Good Old Clerking Days
Merchandising has come a long way from the days of the general store, as recalled here in the
1930s files of the Works Progress Administration from the Nebraska State Historical Society.
"I have often thought of those good old days when Henry and I sold $2 shoes for a dollar a
foot. I believe Henry occasionally slept in the store on a tick filled with the original straw
that broke the camel's back. A few corn husks and a cob or two got mixed in with the straw--
but it was a bed just the same.
"When Henry first began operations in the store my father's partner was Charley Tigges, a
mighty fine fellow, but he kept us busy. There never was a dull moment. If I leaned on the
broom for a minute or laid the feather duster aside, just to get a breathing spell, Charley
would delegate me to catching flies and putting them into a new patent fly trap which we
would park in the display window to boost the sale of the traps.
"Speaking of display windows, in those days our store's windows were like Woolworth's
today, only the arrangement wasn't as good. We would pack each window with all kinds of
jimcracks. Passersby could spend an entire afternoon or evening looking into those windows.
"Nothing was lacking in the display. We had sunbonnets, garden rakes, writing tablets,
underwear, stick candy, flower seeds, gum boots and maybe some leaflets from Henry
George, great promoter of the single tax idea.
"Frank Riif, well-known farmer, would 'admire' the display and swear to all on high that it
was the finest he had ever seen--that nothing like it ever was attempted in Prairie du Chien,
Wis., where he hailed from. And what Frank didn't know about window dressing wouldn't
make a big book.
"Maybe Henry recalls the time a fleshy woman from Menominee inquired about a corset.
Henry asked her, 'What bust?' and she replied, 'Nothing, it's just worn out.'
"Those good old clerking days. Yep, a pair of shoe laces 'thrown in' with every pair of
brogans, and 'free' suspenders with each pair of pants."
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