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Random Thoughts from a Random Memory

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

By Edward Master

I expect that in my lifetime the largest type of municipality class (if that) which Turkey City could fit into is a village as it has been for quite a few years. I believe at one time (and maybe still) there was state sign that said so at the south end of the town, across where the railroad was, and above the old ballfield.

And, believe it or not, during my time there, Turkey City had three operating stores. Now, by today's standards you could call two of the three "convenience" stores, maybe a gasoline pump and more than just snacks. The third would have been a "general" store, offering an expanded line of food stuffs, non-food items (including apparel), and a U.S. post office.

However, even today, Turkey City still has two mailing addresses: a zip code (16058) and a rural delivery out of Emlenton.

How and why there are two mailing addresses is unknown to me as that happened when I was a youngster, still not driving a car.

The one "convenience" store belonged to Isabel Jones, my second-grade teacher in St. Petersburg, and a cousin of my Grandpa Master. Isabel was a graduate of the Clarion Normal School, a forerunner of Penn West University (Clarion). My grandfather (E.B.) was actually born in area called Jones' Corners, which lied east and north of Turkey City across Chestnut Ridge. I can't recall Isabel ever having a gasoline pump, but on the north side of the store was a rack you could pull onto and crawl under to work an automobile. I don't remember when the rack disappeared; I just remember it was there next to the road into town.

The other smallish store was operated by Ivan (Bones) and Delores (? Warp) Best. I'm guessing on this, but the store itself might have been a 'hobby' for both as Ivan was a foreman of a track gang on the B&O railroad out of Knox and Delores worked at the Knox glass plant. One summer I worked in the store, following in my older brother Jack's footsteps.

I pumped gas and handled light grocery/snack sales. I never did master the tire-changing apparatus. Thank you very much; I never really had a desire to do such a task!

The attached garage had a dugout pit in which a car would be pulled over it and after climbing down into the pit, the driver could do work on the auto such as changing oil. I think the bottom of the pit had a layer of sawdust to collect dripping oil or grease. In later years the pit was filled in when the store became a rental apartment.

I don't recall much about the deliveries to the store, except the 'pop man.' Every so often he'd bring the wooden boxes with full bottles of soda pop. This was pre-days of the Pepsi man or Coke man.

Not long after I started working at the store I had a customer come in to buy quantities of yeast and sugar. Later that evening, I told my father that "Ted Klingler came into store today and bought a container of yeast and a big bag of sugar. Was he baking something?" My dad laughed and then said "No, Ted was probably getting ready to make some beer." I learned later that Ted was a great one for making his own brew, probably starting during prohibition. From what I was told, my grandfather was not adverse in helping Ted 'test' some of his concoction.

Two other features in the store were two pool tables in the back of the store. Each had a slide-in mechanism that accepted two quarters that released the pool balls to play a game. The tables themselves were each six feet in length, not the full-size eight feet long. There were blue marks on the ceiling tiles due to excited players raising the pool cue toward the ceiling from either joy or disappointment in making or missing a shot.

In the evening, Bones' store turned into meeting place for locals. A few of the older guys were in and out of the service. The younger fellows were from up on the hill at Monroe, and were either in Keystone (Knox) High School or recent grads. My older brother went into the Navy following his turn at manning the store.

A young woman from the Knox area replaced me, but I lost track of the comings and goings when I went to college and then took a teaching job in eastern Pennsylvania. I do recall my brother staying in the apartment (former garage) when he and his wife, at the time, were home for a visit from California.

The third store belonged to the Sheesley family. They began operating the store following the Watson family when I was in grade school. The Watsons relocated to Florida. In later years, the two granddaughters moved back to the area, taking up residence on family-owned land.

Naomi Sheesley was the major proprietor of the store as her husband (Pete) kept his job as a truck driver for Bracken Construction Company in nearby Sligo. Much of what Pete did was transport equipment to varying job sites. Naomi, who doubled as the postmaster, had the help of three daughters: Dora was the eldest and graduated high school with my brother; Donna was two years ahead of me in school and eventually became the postmaster in Forestville, PA, a town a bit westward toward Grove City; Patty was the youngest of the three girls and was in my class.

Upon entering the store, the post office was to the left; straight ahead was the cooler for soda pop and a bottle opener on the corner of the cooler; to the right were cases for frozen foods and ice cream. A heating grate sat in the floor in the middle of the store, in front of the pop cooler, along with a couple of chairs. Behind the chairs and to the left of the heat grate were display cases for dry goods.

Next to the cash register to the right was a cooler for milk; to the left was a glass case for penny candy that the kids loved. Farringtons (from Hillcrest dairy near Foxburg on route 58 delivered milk. Near the cash register was a barrel full of brown sugar that was scooped out and sold by the pound. Nails were also sold by the pounds since it was a dry goods store, too.

Another barrel was in the basement which contained vinegar that would be pumped into a customer's glass jug. A second longer cooler sat in the back also for meat and cheeses. An aisle followed the coolers and dry goods cases back and around to the front of the store and post office.

Having the pop man make deliveries in returnable bottles also meant the opportunity for industrious kids to collect stray pop bottles at the sides of a road to collect a refund. I guess we then bought the penny candy.

I do recall a couple items/events which were probably unique to this store. On the Sunday before the first day of buck season Naomi had a special open night for the hunters. My dad would go to the store and buy a small 'slab' of milk chocolate to take with him while hunting; Naomi always had a brick of the stuff at hunt time. I usually got a smallish piece to gnaw on that night, but I don't remember Dad bringing much back home, if any, after the hunt.

I was introduced to 'chipped ham' here, not at an Isaly's like a million other souls. The other special food stuff was not really a food at all--it was actually a refreshment: Dad's root beer. I think it came in a half-gallon brown jug. It was delicious. I believe I eventually replaced it with Hires on draft in a frosted glass.

The Sheesley store was a center of activity each and every school morning for years, as it was the bus stop for most of the kids in Turkey City. It was even a turn-around bus stop for a couple of kids up the road who were in the Keystone school district. Sometime in mid-morning a mail truck stopped and dropped off a bag with daily mail.

Besides being a bus stop for school kids, the store served as a site for socializing adult men. As my grandpa would say: they 'loafed.' A long bench sat on the front porch of the store, and since there was a roof over the store's porch, it was a great place to sit and do nothing but gaze at the world.

Del Best, Jim Leavy, and Homer Wetzel sat outside on that long bench on many a day. Homer had a car that whistled when he drove up to the store. Jum Gardner and Willard Kropp would set inside, especially in cooler weather by the floor heater. Jum's standard fare was a 16-ounce Diet Rite cola and a slice of longhorn cheese. Jum was diabetic and had lost part of a leg at the knee. Willard usually wore a shirt stained with tobacco juice.

Yet, the men didn't have the lock on eccentricity in Turkey City. A local lady named Gertie Lowers would buy the available 10-cent rings, and, if possible, get one for each finger. Gertie had her own pecularities; she later moved to Foxburg.

The Times They Are A-Changin'

It was long gone when the Sheesley store changed hands and it may have become some sort of outdoors business. I believe the post office is present for delivery only. I bet to send out a package requires a trip to Emlenton. I have no idea where the bus stops are for school.

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