The following was written by Missy Jones who remembers when there was a variety store on the east side of the square in Comanche, Texas.
I certainly remember working at Starr Variety Store. The store was owned by Mr. J.J. Star, and it was located on the east side of the square in Comanche, Texas, just north of where John Gleaton’s office is now. In the 1950s, this was a regular variety store.
[Of course, I had to ask Missy what she meant by this.] This means that the variety store was not like Pate’s or HIgginbotham’s today; we had brooms, towels, wash cloths, school supplies, dishes, pots and pans, no tools or nothing heavy like that. We had glassware, coffee pots, kitchen ware, socks, and hose.
The building was long and faced west. The store had counters and shelves down each side of the building (on the north and south walls, running east to west) and down the center of the store were two long counters with space to walk between them.
There were two big glass windows on the front of the store, on each side of the front door. There was enough space to display items in these windows, particularly sale items that would be advertised in the Comanche Chief for that week.
When you walked in the front door, directly to your left was a large candy counter. It consisted of a glass case with sections divided out for different types of candy. We would scoop whatever kind of candy you wanted and put it in a little sack. I remember that candy counter very well because sometimes when Mr. Starr was gone to lunch, one of the sales ladies and I would steal a piece of candy called a peanut log (Is there anyone out there who can remember peanut logs?) and drop the wrapper through a hole (about one inch in diameter) that was in the wooden floor behind the candy case.
I have often thought that if they ever take up that flooring there will be a little pile of those candy wrappers there. What a hoot!
The floor in the store was wooden and was swept every day with something called Floor Sweep. As best as I can remember, Floor Sweep was probably saw dust with an oil product added to it. The product was spread on the floor, and with a long wooden broom we pushed the broom while the Floor Sweep picked up the trash. The oil in the product helped keep the floor in good shape.
Mr. Starr also took a broom and swept the sidewalk in front of his store every morning. It makes me so mad to go to a store and see trash on the sidewalk in front of the store! The people today apparently have not been taught the way we were.
I would also like to tell you about some of the ladies I worked with back then. Of course, when you start naming names there is always the chance that you will leave someone out so I’ll just apologize for that now.
First of all, one of my favorite ladies that I worked with was Margaret Mabra. Her husband was named Ed, and they lived between Comanche and Blanket on the right side of the highway. Margaret was a McDonald before she married and was one of the sweetest ladies in the world. She was so pretty with a beautiful complexion and a wonderful personality. The McDonald family was from Comanche. Margaret has a daughter named Gladys (Mrs. A.C.) Crist who lives in Comanche now.
Another of the ladies I worked with at Starr was Mrs. Ella Roberson. Her daughter-in-law, Edna (Mrs. Fred) Roberson still lives in Comanche. Edna knows all about me and just how much I loved her mother-in-law who was an older lady at the time and so very pretty. She could sing so well, and when there was no one in the store but the two of us, sometimes she would sing for me.
Ella Roberson’s story is told in the Comanche County books, and it is well worth the read. She was such a strong person, and I loved her very much.
Two others that I worked with were Alta (Williams) Steward and Hettie Waldrop. Alta was married to my cousin Luther, and her family had strong ties to the Indian Creek area and to the church there. Alta also worked at Baxter’s Place, where Citi Bank is now.
Hettie was married to Fane Waldrop, and she was a lady with a great personality. She was wonderful to work with!
Mr. Starr was a tall, distinguished man. He had been president of the Comanche Chamber of Commerce and was a good businessman. He and his wife were the parents of an invalid daughter named Imogene. Sometimes Mr. Starr would stay home after lunch, letting Mrs. Starr come to the store. She was a pretty woman and so much fun. She was always telling us funny stories!
I remember that once she told us a story of when she and Mr. Starr were courting. They lived somewhere in what we call the Metroplex today, and she and Mr. Star along with her best girlfriend and her beau went to the State Fair in Dallas. She laughed and laughed when she told us that she and her friend dressed in their very best clothes and wore high heeled satin shoes.
Laughing she told us, “Now, you understand that satin does not stretch any at all, and there we were, walking all day in those high heeled satin shoes. We nearly died!”
She also told us how handsome Mr. Starr was as a young man. “You may not believe it, but he was very good looking. He dressed well and always smoked cigars.” She went on to talk about them riding the streetcars of Dallas, and we could just see them dressed up and going out on the town!
I learned so much about working in the public from each of these ladies as well as from Mr. Starr himself. I didn’t make very much money, but no working girl or woman in Comanche was making much money. I have spent most of my life working in the public, and I am still doing that and using what I learned way back then.
All of this working experience has taught me a lot. I overcame a lot of shyness while working at Starr Variety, and I can promise you that today I can talk for thirty minutes to people that I have never seen before. I learned that customers need to be welcomed into a store, called by name (If you know it), and helped in any way needed. I also learned how to tell when customers want to be left alone to look privately without a clerk following them around.
I notice that people working in the business world today could use some of my small-town education!