This little girl’s kerchief covers her golden curls as she carries a basket of flowers to Aunt Sadie for her 4th birthday. The card was from Grandma Repsher who is Anna Marie (Karthaeuser) Repsher, Sadie’s maternal grandmother.
The kerchief on the little girl matches the woman walking away from the camera in the Sepia Saturday photo prompt. And the woman walking away from the camera on a street lined with stores reminded me of my maternal Grandmother Etta Westra. She lived very close to uptown Spring Street. And today’s blog posting date, 09 July 2016, would have been her 113th birthday. So I thought it was appropriate that this particular post should be about her! We’re going to go with her on a shopping day along Spring Street in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey.
Shopping Spring Street
Etta Westra was awake as the sunlight streamed through her bedroom windows despite the shades being pulled. It was going to be a sunny, if not slightly breezy, spring day today. It would be a nice change after five solid days of New Jersey grayness and overcast skies. Her bedroom was at the front of the 2 1/2 story house facing Townsend Street. She sighed and stretched and started planning the day in her head.
She heard the grandfather clock downstairs as it chimed the quarter hour. She could hear husband Al stirring in his bedroom, Johnny and Ewald’s childhood room, getting ready for the day ahead. He padded to the bathroom at the top of the stairs as she pushed off the covers, swung her legs over the edge of the bed, and slid her feet into her slippers. She tugged on her bathrobe and made her way downstairs to the kitchen.
She got the bacon and eggs from the refrigerator and pulled one of her Griswold cast iron pans from the cabinet. The eggs were sizzling in the pan as Al came into the kitchen. “Guten Morgen, Etta, ” he said as he sat down in the red kitchen chair.
They sat and ate and talked a bit. “Don’t forget some drawing salve at the drug store,” he said. “I’m almost out and I have a few splinters.” As Al made his way back upstairs to put on his work clothes, Etta cleared the table and did the dishes. She watched out the kitchen window as house sparrows brought nesting material to the birdhouses attached to the side of the neighbor’s garage. Al had built the birdhouses and they had been there for years, never failing to bring the birds back in the spring.
She glanced over at the figurines on the shelves beside the window. They, too, had been there for a number of years. There were a pair of Delft, kissing Dutchmen, a nod to Al’s Dutch heritage. There were a pair of peasant (though well-dressed) shepherds, one man, one woman, each with their hand touching the brims of their hats. When Etta’s eyes alighted on the Hummel figurine of the little girl wearing a kerchief, Etta smiled. The breeze was enough today that she would also have to wear one of her own kerchiefs while out and about.
She was having her final cup of coffee when Al came back downstairs. From her kitchen seat, Etta watched Al open the cellar door and take the stairs down to get to the outside cellar door closest to his shop. He’d been retired from the construction business for a number of years but still practiced his woodworking by building replicas of the windmills of the same kind that had dotted the Holland countryside of his youth. She knew he would be in the shop for the day except when he came back up to the house for lunch.
After washing out the final coffee cup, Etta made her way back upstairs to get dressed and make up the beds. Since it wasn’t laundry day, she just fluffed the pillows and pulled the blankets and covers up neatly towards the headboards. She dressed in a white shirt and dark skirt. No housecoats today; she was going to spend the morning visiting some of the shops along Spring Street. She swept her hair off her forehead into her usual neat up-do with a fancy barrette holding everything in place.
Etta made her way downstairs to pick up her spring coat. She carefully draped a kerchief over the top of her hair and knotted it under her chin. One last look in the mirror and she was ready to go.
Since Spring Street was only a block away, she planned to walk instead of worrying about getting the car out of the garage and finding parking. As she stepped out the kitchen door, she could see that the purple blooms of the wisteria along the side porch were fully open. The bees were buzzing between the wisteria and her geraniums, which were in the planters that flanked the front steps.
At the end of her front walk, Etta turned right and walked uphill on the sidewalk towards Trinity Street. The trickiest part of the whole adventure was crossing Trinity. It could be dangerous if you weren’t careful of the cars zipping past.
Once across, she turned left and made her way over the relatively flat sidewalk to Union Place. Turning right around the corner and walking uphill again, she could see the barber shop on the other side of Union. One of Al’s hand-crafted windmills stood out in front. Its body was painted maroon and the sails were painted white with green and yellow accents. The slight breeze had the sails spinning in lazy circles. Etta waved at the barber as she passed.
As she reached the top of Union Place where it intersected with Spring Street, she stopped to take a look at what was playing at the Newton Theatre. The marque pronounced that it was some sort of Disney film. The grandkids would love it and she made a note to tell daughter Martha the title the next time she talked to her.
Her first stop was at 219 Spring Street which held the Sussex Drug Company. Etta perused the displays in the large front windows before entering. She made her way past the glass and brass shelves holding figurines, music boxes, candy tins and assorted fine gifts. She headed to the back of the store where the pharmacy was located. The pharmacist was already busy but looked up when he saw her approaching.
“Good morning!” said Doc Davis. Everyone called the pharmacist Doc. “How are you doing, Etta?” She smiled and said, “Fine, thank you. I’m glad the rain has stopped, though we did need it.” He agreed and they chatted for a bit. Eventually, he asked if there was something he could help her with. She asked about drawing salve and he pointed her to aisle 3, on the left side. The old-fashioned drawing salve was a natural treatment that Al used to help draw splinters out from under the skin. Once purchased, she put it into her shopping tote and stepped back out onto Spring Street.
The next two shops were on the other side of the road, so Etta crossed and walked past the Style Shop which sold all things related to men’s clothing. She crossed over Adams Street and the very next building housed the Montgomery Ward showroom. Jogging up the first few steps, she entered and looked around. There were shiny new lawn mowers gleaming in the sunlight streaming in from the plate glass windows. The latest kitchen appliances sat lined up on shelves. She was here to pick up the latest catalogue. That accomplished, she added it to her tote and made her way out to Spring Street again.
The next stop was the Singer Sewing Machine shop. Etta needed some new needles for her machine and some new thread for her latest sewing project. The sewing shop had been located on the right side of Woolworth’s but had moved across the street near the Newton Fire Department. The shop was located in a downstairs section of a stately old mansion built in 1896 by Margaret Cortelyou at 156-160 Spring Street. The old mansion had served a number of purposes over the years but was now split into apartments with the shop located at the lower street-side corner of the building. After checking the funds in her purse, Etta picked out three bobbins of thread and a packet of needles. The needles would be used on the shiny black Singer machine which was housed in the small room on the second floor towards the front of her house. She had paid $175.00 for the machine at the end of August 1949 along with $17.00 for a stool to go with it. When she got home, the bobbins of thread would go into her sewing basket along with all the other sewing accessories (scissors, tape measure, seam ripper, etc.) that she kept neatly stored next to the machine. The needles and thread went into the shopping tote and it was off to the next store.
Etta crossed the street to step into the Woolworth’s, Newton’s 5 & 10 cent store. The lunch counter was bustling with all of the stools taken up by people enjoying burgers, fries, coffee, and milkshakes. She didn’t really need to pick up anything here but it was fun to peruse the wooden bins running down the center of the store to see what was new. She saw marbles and aggies for the kids, a new shipment of woolen socks, some skeins of yarn, candy bars, orange bags of stamps from the Worldwide Stamp Company, and kitchen utensils. She dawdled a bit. It was cool in the store as the large ceiling fans whirled above everyone’s heads. She looked up to take in the ornate white tin ceiling tiles. The chatter at the lunch counter caught her attention and she thought, “I need to get going. I need to get home to make lunch for Al.”
She stepped out of Woolworth’s and turned right to continue along Spring Street. She could see the Waldemere Hotel/Restaurant on the other side of the street as she headed towards Coate’s Jewelry store which was her next stop.
The bell on the door rang as she stepped into the showroom of Coate’s Jewelry. She was here to pick up a necklace that she’d dropped off for repair a week or so ago. John Coate stepped out from behind the curtain leading to the back room. She caught a glimpse of bench, stool, shelves, and table where he did all manner of watch and jewelry repairs. “Ah, Etta, good morning,” he said. “You’re here for your necklace. Just a second, I have it ready and it’s right here in the back.” He ducked behind the curtain and returned shortly with a brown paper envelope.
They moved to one of the showcases up front where Mr. Coate laid out the repaired necklace for her to inspect. “Ja, that’s gut,” she said, slipping back somewhat into her native German. He packaged up the necklace and asked if there was anything else he could help her with. She thought for a moment and replied, “What do you have for a young lady? My granddaughter Jill’s birthday is the same as mine, July 9th, and it’ll be here before you know it.” Mr. Coate showed her a number of bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Etta picked out a pretty butterfly necklace. Soon, it was gift-wrapped and she popped it into her shopping tote along with her own repaired necklace. She bid Mr. Coate goodbye and stepped back out into the sunshine.
Next stop? Britts to pick up some new clothespins. Etta entered the 3-story department store through the Spring Street entrance which put her on the top floor. The wide staircase to the second level was located in the center of the store. As she made her way to it, she noticed all the new clothing neatly displayed on hangers on shiny round racks. She didn’t need anything at this time but it was nice to see what the store had available. As she looked to the back of the top floor, she could see the store’s restaurant decorated mostly in the latest color fad of marigold. Like Woolworth’s, this store had a lunch counter but there were also some tables, booths and chairs available in a small dining area. Etta sometimes stopped to have a malt but not today.
She went down the central staircase to the second level where the household goods were sold. Things like ironing boards, mirrors, lamps, bedspreads, and picture frames all vied for her attention. “Nope, nothing here I need,” she thought and made her way to the back of the store where the staircase to the lowest level was located. This level was like a miniature hardware store. Among a myriad of other things, keys, nails, screws, hammers, and pipe fittings could all be found. What she was on the hunt for, though, were some new clothespins. Hers had been breaking apart from age and use and it was time for some new ones. She found what she was looking for, brought them to the front, and paid the cashier. Into the shopping tote they went. She went up the stairs and stepped out the back door into the Britt’s parking lot which faced Trinity Street.
Hayek’s Market was at the intersection where Trinity turned into Water Street and was just within sight. But she was stocked up on groceries and so she walked out to Trinity Street and took a right. She passed many of the old residences along the street, calling out hello to anyone sitting out on their front porches or tending to their yards. Soon, it was time to make the treacherous crossing back to the other side of Trinity Street to get home.
As she entered her kitchen, she heard Al coming up the cellar stairs. They greeted each other as Etta shrugged out of her coat and untied her kerchief. “Did you have a good shopping trip and find everything you needed?” inquired Al. What he really wanted to know was had she gotten the drawing salve. She smiled to herself. “Yes, here’s your salve. Go wash up for lunch, it’ll be ready soon.”
 Newton, New Jersey [map], 1911, 50 foot scale, “Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey (Sheet 4),”; digital images, Princeton Library (http://map.princeton.edu/mapviewer/#/b2773x92c : accessed 06 July 2016).