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Ashbaugh's Grocery Store

Don Rodgers

Having been born and raised in Emmitsburg to the age of nineteen, I still consider it to be my hometown even after being away for over forty-five years. But, I don't live far away and return often. Going through town recently, one of my thoughts was about the stores that were there when I was growing up. Although the town has more inhabitants than it did forty-five years ago, it has fewer "stores". It may have more business's but they don't sell goods, they sell services. This isn't unique to Emmitsburg -- times change and big stores have wiped out most of the small ones not only in Emmitsburg but all over the country.

Anyhow, my thoughts strayed to the grocery stores Emmitsburg had when I was growing up in the forties and fifties -- Clarence Frailey's, Bill Rowe's, Bernie Boyle's, American Store, and George Ashbaugh's.

Since we lived just four doors from Ashbaugh's, that is where I spent a lot of my time. In the winter, heat was supplied from a pot bellied stove behind the meat case. There were four or five chairs around the stove and you could come in from the cold, sit in one of the chairs, lean back and put your feet up on the stove. I don't think any of the other stores could boast of a pot-bellied stove. You could sit in there, drink pop, talk or just listen. There was usually someone coming in to buy a little something and, of course, we knew everyone in town anyhow so you would at least say "Hi" to them. Most of the time the counter was tended by George, Helen or Tick although Harry, Ruth and Georgette took their turns also.

Most of the items were behind the counter and you ask for them and they would be set on the counter. A large roll of paper at the end of the counter was used to wrap freshly sliced lunch meats and cheeses. Lunch meats consisted of bologna, Lebanon Bologna (summer sausage) and perhaps a ham loaf. Prices were tallied on a brown paper bag and money rung up on a brass cash register.

George also sold fishing and hunting gear and, when fiberglass rods first appeared on the market, George told me he could bend it in a circle tip-to-end and not break it. That was hard to believe and I said I would buy it if he could do that -- he did it, I bought it and, believe it or not, I still have the rod.

Of course there was the candy case -- it had a big curved glass with a crack in it and a piece of adhesive tape over the crack. The crack was there as long as I could remember and was most likely caused by too many kids leaning on the glass. It held quite an assortment of candy and, for a nickel, you get a nice little bag full.,

In the summer time, the ice man (I don't remember his name except that I think his first name was Quincy) would pull up in his Model T pickup and deliver ice. He delivered ice all over town from the ice-plant next to East End Garage. We would run to the back of the truck, throw back the tarp covering the ice, and get one of the slivers that had chipped off of the 50 or 100 lb blocks. He probably delivered ice in the winter also but I wasn't out there looking for ice chips in winter. When the ice plant shut down Ashbaugh's built a small ice house in the corner of the building and sold ice from there.

I'm sure the other stores all had their charm but for me Ashbaugh's Store will always be the one I remember most vividly. The buildings that housed the other stores are all still in use but Ashbaugh's building is now gone.

Have your own memories of Emmitsburg grocery stores of old? 
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net

Read Betty Garners reflections on Emmitsburg Grocery Stores of Old

Read other Stories by Don Rodgers

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