Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Sad Day

Although, I always deemed it was inevitable, I am still trying to come to grips with the news I heard this weekend. Streeter's Store in Bernardston is closing. Begun in the 1920's, it has been the local place to hear gossip, pick up the paper, buy an ice cream cone, and get a chain saw or tractor fixed. I have been frequenting the store since I moved here in 1999 and it has become such a special part of my daily life and routine. I decided that
I would re-post the little article I wrote back in June because it just needs to be said again. I think I may have some new readers who will enjoy it.

Julia and I have been in twice to visit since we heard the news and we have picked up some things to remember the store by - a broom, a few galvanized pails, some postcards and some "Streeter's Mugs." Thank you to all the Streeter's for the very special memories I will always have. I hope Julia will grow up and have some small thoughts of the glimpses of the past.

From Another Time
originally posted 6/30/2006

Since I was a teenager, I have read The New York Times. No, I'm not that smart and worldly - I skip most sections and just go to the parts I like - fashion, food, business, the arts. When I moved to the country, I was at home with an baby and I didn't know anyone except Mark's family. And I was missing the cultural stimulation I was close to in eastern Massachusetts. Since it's not here - at least in cityish terms - I started buying The New York Times regularly again to get my culture-city-trend fix. Wednesdays (Food), Thursdays (House and Home, Fashion), and Sundays, I drove twenty minutes to the little town of Bernardston and picked it up at Streeter's Store. Pretty soon, it became a chore to remember but if I didn't read it, I missed it. I know - I could have looked at it on line. I'm an old-fashioned girl - I like the feel, the smell, the inconvenience of the large size - I like to hold my news in my hands and get them dirty with ink. And besides, with a dial-up connection, it takes forever to download a page of the Times.

So, I asked Eunice, one of the Streeter's, if she would hold three papers a week for me. She said she would try, but that it would be difficult. I told her it would be okay if she screwed up. They never have in over five years. Now, I only have to travel to pick up my paper once a week if I'm not going by and I get my culture fix.

When I started going to Streeter's, I never paid much attention to the surroundings or to the people working there. I was polite but I wasn't used to the small town pleasantries. When I lived in the Pepperell, I was invisible. I barely knew my neighbors names. I drove to work in Lowell everday, flew on a lot of planes, and never got involved. On weekends, we came here quickly but left. When we moved here, back to Mark's hometown, I was by myself, working in my studio, taking my daughter to school, doctor's appointments, doing the grocery shopping. My opportunities for meeting friends were limited. So the shopowners of the places I frequent have become our friends. This is such a strange thing for me. I've never been a "regular" anyplace - at least since I was a kid with my parents. Even then, the town was so large, it was easy to be anonymous. We were the family with all the little girls - kristinlynnlaurienancyjennifer.

I have completely surprised myself. I love being a "regular." People call me by name (okay - either by Mark's last name - "Mrs. Duprey" (who's that?) or by the most common "Julia's mom"). Once in awhile, someone will call me Kristin. Those must be people who know me really well.

I have become so fascinated with small town culture - specifically the entire culture at Streeter's Store. For Bernardston, this is Walmart. From where I live, I have to travel almost an hour to get to any big box retailer. I save a lot of money not shopping and not buying gas. That's a good thing - I have enough ugly plastic in my house (kid's toys). I don't miss having that opportunity, at all.

Every week, at Streeter's, I pick up my paper here --

But first I have to step by Whitey Streeter who holds court on this park bench next to the paper box. Whitey is a little bit like the town crier. If you need information, ask him. He probably knows it or will find out for you. On June 28th, he turned 86 years old. He told me the other day, he has been sitting on that bench since he was seven years old. WOW! What a chunk of small town history. Whitey is usually surrounded by men talking about the weather, hunting, town politics. He is polite and charming and when he was young, he had to be incredibly handsome - he still is. Each week, I look forward to seeing him as does Julia.

When I started thinking about this idea for a post, I started delving into the recesses of Streeter's store. They just have everything I need here.

I can buy my sewing supplies --

I can supply my kitchen with a whole collection of pots and pans --

I can purchase cleaning tools --

Mark can buy his entire wardrobe here - wool and flannel shirts, bright orange hunting gear (so when he is working in the woods, the hunters won't shoot him), jackets, boots. What else does he need?

Colorful cotton bandanas great you at the door - if you look up. I could make a great quilt out of them.

You can buy a chain saw, oil, nuts, bolts, screws and other hardware supplies, woodstove parts.... the list is endless. You can even buy a tractor. Mark bought his Massey Ferguson from them. They're the oldest Massey dealership in New England.

I can even show my daughter a picture of the grandfather she never knew (and the father-in-law I never knew) on this great old framed collage of local boys serving in the Second World War. (Norman is the third from the left on the first full row down.) If I mention Norman's name, I'll get a story or two from Whitey or Eunice who went to school with him. Where else would this happen?

If you are driving on Route 91 north, take the last exit in Massachusetts (Bernardston). Go about 200 yards. You'll find Streeter's on the left. Stop in and say hi. Poke around and find a bargain. Strike up a conversation. You'll feel like you stepped back forty years. It's a great feeling. I'm so lucky to be able to go there whenever I want.

Maybe your town still has a place like this. Consider yourself lucky - most Americans don't. The mall culture is invading all the corners of the country. It's okay to shop at the mall - just open your eyes to what else is around you. Support the little guy!

Gotta run to Streeter's to pick up our Fourth of July flags. We're getting our piglets on the 4th and we need to decorate the "Pig Palace." I hope Streeter's has them.


Kim said...

This is a sad event for all of us. I fear our country is turning into one homogenous, corporate-owned,character-less glob. Love that you shared a little bit of Streeter's while it was here.

PamKittyMorning said...

Sorry to hear about Streeters. I think it's one of the first posts I read on your blog when I started reading blogs and really enjoyed it. I miss stores like this.

Francie said...

Thanks for sharing your June post about Streeters. Sad to see it go. I hope Julia remembers too. We had a similar hardware store in a town I used to live in, one with creaky old hardwood floors, and they sold everything from mouse traps to paint to pots and pans. Then someone came in, bought it and completely gutted it, took away all the charm and now it sells very expensive linens, candles and has cooking classes. What a loss.

Kathleen C. said...

I remember enjoying your post back in June... I'm very sorry to hear about Streeters' closing. I loved the description of Whitey "holding court".

We still have a few of those small owner-run places around here. I always try to patronize them if I can. It's a tough world for them to compete amongst... small businesses, small farms... they need our support.

Joanne said...

So sorry to hear this... It's so rare to have such a useful and special neighborhood store. I'm sure you'll miss it!

Barbara said...

It is a sad day. We have far too many souless chain stores. I felt the same way when a local ice cream and candy store closed. I had been going there since I was a child and I took my grandchildren there. It was a family business. The owner of building they leased space in turned out all the tenants, rebuilt and put a Walgreens in. There are three other big chain drugstores within a few blocks. I do support what few local businesses that are left. Who really wants those big places where no one cares about you?

Neighbor Kay said...

I passed by Streeter's last week and thought it looked sad. Then when I read the article in the newspaper that confirmed that it was closing, I was very sad.
I grew up in a rural area in Tennessee that has been totally developed and lost all the farms that surrounded our small town center. More than the farms were lost, the sense of community is also gone. It was stores like Streeter's that drew me to western Mass, I hope that we don't loose allof our ruralness.
Many, many thanks to The Farmer for taking care of two farms that could have ended up being developed.

Twisted Knitter said...

I initially came here for your knitting, stitching and designs, but these wonderful entries keep me coming back to read . . . I enjoy what you share about Julia, your dogs and the rhythm of farm life. It's so sad that you're losing Streeter's . . . thank you for sharing it with us.

Suzanna said...

Thanks for sharing about Streeter's. This place reminds me of the great general store I went to to as a kid when I visited my grandmother.

Maybe like all great craft, the Shopkeeper's Art will have a renaissance.

Diane H K in Greenfield said...

We're upset about Streeter's too, and will miss the store very much. We stopped by there after picking up grain at the feed store down the road.

Streeter's reminded me of the general store in Sandisfield, MA where my grandfather had his farm. We loved going to the general store to pick up our mail, get a wedge of good Vermont cheddar from the giant wheel in the butcher shop section, and a sour pickle from the barrel for each of us kids.

Once the rain stops, John is going over to take pictures of Streeter's with his stereo camera, as a remembrance. We missed the chance to take stereo pictures of Cushman Hall before it was knocked down in the summer.

Anonymous said...

I found your website because I was actually searching for news on Streeter's closing. I grew up in Bernardston but have since relocated. A friend from high school told me about the closing. I remember getting penny candy there when I was young and my first boyfriend was actually a Streeter.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to find more on closing but I found this website and I am a streeter. I from Brattleboro.