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Middle Island’s Country Store

Footnotes to Long Island History

Middle Island's Country Store

by

Thomas R. Bayles


   


Pfeiffer's General store on Middle Country road in Middle Island.

       The country store which has now all but passed from the American scene was once an important part of the life of small country  town and one can find no better example than Pfeiffer's country store in Middle Island which for nearly one hundred years supplied the wants of the surrounding countryside and was the social meeting place for the men of the community.

      The old pot bellied stove that really threw out some heat when filled with oak chunks was the center of attraction and during the stormy days of winter there was always a crowd from 10 to 30 men and boys surrounding the stove in the back of the store. The old checker board was kept constant use and some expert players were developed. One of the fixtures in his chair behind the stove in the years gone by was Everett Topping and anyone who took this chair before he arrived would have to vacate it when he showed up. He was always ready for a game of checkers with anyone who came along, although once in awhile a stranger would happen in and play a game and give him a good beating.

     It was a customary routine for the men of the neighborhood to spend some time each day in social conversation with the gang behind the stove in the store and here the news of the day was discussed and the fate of the nation argued. Politics was a favorite subject and many of the important issues of the day were settled behind the stove. The store was kept open evenings and those who couldn't make it during the day usually showed up for awhile after supper.

     This social center of the town was a picturesque scene years ago with the hanging oil lamps, the old stove and the benches and chairs around the stove in the back of the store. in those day day most groceries were sold in bulk and there would be barrels of crackers, oatmeal, flour, and sugar, Boxes of prunes, dried peaches, tea and coffee and many other items all of which had to be weighed out and put up in small packages. In the back room were barrels of New Orleans molasses, vinegar, other barrels of salt, pork, and smoked hams hanging overhead.

   The country store supplied nearly all the needs of the local people and sold almost everything including yard goods, dresses, boots, shoes, men's clothing, hardware, paint, horse blankets, whips, harnesses, farming supplies besides groceries and other articles.

      The scene has changed and we no longer see the men and boys congregating at the store for a social hour. The old hanging oil lamps have gone to the antique collector and all that is left is the old stove and the old chair which Everett Topping occupied for so many years. The old checker board lies hidden away on a shelf, dreaming of the days where it was the center of attraction and kept in daily use. The rush of our modern world seems to have dispelled the good old custom of neighbors stopping in to be sociable for awhile and who will say that the change is for the better

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