I remember when my dad need a tool or part fast he and I would head for the community Hardware store. Most small towns across America has some kind of hardware store. Although our community is now part of Topeka, Kansas, it was once a city of it’s own, it was called Oakland City Kansas. Fifty-five years ago some of the businesses were still doing business, and one was the hardware store. I always had a fascination with the store for as you stepped through the doors you were transported into another time.
The first thing you noticed was the smell, it was a old smell. It wasn’t a musky smell just old. The second thing you would notice was that the store was so full of merchandise you had to snake in and around the items to look around. There was always a friendly clerk behind a long counter, and would call you by name if you came to the store enough. The store sold every thing from fishing hooks too the old washing boards. Then there was that sound as you walked across the floor it was a hollow sound it give you the feeling of walking in a old barn, they were unfinished and showed the ware of many years of being walked on. After leaving the store you get the feeling you had just left another time.
As I have stated there are still the small hardware stores in small communities across the United States, and most are stuck in time, but that makes them more intriguing and one should step out of time once and a while. The photo to the left is of the Oakland Hardware Store as it once looked.
As a young man I worked on our families farms and there were many times there was a need to go to the hardware store. When working on the farm near Overbrook Kansas, if we needed a part or something for the house we would go to the hardware store in Overbrook. When at the farm near Scranton Kansas, we would go to the store in Scranton. If the part we needed wasn’t there we would go too one of the many others hardware stores in towns close by like those at Carbondale, Burlingame, Lyndon or Osage City. All these store may look different on the outside but inside they were all the same. They all had that old smell and unfinished floors and it was hard to move because of all the merchandise. To give some idea on what one of these stores looked like in the early nineteen hundreds here is the interior of the Harry Stubbs Hardware Store in Hartford Kansas.
Located in Hartford KS. The time of the photo is not known but it is marked on the back as "David Reeds Store in early days". A little research has shown that R.L. Mahaffey and Frank O. Smith purchased the store in Jan. 1912 from the D.G. Reed estate. In Oct. 1896 J.W. McGregor purchased the entire stock of McGregor and Reed Hardware Store, Image Source: Sue Stubbs.
If you happen to be driving through a small town stop by the local hardware store, you may be surprise on what treasure you may find.