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O.G. Evans General Merchandise

Array of Products, Services at Store   |   Mecca for Local Youth   |   Storekeeping in Yesteryear
Ties That Bind a Community   |   The Post Office: Pauline, NE 68968   |   Evans Store In The News

 Evans Store: The 'Original 7-11 In Pauline'*

In a 21st-century age of mega-discount stores that promise unparalleled customer service and shopping satisfaction, one general store of yesteryear is never far from the hearts and minds of current and former Pauline-area residents. They look fondly back to a time when the O. G.Lizzie and Owen Evans, proprietors of the O.G. Evans General Merchandise for over 40 years, are shown in their store. Photo is from the Eleanor Thaden Poen collection, courtesy of Donna Knight.Lizzie and Owen Evans, proprietors of the O.G. Evans General Merchandise for over 40 years, are shown in their store. Photo is from the Eleanor Thaden Poen collection, courtesy of Donna Knight. Evans General Merchandise store, owned andoperated by Owen and Lizzie Evans, was the hub of rural life.

"It was the original 7-11 in Pauline," said LaMoine Brown, a nephew of Mrs. Evans. Situated on the Little Blue River, Pauline is located approximately 12 miles south of Hastings on Showboat Boulevard. The Evanses purchased the store in 1922 from the Farmers Union Co-operative Association and operated it well into the 1960s. Beginning in 1923, the store also housed the Pauline Post Office. The store building, which still stands, was constructed as a two-story, 25- by 40-foot frame structure in 1916 on the east side of Pauline's Kingston Avenue (Showboat Boulevard), the site where the Windsor Hotel had burned in 1910. It was built by the original stockholders of The Pauline Farmers Union Co-operative Association upon the incorporation of that organization.

Over the decades the Evanses' magnanimous spirit of customer service made the store a popular gathering place for townspeople. But even prior to Owen's purchase of the store, the building was a hub of activity with dances and soup suppers being held on the second floor. Long tables were assembled the full length of the store for oyster soup suppers, recalled the late Sarah Brown in an autobiography*.

"These gatherings were our entertainment, as we didn't have shows to go to at that time," wrote Brown, the youngest sister of Lizzie Evans.

 An Array Of Products, Services At Evans Store

The O.G. Evans General Merchandise store sold an impressive variety of groceries and dry goods, and Mr. Evans was keen on service to his patrons.

"You could buy almost anything during the 'thirties," said Pauline-area resident J. Rolland Post. "It was dusty and not too neat, but he had a lot of stuff." Clean-Quality Flour milled in Hastings was sold, along with sugar, in 50- or 100-pound bags. Cigars and This postcard was purchased by the web editor from the store in the late 1960s.This postcard was purchased by the web editor from the store in the late 1960s.cigarettes could be purchased by the box or one at a time. Beans, peas, prunes and macaroni were sold in bulk, along with peanut butter and lard. Other area residents recall 12-cent packs of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, 11-cent loaves of bread, 10-cent tatting shuttles, embroidery floss, sewing and crochet thread, needles, garden seed, silverware, horseshoes and spark plugs. One- and five-gallon quantities of kerosene were sold from big barrels. Pharmaceuticals; novelties such as postcards that read "Greetings from Pauline, Nebraska"; firecrackers at Fourth of July time; and aftershave lotion also were sold. Cereal bowls and pitcher-and-glass sets were among the premiums given for the purchase of store goods.

In addition, Mr. Evans was always willing to special-order items for customers if he didn't have something in stock. But, wholesalers didn't send out delivery trucks; instead, "Lizzie was the runner for the store," LaMoine Brown said of his aunt. Mrs. Evans drove to Hastings almost daily for supplies, frequently taking her young nephew along for company.

"She talked with her hands and let the car take care of itself," Brown added.

Bananas came still on the stalk and hung in bunches from the ceiling. Mr. Evans would cut off the desired number of bananas for individual customers. Fresh meats generally weren't sold at the store, because most farmers butchered their own at that time, Post recalled. However, the store did sell long strings of hot dogs, pressed ham, summer sausage and bologna that Mr. Evans himself sliced. In earlier years ice was sold; with the advent of electricity, Post said, Mr. Evans had converted an old-fashioned icebox into a refrigerator.

Eggs, but not cream, were accepted as trade for groceries and goods, as Pauline had a creamery, said Doris Alexander, the Evanses youngest daughter. Chicken feed, mittens for corn shucking, Wolverine work shoes, socks, OshKosh B'Gosh overalls, shirts and overshoes, shoelaces, also were among the wares for sale, Post said. He remembered shoes selling for around $3.50 and overalls for 98 cents during the 1930s and '40s.

Women's clothing needs were met, too, but in a more roundabout manner. Alexander recalled an always-full storage room off of the store. "I loved going back there to see what the colors of the new flour bags were, knowing that I'd soon be wearing one of those patterns in a skirt or dress," she said.

 Mecca For Local Youth

But premuims, an endless variety of dry goods and groceries weren't the only attraction the store had to offer, especially where youth were concerned. Pauline resident Lois Mohlman recalled as a schoolgirl regularly sifting through the store's outdoor trash heap, looking for "pretty-colored bottles." Once she found a number of metal clip-on rollerskates with rusted wheels. Mohlman took them home to her father, who oiled the wheels, and she and her friends enjoyed hours of entertainment from the discarded store wares.

In addition, Mr. Evans did a lot of reading when business was slow; he subscribed to the Omaha World-Herald, said Post, a lifelong Pauline-area resident. "We'd go downtown after school and read the World-Herald," he said. "If kids had any money they'd buy candy and pop."

No matter the decade, the supply of candy, soda pop and ice cream was a draw for every child. Growing up in the 1930sA gumball machine that was used at the store. Courtesy of Marlyce Brown.A gumball machine that was used at the store. Courtesy of Marlyce Brown. and '40s, an array of penny candies could be purchased, said DeLores Waechter of Hastings. She remembers as a child the agonizing decision she faced when given a penny. "A penny was a lot of money, and I took a long time to spend it," she said.

Four flavors of ice cream were sold, by the cone, pint or quart. Ice cream was kept in large, ice-packed containers, approximately five gallons in size, and a metal device resembling a plunger was used to measure out pint quantities.

"If we bought ice cream in pints or quarts we had to eat it right away, as soon as we got home, because we didn't have refrigeration until the 'fifties," said Dorothy Kosmacek, a rural Pauline resident. "A lot of us kids didn't have much in those years, so it was kind of a treat.

"Most candy, pop, and ice cream cones were a nickel apiece," she added. Many former store patrons noted that cookies were not packaged, but scooped from a bin and sold individually or by the pound. Licorice in the shape of long, round "shoestrings" was a novelty that attracted youth in the late 1960s and '70s.

Sometimes sweets even served as wages. LaMoine Brown, Mrs. Evans' nephew, recalled candling eggs on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, a process in which spoiled eggs were identified by being held to a light. "For that I'd get an ice cream cone at the end of the evening," he said.

The store owners' daughter, Doris Alexander, who also did her share of candling eggs, said, "My sister and I always had to ask if we wanted a pop or ice cream cone. We were led to believe it wasn't free." With the passing of generations, however, came change.

"We had free rein" over the cookies, candy and pop, said Evans granddaughter Paula Duncan of her family's annual summertime visits from Washington State during the 1950s and early '60s. Sugar wafers dipped in ice cream was one of her favorite treats, along with Bing cherry ice cream. One year, she recalled, her brother became ill after drinking seven bottles of pop within the first hour of their arrival. Duncan's mother, Ruth, is the Evanses' eldest daughter.

 Storekeeping In Yesteryear

Large displays of candy, fruit and nuts were put out at Christmas time. But in those days, keeping food fresh could be a challenge.

"My mother brought home all the fruits that were ready to spoil, and she would fix them in some way for our meals," said Alexander. Wilma Jones, a girlhood friend of Alexander's, remembered that occasionally a bit of mold would grow on the long strings of hotdogs. "He'd clean them off," she said of the storekeeper, ". . . nobody ever died." Mrs. Evans' nephew remembered an incident in which some of the apple cider had "gone hard," fermenting into alcohol. The cider was a popular commodity for awhile, Brown said, but, "Uncle Owen dumped it once he found out."

If spoilage was a concern, wintertime presented other challenges. "Some of that food must have frozen," said Kosmacek, An interior view of the store. Photo is from the Eleanor Poen collection, courtesy of Donna Knight.An interior view of the store. Photo is from the Eleanor Poen collection, courtesy of Donna Knight.marveling that the only source of heat for the entire store was a pot-bellied coal stove near the back. Another Pauline-area resident, Philip Smidt, recalled that the store had only a single light in the back when he was
growing up in the late 1920s and '30s. But, he said, "that was a big deal for us, because we didn't have electric lights."

Even into the 1950s and '60s, a back storeroom had only a dirt floor. "We would have to keep it hard to keep the dirt down," said Paula Duncan, the Evanses' granddaughter. The main part of the store featured a rough cement floor embedded with stones jutting from the surface. During World War II when sugar was rationed, liquid sweetener was dispensed from a self-serve container. One evening someone neglected to completely turn off the spigot; during the night the entire floor became coated with the sticky liquid, recalled Margaret Fishel, former Pauline resident. "That must have been awful to clean up, with that floor," she added.

Throughout the day Mr. Evans would walk about the store retrieving various items for his customers, because in those
years the buyer didn't pick up his own wares. As a result of the 14- to 16-hour days he put in walking on those rough stone floors, Mr. Evans suffered greatly from foot and leg pain, said Edward Anderson. Anderson also is a nephew of Mrs. Evans. The problem was exacerbated by shrapnel that Mr. Evans had sustained from his overseas service in World War I, said Pauline resident Lois Mohlman.

To make matters even worse, Anderson added, 100-pound sacks of bran sold as feed for chicken and calves had to be carried upstairs to be stored, because mice were an ever-present problem on the first floor of the old building. Anderson said that while his father helped with this task from time to time, it was Mr. Evans who carried the bulk of those 100-pound sacks up the staircase that was located on the outside of the building and back down again when a customer made a purchase. Post also recalled that Mr. Evans routinely carried 100-pound sacks of flour from the store to customers' vehicles.

As a result, Alexander said, her father nightly filled a pan with water to tend to the bloody places on his legs. Morning and evening he wrapped his legs in bandages. Yet, the storekeeper seemed undaunted.

"Even though he was in pain, he had a kind word for everybody," said Mohlman.

Because of the animal feed and grocery commodities, the store had numerous mouse traps, both in use and for sale. One of Duncan's jobs as she grew older was to dust store merchandise, and her grandmother frequently cautioned her not to get her fingers caught in a mouse trap. Whenever Mrs. Evans heard a mouse trap go off, she took it outside to the road and stepped on the mouse's head, Duncan added. A cat also was kept in the store, and occasionally would go to the storeroom to catch a mouse.

"Of course there was an outdoor toilet for everyone to use," Alexander added.

 The Ties That Bind A Community

But whatever may have been lacking in physical amenities from a 21st-century perspective was more than made up for
in bonds of community that the Evanses fostered through their business. The pot-bellied coal stove at the back of the store drew people from near and far on Wednesday and Saturday evenings to sit with feet propped against it, visiting in its warmth. In summertime, it was the bench just outside the store, beneath the
large front window.

"My warmest memory of the store was in winter when all the farmers and my retired grandfather, who lived in Pauline, gathered around the stove and discussed the weather and their crops. I stood around and just listened to them,"Local farmers gather around the potbellied stove to visit during the late 1960s. Seated from left are Delmar Brown, J. Rolland Post and Roy Anderson. Standing in background are Lloyd Poen, Twilda and Merl Brown. Photo is from the Eleanor Poen collection, courtesy of Donna Knight.Local farmers gather around the potbellied stove to visit during the late 1960s. Seated from left are Delmar Brown, J. Rolland Post and Roy Anderson. Standing in background are Lloyd Poen, Twilda and Merl Brown. Photo is from the Eleanor Poen collection, courtesy of Donna Knight. Alexander said. J. Rolland Post was often a part of those gatherings. He recalled with humor a local bachelor farmer
who would telephone at 9:30 in the evening and ask whether Mr. Evans would keep the store open for him, as he'd taken a notion to come into town.

While closed on Sundays, Mr. Evans opened the store around 8 a.m. six days a week, Post said. In earlier years he kept it open every evening, "sometimes until 10 or 11 o'clock at night; 'til everyone went home." Later on, evening hours were cut back to Wednesdays and Saturdays only, he said. Mr. Evans typically closed the store over the noon
hour and walked home for lunch, Post said, but Mrs. Evans always drove the block between home and store.

Alexander noted that never a week went by that someone didn't come to the family's home after business hours, asking her father to open the store for one item. "He never turned anyone down," she said.

Sometimes, the store had to be opened for other reasons. Most residents of the small community and surrounding farms didn't have telephones in their homes; instead they relied on the store phone, said area resident Philip Smidt. He recalled that the morning his youngest brother was born, in January of 1940, the temperature had plummeted to 21 degrees below zero. Smidt and his father pulled their car with a horse to get it started, then drove to the Evans home, awakening Mr. Evans at 6:30 a.m. in order to use the store phone to call a doctor. "He never complained," Smidt said
of Mr. Evans.

The store owner also stood silent when it came to pilfering of the store's wares. The store was burglarized on more than one occasion, according to news items appearing in The Blue Hill Leader during the 1930s. Petty theft was ongoing, Alexander said, coming at the hands of school children taking penny candy, bands of Gypsies in gaudy clothing, or, as Smidt recalled, a local resident suffering from kleptomania. But, Alexander said, "Dad never said anything." By contrast, Mr. Evans "would never cheat you; he was a very honest man," said Wilma Jones, Alexander's girlhood friend.

Mr. Evans' kindness to his customer base was not limited to grace in the wake of petty theft and personalized store hours, however. During the depression, people often paid their bills in goods, rather than cash, Alexander said. Or, they simply charged their groceries if they were unable to pay. "I don't think he ever turned anyone down that needed groceries," said Anderson, the Evanses' nephew. Decades later, when she looked through her parents' record books, Alexander said, "It was absolutely amazing how many people never ever paid their bills. I was just flabbergasted! I don't know how we lived."

 The Post Office: Pauline, NE 68968**

However, the store owners' daughter, Doris Alexander, believes that it was rent from the post office located within the store that enabled her parents to stay in business. The Pauline Post Office was originally established in 1872 at Kingston, a small community located a mile north of Pauline, according to United States Postal Service records. However, a flood in the Kingston area caused the facility to be moved to Pauline on July 10, 1988. This event roughly coincided with the coming of the railroad and the establishment of Pauline in the previous year, 1887. The Pauline Post Office was located in the Carl McCleery General Store on the west side of Kingston Avenue (Main Street) in 1923 when a fire swept through, destroying a number of businesses, including the post office. It was then relocated Bill Stanley, longtime manager of the Pauline's east elevator, retrieves his mail from the post office located in the O.G. Evans General Merchandise Store. Photo is from the Eleanor Poen collection, courtesy of Donna Knight.Bill Stanley, longtime manager of the Pauline's east elevator, retrieves his mail from the post office located in the O.G. Evans General Merchandise Store. Photo is from the Eleanor Poen collection, courtesy of Donna Knight.to the Evanses' store. While farm folks were served by a rural carrier, townspeople rented small mailboxes, and the postmaster worked from inside a type of "cage", located in the northeast corner of the store, distributing mail or dispensing supplies.

Local resident Cora Lofquist was appointed postmistress Dec. 24, 1923 and held that job for over 30 years. In the mid-1920s she hired as her assistant Mrs. Evans' youngest sister. Sarah Anderson Brown later recalled the demands of helping at the store and putting out mail from two daily trains that came to town, the Missouri Pacific and the Burlington. "There was lots of mail during Christmas and holidays; the store had an awful lot of business. We were open from eight in the morning until usually eleven at nite and no days off in-between," she later wrote.**

Later on, mail was brought to the store at 9 a.m. each day from Fairfield via a Star Route carrier; the carrier drove a Model A or Jeep and also went through Spring Ranch, recalled area resident J. Rolland Post and his elder brother Bernard. Precise years of railroad and Star Route mail service to Pauline are not known. The Star Route was a government-operated mail service in which the USPS hired contractors to carry mail in any form of transportation they chose. Mrs. Evans went to the store daily from 9 to 10 a.m. to take care of customers while her husband helped get out the mail, said Doris Alexander. Townspeople flocked to the store, visiting with one another and catching up on local news while waiting for the mail to be sorted.

The carrier would remain in Pauline until 3 p.m. when the day's mail went out, said Post. The Star Route carrier was one of a crowd that would sit and whittle under the old cottonwood trees at the blacksmith shop across the street from the store. "There'd be a big pile of shavings," Post said. After the Star Route was discontinued, the Glenvil postal carrier brought in the mail.

As a young adult in the early 1960s, Dorothy Kosmacek worked on an as-needed basis in both the post office and store, helping get mail ready to go out, waiting on customers and organizing empty pop bottles that would be traded back in to the distributor. But increasing mobility, technology and the changing face of Nebraska's agricultural landscape had taken their toll on the once bustling little business. The place was not usually busy during the daytime, Kosmacek said. "By the time I worked there, it was getting past the time for the little stores."

Ever the storekeeper, Mr. Evans confided to area resident Philip Smidt in later years that, had he been younger, he might have tried opening a business in Hastings.

"When you're young you try to keep pace with the world, but then you get older and the world runs away from you anyway," Smidt said.

Mr. Evans died of cancer July 25, 1963. He was 73. "He just served the community," Post said. "He was quite an O.G."

Following Mr. Evans' death, Post's cousin, Eleanor Poen of rural Pauline, served as acting postmistress. On Feb. 24, 1967, the federal government discontinued the Pauline Post Office, despite a local petition drive to U.S. Congressional representatives that Post organized. Prior to its
 closing, several local residents, including Kosmacek, had submitted bids to the USPS to operate the post office, but none were accepted, she said.

Mrs. Evans continued to operate the store until 1968, when, at the age of 70, she sold the business to Merl and Twilda Brown. The Browns operated the store, living on its second floor, until 1971, when they closed the business and converted the remainder of the building into residential quarters. The building continues to be used as a private residence.

*A version of this story originally appeared in  "Historical News," Vol. 44, No. 2; published in 2011 by the Adams County Historical Society in 2011. Story by Carla S. Post.

**SarahAnderson Brown's biography provided courtesy of Marlyce Brown.

 Evans Store In The News

"Miss Della Lofquist was postmistress during the illness of Mrs. Alfred Lofquist last week." -"Pauline," The Hastings Democrat, Thursday, July 22, 1926


"The "Live Wire" Sunday school class held a home-made candy sale in the O.G. Evans store Saturday afternoon.This set of pitcher and glasses was given as premium at the store, likely during the 1920s or '30s. Courtesy of Marlyce Brown.This set of pitcher and glasses was given as premium at the store, likely during the 1920s or '30s. Courtesy of Marlyce Brown. Procedes(sic) amounted to about $3.50." –"PAULINE", The Hastings Democrat, Thursday, March 8, 1928


"Ernest Dreher won the set of dishes at the O.G. Evans store Saturday night by guessing the nearest number of pennies which were necessary to balance a can of Fly-Shy." -"PAULINE ITEMS" by Mrs. Harvey P. Jones, The Hastings Democrat, Thursday, July 26, 1928


"The Owen Evans general store and the Arthur Sime filling station, both of Pauline, were broken into Sunday night and a small amount of merchandise was stolen. The loot consisted mostly of cigarettes, candy, pop and ice cream. The work is thought to be that of boys who gained admission thru a smashed window pane in the Evans' store room. At the filling station a padlock had been pried off the door. A small amount of change was taken from the cash register." –"From the Leader Files, 75 years ago . . . 1937," by Audrey Peil, Blue Hill Leader, August 9, 2012