Hello, and well wishes from historic Easton! As we navigate through the uncharted waters of the pandemic, we continue to await direction from health officials as to our next steps tp reopen. Massachusetts is in Phase 1 of a four phase reopening plan. Some allowances have been made to get critical places open for manufacturing, some offices, and small businesses. Next week, more openings will be allowed. Museums and tours are part of the planned Phase 3 reopening, which looks like sometime in July if Phases 1 & 2 go well. This means that the Museum is closed for the month of June, and as such, we have no activities planned. I continue to work on projects, answer email requests, and return phone messages.
Shopping has become an interesting exercise. My own trips to the store have been few and for the most part, only when necessary. On occasion I'll shop the neighborhood store and browse, but even then only for a short time, making sure to follow all of the suggested guidelines.
Our family recently had to purchase a new computer for our home. Not too long ago, I would have shopped for one in person, spoken with an expert, and would have been able to take a computer home within just a few hours. Not now! I had to look at a number of websites for information, ask around to see what experiences people have had with online ordering, and the more I looked the less comfortable I was. Fortunately, the first reopening phase had begun and I was able to actually go to a store to purchase the computer. The differences? I had to set up an appointment with a sales person, waited for my time to arrive, and then while following proper safety procedures, I was able to speak 1-1 with a knowledgeable sales person. The experience was odd, as there were only a few people in a large store, but very helpful. I still had to place an order through the store and wait a few days for the package to arrive. Not too bad, and I did enjoy the more personal shopping experience and attention.
That brings me to today's subject, and the included photo of Kimball's Store. John Kimball ran a store adjacent to his home on Bay Road, nearly across from its intersection with Highland Street. I do not know when the business began, but the store was there in 1863 when Kimball was appointed Postmaster, and had the Easton Post Office there. He served as Postmaster for 19 years, having the Post Office at his store for that period. Later generations ran the store into the early 20th century.
Neighborhood stores such as this one (there were three at one time in the Five Corners area - Kimball's, Drake's at the Five Corners, and Swift's, just down Foundry Street a little ways) thrived in the days when people were much more self-sufficient. Their products would include dry goods, leather, fabrics, nails, medicines, cards, writing paper, pens and pencils, and sundries not usually made at home. Staples like flour, sugar, molasses, tobacco, and later canned foods supplemented what families raised on their own.
The photo attached shows Kimball's Store in the 1910's, probably not long before its closure. Taken from a postcard, it clearly shows barrels and crates used to store general merchandise. The store looks like a typical, rural store. I wonder if anyone would dare shop there if it were still in business today?
One other note: some of you may remember a Kimball's Store on Depot Street, just past Fernandes Lumber, that was also located in an ell on a house. Mrs. Kimball ran that store at least until the 1950's. She was not any relation to the Kimball's who ran the earlier store featured here.
Stay well, and happy shopping!
Frank T. Meninno
Curator, Easton Historical Society and Museum 508-238-7774