Days gone by

Local History by Ron Patch. Ron Patch is a Chester native, Chester Historical Society president, and a lifelong antiques dealer. He can be reached at 802-374-0119 or email knotz69@gmail.com.

Below is an article, I found in Carpenter’s Store News. The author is unknown. Carpenter’s News was a small paper advertising specials the store offered.

At the Chester Historical Society, we have a collection of Carpenter’s News from 1912 to the late 1930s. The story below dates to February 1936.

Booth's Harness Shop circa 1910. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society
Booth’s Harness Shop circa 1910. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society

Booth’s Harness Shop

“It was the center of our neighborhood from the viewpoint of the small boys of 50 years ago. Our world was bounded by Adams’ & Park’s store, where Frank Adams and Dan Davis sold us candy and gum as carefully and pleasantly for our pennies as they did buyers of bbls. of flour and tons of feed; and by Spencer Taylor’s shoe repair shop, which is now ‘Benjy’ Wells’ woodshed, where the old gentleman sewed our baseballs and mended our shoes, by Ernest Tuft’s home (now Mrs. Coleman’s) where we began to strip off blouse and pants while on the run for the old swimmin’ hole at Cobleigh’s dam; by Bill Walker’s pond where we learned to skate and by Osgood Sargeant’s (now Delmar Rowe’s farm) where we boys must have bothered Mr. and Mrs. Sargeant nearly to distraction during the sugar season, but never a cross word did we hear. A finer more hospitable gentleman and lady never lived.

  “So much for the setting of Booth’s Shop which faced almost directly the Cong. Church and the small diamond where we played our first baseball. Over the shop was the Masonic Hall where ‘they kept the goat’ as John always told us kids. Besides John there was ‘Tim’, his younger brother and their father ‘Henry B’, who owned the shop.

  “The walls of the old shop were hung with new handmade harness for sale and old harness for repair, a glass counter case held fancy rossettes, various styles bits, martingales, hand clippers, pads, interfering boots, brushes, curry combs, etc. and in a wall case hung light driving harness with light colored reins or fitted with hand grips for ‘fast steppers’, whips with their bright colored silk crackers, whip-stocks and lashes for oxen, lay robes, blankets and gay woolly foot mats for the smart rig, without which no young sport would think of taking his best girl for a ride. There were two horses used for holding the straps for hand stitching with waxed end, which faced the long work bench strewn with tools, leather, buckles, and an old flute with one silver key and nearby was the creasing machine to put the scrolls on a finished strap. For heat was a big round stove that belched fire and smoke every time it was started with a good charge of excelsior. In the other side were stored sleighs and carriages for sale or swap and pervading all was the tang of leather.

  “I can see ‘H.B.’ now in his long ticking apron and white shirt with sleeves rolled up and no collar, pick up his old flute with a twinkle in his eyes and a pucker of his lips to get his long black moustache just right to blow through, as he played a merry jig to pass an idle moment. Every summer John would clip our hair to the skull with a pair of horse clippers. That was a time looked forward to for then we never had to comb our hair, nor could our folks tell how often we went swimming. That was the life except for Saturday nights when a thorough scrubbing in the family wash tub by the kitchen stove took place.

  “With the death of H.B. Booth the business ceased. Machines were taking place of hand work so such shops had to go, but somehow I feel that ‘H.B.’ is even now playing a nice silver flute to good little boys and John is fixing their broken whip lashes, and I trust that when St. Peter figured up their accounts at the Pearly Gates they were given due credit for all the kindness and patience they bestowed on their friends, both young and old, 50 years ago in Booth’s Shop.”

Today, Booth’s is Newsbank.

This story offers us a rare glimpse of life in 1886 Chester. I arrive at 1886 by subtracting 50 years from 1936.

The photo with this article is Booth’s Harness Shop. The Masonic Lodge can be seen upstairs as described in the story. The “goat” is a Masonic secret.

  This week’s old saying was used when someone was really sick or hungover. “You look like you were dragged through a knothole sideways.”

Back To Top