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Stories My Grandmother Told Me

Cheryl Ashbaugh-White

My Aunt Tiny, as all her friends and relatives call her, sent me Don Rodgers' article on Emmitsburg's Grocery stores. After reading the article I started remembering my Grandmother, Helen Ashbaugh and the stories she and my father, Harry told.

Helen was born Helen Beatrice Knott in Thurmont, Maryland on March 29, 1900. Like so many girls of those times, she married at the age of eighteen on March 31, 1918 to Harry Ellsworth Ashbaugh. Harry was killed in an elevator accident when she was only 21 years of age and carrying their first child - a boy. Harry, my dad was born on January 17, 1922 according to his birth certificate, but my Grandma would say otherwise, and she should know as she always said, "she was there", it was January 18, 1922.

Several years after the death of her husband, she married Harry's brother George, who is know as my father's stepfather but also his uncle. I'm told in those days it was not uncommon to marry the brother or sister of a lost spouse. They had three children - George (the youngest), Ruth, and Georgette. Two have nicknames, which they are still called by today. I would like to share the story that was told to the grandchildren about how their aunt and uncle got their nickname.

George's nickname is "Tick" because when he was little he couldn't say "stick" he could only say "tick" and this nickname has stuck with him for 65+ years to his family and friends in Emmitsburg. Ruth was nickname "Tiny" because she was born premature and was so tiny they didn't think she would survive. The colored lady that helped deliver her at home placed her in the cook stove to keep her warm. She is the only child of Helen & George Ashbaugh still living in Emmitsburg. The others have died or moved on.

I didn't live in Emmitsburg or the immediate surrounding area as did my cousins, but Emmitsburg was apart of my life as it was theirs. I spent many holidays and summers with my Grandma and helped at the Ashbaugh's Grocery Store until I joined the military in 1970 and left Maryland for good.

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The Ashbaugh's Grocery Store was first a blacksmith shop owed by my great grandfather, Hebert Ashbaugh and his wife Delta Gelwicks. Through the years it became a grocery store and my grandparents, George & Helen ended up owning and operating it until the 1970's when my Grandma closed the store due to her age and health. Eventually the store was sold and torn down and replaced with a road. It's a shame so much history has been replaced for modern times.

I can remember as a child I always loved going to Grandma's. She spoiled all her grandchildren, but I always thought I was spoiled a little more. I can remember running through the grocery store door and seeing her behind the counter in her bib style apron waiting on a customer. Big glass top red barrels with the big white letters of Snyder's pretzels would be sitting on the left side of the door as you came in. I would always dig into the big barrel to get a hard pretzel. In the summer the store would make Snow Cones. The snow cone machine set on the big window frame in the front of the store. There must have been a dozen flavors - lime, cherry, strawberry, and blueberry, etc. You could even mix the flavors and get the rainbow. That's the one most of the kids liked.

Then there was the big glass candy case where you could buy candies for penny apiece. She would always let me get a few pieces. I just loved the red licorice sticks. I can also remember customers would call their orders in and Uncle Tick would pack up the groceries in a brown cardboard box and deliver to their home. I don't know if the other stores in town did the same. Something else the Ashbaugh's Grocery Store provided was credit from payday to payday to their regular customers.

I remember customers coming in and Grandma slicing lb bologna or cheese, or taking out a long string of hot dogs and taking a few apart and they would say, "put it on my bill Helen". Grandma would nod her gray hair head and take a piece of paper and write their name on it. On Fridays and Saturdays the customers would come in and pay their bill off.

As a teenager girl in the 60's I really liked helping around the store, cause all the boys would come in and buy their cigarettes or shotgun shells. They would hang around and talk to my Uncle while he lit his pipe about the deer that "got away". To me it seemed like everyone in town knew my Uncle Tick and he loved talking about hunting. He would start a conversation about the weather or anything else happening doing that time with any stranger that would walk into the store. He stills enjoy talking to anyone including strangers and I have always found him easy to talk to. He holds a very dear spot in my heart.

After my Grandfather, George passed away in 1959 Uncle Tick and Grandma ran the store seven days a week, opening at 8:00 a.m. except on Sunday. Friday and Saturday were the late nights to stay open. The store would open on Sunday afternoon for about 3 hours after Catholic Church let out. I can even remember a couple of times on holidays when the store was closed someone would come and knock on the house door and needed an item. Grandma or Uncle Tick would go and unlock the store so the customer could get their stuff. You sure can't get that kind of service today.

I would like to share some stories that my father and Grandma told us kids growing up.

The 1st story is about my Dad - I guess he was your typical boy always getting into trouble. He would probably be labeled today as "Dennis the Menace". As the story goes he was around 5 years old and was home in bed sick with the croup. Grandma had to attend the store and left Dad in bed with strict instructions, "don't go outside". This incident happen during the winter. Since he was a mischievous little boy, he got out of bed and got his dad's ole shotgun. He went outside and saw (Charley Shorb) "Old Man Shorb", as he was referred to by my Dad go into the "outhouse". Dad started firing shots into the outhouse. He said you could hear Old Man Shorb yelling and the outhouse just a shaking. He kept shooting until no shots were left. Dad went back inside, put the gun up and went back to bed. Thinking none would know it was him. Well, I guess Old Man Shorb knew and went straight to the store to tell my Grandma. She went to the house to confront my Dad, who of course, denied it, but through the denying his cough was getting worse, which gave him away. He tells, this was the worst licken he ever had in his life and sent upstairs to bed before the rest of the family went up.

Because the upstairs was haunted with Nancy, the ghost, none of the kids even when I was growing up the grandchildren would go up to bed without Grandma or another cousin with us. As Dad told it, he would get the licken, go upstairs, come down get another licken and set back upstairs and this went on for over a hour until he wore his Dad out and he let him stay downstairs until the family went to bed. Dad would say later," he would rather get the licken than stay upstairs by himself with Nancy the ghost".

This begins the story of Nancy the ghost in the Ashbaugh's house. As my Grandma use to tell us kids, if you are bad and don't listen Nancy will come and get you. Since none of the Ashbaugh's grandchildren were angels we wouldn't go upstairs at night without an adult. As we got into our teens, we would go with each other instead of our parents or Grandma. My cousin, Carole Weidner and I held hands going up those long dark narrow squeaky steps at night to bed on many occasions.

Nancy was a young woman who lived in the house during the Civil War. When the Blue Bellies as the Yankees were called came through town she hid in the attic. They thought she was aiding the South and killed her in the attic and left her body there. The Ashbaugh's house was sold a few years ago, so I don't know if Nancy remains with the new occupants, but she did while the Ashbaugh's owed the house. Almost everyone in the family has had an experience with Nancy. I for one, have.

The time was around 1965. Uncle Tick was married in 1964 and moved all his belongings out. My Grandma's house was a three-story house (if you included the attic) and there is no way someone could get up to the back bedroom window without a tall ladder. Even then, I don't know if a tall ladder would do it. It was midday and I was going upstairs to get something. Even in midday none of us kids liked going upstairs by ourselves, but I did this one time. I walked into the bedroom, which was at the top of the stairs, and the closet door was open. I thought this was funny, as I hadn't opened it when I left and no one had been upstairs. I crept closer to the closet and there I saw the shoe toe of a pair of shoes sticking out from the long dresses that was hung in the closet. Needless to say, I was scared to death. I ran downstairs and got my cousin, Carole. We went back upstairs and the shoes were gone, closet door shut, and the bedroom window open. We looked out the window and saw nothing.

The only explanation, Grandma gave, "it was Nancy". Sometimes at night as I would lie in bed I would hear what sounded like someone walking in the attic. My Grandma wore a hearing aid and would take it off at night. She wouldn't be able to hear anything, but she would say she could feel a vibration from the attic, "it was Nancy".

As I said earlier, my dad should have been named Dennis the Menace he was always pulling pranks on people. Another story he used to tell was about the black cat that he and some of his buddies painted to look like a skunk and released it during the Walk-a-thon at Flat Run. As you might guess, everyone started screaming and running all over the place.

Years have passed as well as my Grandma in 1984 and my Dad in 1988 but I will always remember my times in Emmitsburg and the stories told to us kids by our relatives sitting at Grandma's kitchen table.

Read Don Rodgers Memories of Ashbaugh's Grocery Store

Read other stories by Cheryl Ashbaugh-White

Do you know of an individual who helped shape Emmitsburg?
If so, send their story to us at: history@emmitsburg.net

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