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Frailey's Store

Ruth 0. Richards

Originally published in the Emmitsburg Dispatch
Republished in the Emmitsburg News-Journal

In the yesterdays of long ago, I thought Emmitsburg to be old fashioned. Many I longed for my more modern hometown in South Dakota. As I glance back today I find myself wishing, even longing for the past of Emmitsburg that has faded away. I truly believe that when the truth is made known to those who read my story, they too might wish for that part of long ago Emmitsburg.

I am thinking of the times when there were many places and ways to shop for food. There were tiny grocery stores, there were small grocery stores, and there were three large grocery stores. There were also door to door salesmen with fresh produce. All of the businesses were owned and run by people who lived in and about Emmitsburg. There are many tales to be told about these businesses of Emmitsburg in the forties, but it is of Frailey's Store that I reminisce today.

When my husband John and I as newlyweds came to Emmitsburg in the 1940 we lived in Mrs. Bruce Pattersonn's house on West Main Street, across from Frailey's store. This store carried most of the things I might need, and as I shopped from day to day I found it to be a curious place.

This was a kind of country store with merchandise not only of food, but overshoes, rakes, shovels, seeds, straw hats, pails and other things needed in about the house. It was a folksy sort of place where people gathered to discuss the news of the day, the economy, Roosevelt's innovations, the prospect of war and on and on. "How's the wife and kids?" The men wore overalls and the women wore house dresses. (Slacks? Heaven forbid.) As the talk went on, a feed cap would be lifted, a head scratched, and the cap replaced. No one seemed to be Frailey's to be in a hurry. The store was open late both Friday and Saturday night and the socializing went on.

There was a bit of bartering, too: eggs, lots of eggs, "home grown" ones were exchanged for groceries. These eggs were stored in the back where they were candied before being sold. I had never heard of an egg candler before. It was a simple contraption used to determine if the hen had been visited by a rooster before the egg was laid. (Today the poor hen has never even heard of or seen a rooster. She goes about her business of laying eggs in a sort of egg factory.) If a blood spot showed up in the egg being candler, this egg was not sold. That blood spot indicated the beginning of a miracle--an embryo chick. Some customers were repulsed by the spot of blood. I was.

There was a gift shop on the second floor, entered by permission only. It was most popular at Christmas time with its trinkets, bits of interesting crockery, toys and other things appropriate as gifts for children and other family members. The people who worked in the store were a cast of characters from a play: Miss Bessie Hoke, Pauline Baker, Mr. Sellers. (Please note that of these characters, Pauline Baker had no title, and Mr. Sellers had no first name.) That's the way they were spoken of and that's the way I learned to call them.

Mr. Sellers dressed immaculately in white shirt, tie suit and vest. He was incredibly polite, spoke to all of customers confidentially, and wrapped everything in paper tied it with string, be it cold cuts or a head of lettuce.

Miss Bessie could have been an Aunt in "Arsenic and Old Lace. She had beautiful white pompadoured hair, brought back in a bun, and snapping brown eyes. She was always friendly, sweet and eager to please her customers

Then we had Pauline Baker, bustling about the store, more bustle than helpful, but usually succeeding in her efforts to please.

There were two men who worked in and about the store, doing roustabout work and delivering groceries. One of them was Murray Hardman, and the other was Dave Harbaugh, I believe. These two men provided the comic relief, always joking and laughing. Of course the stars of this grocery store were the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Frailey. Mrs. Frailey worked only on occasion.

I loved to talk with her as she was a source of information about local people, and a wonderful source of cooking hints and recipes. I was interested in the local color and badly needed the hints on cooking.

And Mr. Frailey. He was the perfect store owner. He would do anything for anyone and everyone. He was a genial man, and a gentleman, kind, thoughtful, and eager to please. Clarence Frailey. I could never call him anything but Mr. Frailey and he in turn called everyone by title: Mr. Mrs. Miss, Dr. He loved people, and especially he loved children. Every small child that came into his store got a cookie and a tweek on the cheek. (one of my children liked the cookie but hated the tweek.)

Surely there are some of you who remember Mr. Frailey's Christmas party for children. On Christmas Eve in the day time, children would line up outside the store--this line stretched back to the Doughboy -and as each child got to Mr. Frailey, that child was handed a box of candy and an orange - probably a tweek on the cheek, too. Those were real treats in the fading days of the depression. The Lion's Club Christmas party of today is no doubt and outgrowth of that party.

Mr. Frailey was mayor of Emmitsburg from 1956 to 1960. The only recreation I knew him to have was horseback riding. He could be seen on Sunday afternoon riding on Main Street with his daughter, Helen.

Mr. Frailey kept his store supplied with fresh produce by traveling to Baltimore twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday to the wholesalers and to quayside to by fresh seafood.

When I learned that seafood of all kinds was available at Frailey's store I knew I was in for a new experience. I was willing to sample everything and as I sampled I knew I had to have more. In other words, I fell in love with seafood. Fried oysters, crab salad, steamed crabs, shrimp in the shell, fish. Doesn't that just make your mouth water? Whatever was wanted, oysters, crabs, shrimp, or fish, Mr. Frailey in his long white going-to-market coat brought all these lovely things back; by the dozen, by the pound or even by the bushel. And all I needed to do was walk across the street and they were mine.

I, and the rest of Emmitsburg were spoiled, and we didn't even know it, but we soon found out that what was once so easily available was soon to vanish. The war came, the world was turned upside down. Food was rationed, gas was rationed limiting travel to Baltimore and elsewhere. Life changed rapidly. We entered a new era, life as we knew it in the 40's was gone.

Clarence Frailey operated the store on West Main Street where Welty's Market is now located Pictured above are (left to right): Mr. Frailer, Bessie Hoke, Joe Hoke, Howard (Baldy) Rowe, Bill Sellers, Hury Troxell, and Clarence's father, Oscar Frailey. This picture was taken about 1920.

Mr. Frailey is gone. His store is gone. I don't know when it was sold to Mr. Joe Welty, nor do I know when Mr. Welty sold it. I just know that there is no longer a grocery store in that building. It has been turned into apartments. There are no longer any home-owned grocery stores grocery stores in Emmitsburg nor any on Main Street at all.

In bringing these memories to light I have become nostalgic. I sigh, I daydream. What am I longing for? Why am I nostalgic? My youth? Maybe the Good Old Days? Perhaps . . . Or Just for the store where I could buy fresh seafood twice a week.

Have your own memories of Frailey's store? 
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net

Read other stories by Ruth Richards

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