboldt has provided for the needsof the average citizen throughout the past. It has not only provided food,clothing, and hardware, but also entertainment. Many stores of the pasteither sold out or were forced out of business. But the Humboldt Store hassurvived throughout the years and is still Humboldt's center grocery store.

In 1911, Ted Florance purchased the building frame fromBooker and McFadden. In the early days they had had a store but sold outbecause N.J. Nelson began a Hardware and Machinery Store.

Jim Florance went out west in 1902. In 1911, he came backand purchased the store from Nelson Finney. Ted Florance, Jim's brother,had sold the store to Reuben Matthew who later sold it to Nelson Finney.

The store building frame burned in 1913. In 1914,Ted Florance built the new one which was thirty by sixty feet.

At that time the store had a complete line of hardware,groceries and dry goods - it was the best equipped store in Kittson County.Jim Florance said, "We had a booming business because a family livedon every quarter of land."

The store opened at 7:00 each morning and stayed open until11-12:00 p.m. sometimes, all year around.

On Saturday nights, the store was jammed full of peoplewho came to shop, have an ice cream cone, or just plain visit. (It was thecustom at that time: A chance to get out and see the neighbors.) The storebecame a Saturday night community center. As Mr. Florance put it, "Noone living at present times could imagine the crowds of buyers who gatheredat the store on Saturday evenings while my wife, myself, and two men helperscrawled to the top of high rolling ladders to take the groceries from thetop of the shelves to pile on counters." His wife usually sold drygoods. She told the ladies how many yards of cloth, spools of thread, andhow many pretty buttons it took to make a dress.

When someone wanted to buy something, the clerks, who wouldget the goods, climbed to the top of the ladders, rolled down the side ofthe store, get the groceries in their arms, and climb back down, layingthe goods on the counter.

Food was packaged as it was sold; sugar in $1.00, 50 and25 cent packages. The bulk goods such as navy beans, dried fruit, rice,and sugar were kept in the drawers behind the counters. Bulk candy was keptin a glass showcase which cut off the post office from the rest of the store.There was a very supplied display of dresses, overalls, pants, shirts, spoolthread, material, and other sewing articles in the northeast corner. Onthe south side there were drawers and shelves of hardware; pitch forks,shovels, bolts, nuts, and other tools.

Horses could be supplied with fu11 sets of harnesses, currycombs, brushes, horse shoes, horse shoe nails, halters, bridles, clippers,bits, and coopers. (Coopers were strapped under the tail of a horse. Ifthe horse tried to lean down and eat, the strap of the cooper would tightenup and lift the horse's tail and prevent him from eating.)

A cow might need a tie chain, to be fastened to the stallor a cow poke, which kept cattle from going through fences.

At Christmas time they sold nuts; especially walnuts. Anywalnuts not sold during the Christmas season had to be cracked during thespare time so the meats could be sold and a profit returned.

Part of the James J. Hill farm was located in Humboldtin the early years of the 20th century. About twenty-five men employed therebought gloves, caps, shirts, overalls, and other working necessities fromthe store.

Ladies could be supplied from head to toe. This varietystore even had a special shoe section for all shoe sizes. The trim-treadshoes were fashionable then. The twelve inch black patent slippers withthe big buttons to hook were most widely worn. These shoes required a buttonhook and one always kept an extra hook on hand.

At inventory time, the clerks had to count all bolts andnuts, and look up the cost of each item in the store.

A list of goods each customer bought was listed on a dailysales slip by the clerk. The bookkeeper had to recopy the items in a largeledger, for the storekeeper until the account was paid. Most customers weregiven a thirty day credit privilege, the statement mailed out each month.

In the early days of the store, there were no regular orderingblanks as the stores have now. Even as late as 1950, they wrote outtheir orders on white or colored paper. Each time an order was written outthe clerk had to write each item, the cost, and the quantity on the paper.Sometimes it might get to be very messy and almost unreadable. Charge slipswere also written out on standard writing paper.

The supplementary goods were kept in the warehouse builton the north side of the store. A vinegar barrel, herring fish in woodenpails and kerosene were also kept there. The store also made their own distilledwater to be used for batteries.

A glass showcase cut off the post office from the restof the store, yet allowed the customers to see what the post office clerkswere doing. Special little boxes for personal mail were on one side, andon the other was a counter for other business such as inspecting, weighing,and re-wrapping boxes to be sent out.

One year Mr. Florance and John Easter, his clerk, wentout west to California. Mayme Jury and Alfred Rustad Jr., his clerks thattook their places temporarily, decided to remodel and rearrange the goodsin the store. They cleaned, scrubbed, and moved. When Mr. Florance returned,he told them they had done a lot of work for nothing. The store was goingFairway, which meant the merchandise would be in aisles rather than piledup along the wall, which could be reached only by ladders.

Jim Florance was store keeper from 1914 to 1949 when heretired in his late seventies. Mayme Jury then took over and is presentlyproprietor with Melvy Stewart as clerk.

Aside from being the Saturday night community center, thisbuilding was also the activity center for the surrounding communities. Theladies aid was free to use the second floor hall for church socials anddoings.

The first silent picture shows were held in the hall abovethe store and were usually viewed by fifty to sixty people paying the admissionof twenty-five cents per show. All silent movie theaters provided backgroundmusic and this one did too. A roller piano was played. To advertise thepictures, a notice was posted in the store. Unless they walked, the movieviewers came in horse and buggy, tying their horses to the hitching postin front of the store. If the people lived too far out in the country theycouldn't come.

Cal Farley, a citizen of Humboldt from the past, taughtyoung boys to wrestle, and these matches were also held in the second floorhall. Two or three boys came each time to give a performance. To break fallsa rug was rolled on the floor.

Special dance bands came to play in the hall on specialoccasions. One Fourth of July, a dance was held to honor the veterans returninghome after World War Two. Among these veterans were Cal Farley and VictorClow. When the band was through playing, the dancers relieved their appetiteswith oyster stew.

In 1929, the second floor was remodeled by simply puttingup partitions. There was no special design to the new living quarters.

The first electric light plant in the Kittson County wasalso located in this store. It supplied the current for the store and thevillage of Humboldt.

Humboldt, at the present times is said to be a very smallhamlet. But it was not always that small. At one time it was a very prosperousfarming community. There have been as many as two stores, three restaurants,a hotel, bank, blacksmith shop, lumberyard, depot, and boarding house.

When Jim Florance's store proved to be successful, otherswere begun. Cafes sometimes had groceries under the counter.

Even though few of these businesses have survived throughthe years, the Humboldt store has. At the present time it is commonly called"Mayme's Store" and is still a variety of goods, but it has littlehardware or clothing anymore. Groceries are the main goods today. The postoffice has disappeared from the store too.

The store is located on Highway 75 and still attracts manytravelers and visitors. Local farmers are supplied with goods everyday atthe store. This store, has in the past, and still is today, contributingto the welfare of the Humboldt community in the Red River Valley. The HumboldtStore is a store of the "Past, Present, and Future."


Florance, Jim, Interview on December 20, 1970, 1:00 - 2:00p.m. Subject: History of store

Jury, Mayme, Interview on December 20, 1970, 1:00 p.m.Subject: Dances, wrestling matches, store and electric light plant

Rustad, Alfred Jr., Interview on December 20, 1970, 7:00p.m.

00 p.m.Subject: Dances, wrestling matches, store and electric light plant

Rustad, Alfred Jr., Interview on December 20, 1970, 7:00p.m.