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The Best Gifts from Schoharie County

Home » » Musings of a Local… THE LOCAL GENERAL STORE & POST OFFICE


Written By The Mountain Eagle on 2/29/24 | 2/29/24

By Iris Mead

Every community had a small grocery store and often the local post office was part of the store.  In many small villages around the country, both were housed in the same building and run by the same owner.  Here in the Catskills, it was commonplace to get your mail from the post office box that had a combination only you were supposed to know and buy your groceries or penny candy before you left. The local postmaster was usually the store owner and the position of Postmaster seemed to be handed down from generation to generation in our area.

These mail boxes were brass and the small doors for the mail slots were heavy.  Each box had its combination to open. It was the anticipation of opening that door and hoping there was something surprising in there for you or maybe a post card (remember those?)  from someone who was traveling. Getting the mail was a daily occurrence for most people and usually involved picking up some grocery items before you left.  Most of these small post offices/stores were located in small villages or hamlets, or in the case of Denver and Vega, by themselves.  Farming communities were serviced by these stores and on rainy days when farming came to a halt you could find many of the locals catching up with each other around the stove that was used for heat in the cool months.

You could pretty much count on some or at least one of the usual collection of characters in the Village hanging around talking “shop” which could be about the weather (always), crops being planted or harvested, haying, milk production or politics. There was one particular local who wore a flannel shirt throughout the summer no matter how hot it was.  His reasoning was the flannel kept you warm so that you didn’t notice that it was unseasonably hot.

The grocery store was usually one big room that was laid out in sections with basic necessities for sale. Inventory was low as the owners had neither space nor money to purchase large amounts of inventory at one time.  There was usually a section for candy and in my small grocery store it was in a glass case with sliding doors on the back side so that only the owner could touch the candies.  The “soda pop” was kept in a big deep red cooler that was filled with cold water to keep the soda cold and the bottles floated around in the water.   In the hot summer months you didn’t mind reaching in to grab a bottle but it was less fun in the winter months.  There was usually a gas pump or two in front of the store.

Times changed. This particular store/post office , started in 1880 and handed down through the Griffin family, continued with new owners until it became too expensive to carry the small inventory but the Halcottsville post office continues as part of the community in the same building and the memories of that familiar landmark continue.  (see photos)

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