Walker & Miller Grocery 136 E.Dixie Avenue Elizabethtown, Kentucky
by Ruth Lindsey #2217One of the earliest memories of my childhood is the little grocery store, owned and operated by Ernest Weisemiller, who was my Uncle, and Oliver Walker, his partner. As a tribute to Elizabethtown, its citizens of days gone by, I write a few memories and facts about the store once located at 136 E. Dixie Avenue in Elizabethtown which was operated from about 1905 until 1962.
September 1899, Mrs. S. I. McMurtry purchased 3 lots on Main Cross Street from Mr. Henry Young and Cynthia his wife, Deed book 45 Page 591. This deed states that Mr. J. B. Walker is to have an option of holding the store (in the middle room) at the rate of $15.00 per month for the purpose of a grocery store or dry goods or general merchandise. It states that Mr. J. B. Walker owns the shelving and counters etc. in the store room occupied by him – also the light fixtures.
The size of the building (store room) was 21 feet 7 inches front and 220 feet from front to back – from Main Cross Street to Strawberry Alley. This is certainly not much space as we think of stores today but they had lots of inventory in that little space. This address became 136 E. Dixie Avenue, Elizabethtown, Ky.
John Weisemiller became a young clerk in the store. In the obituary printed in the E’town Newspaper of December 1928 it stated “He was a member of the firm of Walker and Miller, having risen by his own efforts to an interest in the business after long service for his partner, J. B. Walker”. John Weisemiller died at a Louisville Hospital December 29, 1928, Death Certificate 31077, Register # 5l95.
An advertisement for Walker & Miller Grocery was found in the May 28, 1914 issue of an old Elizabethtown newspaper, “The Mirror”.
John Weisemiller’s will left all of his possessions to his wife Betty Weisemiller. She sold the interest in the grocery store to his brother Ernest Weisemiller in 1929.
In my memory the partners of the store were Ernest Weisemiller and Oliver Walker, who was a nephew to Mr. & Mrs. J. B. Walker, who had raised him from childhood in Elizabethtown. Mr. Oliver Walker died July 6, 1959 at Hardin Memorial Hospital and was buried in The Elizabethtown City Cemetery. Mr. J. B. Walker died in March 1937 and is buried in The Elizabethtown City Cemetery.
In Hardin County Deed Book 593 page 311 affidavit 55819: “Citizens Fidelity Bank and Trust Co of Hardin County, Trustees of the Testamentary Trust of J. B. Walker, deceased, in Case No. 86-P-546 of Hardin District Court Probate Division of Elizabethtown, Hardin Co., Ky, and for the purpose of satisfying the requirements of KRS Chapter 382,et.seg. after being duly sworn, deposes and states as follows, the settlement of the trust of J. B. Walker, property consisting of business houses located at 134-136-138 E. Dixie Avenue, Elizabethtown, Ky. Owned by Mr. J. B. Walker from May 2, 1902 and February 21, 1905 – Deed book 54 page 568 – Hardin County Court Clerk’s Office.” These lots were purchased by the City of Elizabethtown, in 1997 for the purpose of building The Hardin County Justice Center.
Walker and Miller Grocery was a busy store – only 21ft. 7 ins. Wide, depth 220 ft, included 2 store rooms. The front was the grocery, front door in the middle, to the left a counter including the cash register and the refrigerated meat counter. To the right a little space for standing room and socializing while your order was filled. To the right was a window display of fresh fruits and vegetables, always a stalk of bananas. More room included more display of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the shelves and counters to hold supplies such as matches, shoe strings and any other items you needed in the home. Shelves behind the left side counters, held more supplies, canned good s and dried items like flour, sugar, and dried beans. Sugar, flour, meal and dried beans were bought is large bags such as 25 lbs. or maybe 100 lbs. My family purchased flour, sugar and dried beans by the 100 lbs. Somewhere along the counter on the left there was a meat slicer and a scale for weighing items sold by the pound.
You gave your order to a clerk and they gathered up your list, wrote a hand written receipt, added by hand and you paid at the cash register. Then you carried you groceries or supplies to your car or wagon. Kerosene could be purchased at the store also. If you lived in town you could call in your order and have it delivered to your house. The delivery truck was once driven by Percy Hawkins, whose descendants are still in the area. Clerks I remember were Claudlee Swango and Agnes Perry, both wonderful hard working women.
The back room was a store room complete with all sort of stock. In the back left corner of the front store room was the office consisting of a little desk space and a chair. Books were kept on charge accounts and bills were paid etc. In this corner was also a little space for candling eggs, purchased from the farmers who brought them in. My Mother brought in eggs and bought her groceries, sometimes owing more and other times collecting money after her purchases. When the eggs were checked they were placed in cartons. If you purchased eggs and kept your carton clean you could return it for a refund.
Many persons would come into the store for lunch. Bologna could be sliced and crackers were kept in a barrel loose. So cheese or bologna and crackers were put into a brown paper bag, maybe a candy bar and a coke, always a soft drink in a bottle.
Meat purchased in the store had to be gotten elsewhere, maybe from Bob’s Market, a butcher shop up the street or maybe from Thomas Produce. Bologna, wieners, sandwich meat, cheese and such were kept in the refrigerated counter. In season oysters in a cedar bucket, could be dipped out and put into a container for you.
Today, as I remember, we could get most everything we needed there in that tiny little store and at the same time visit with friends and neighbors while all our orders were filled. The visit to the store was usually a Saturday occasion for most farmers in rural Hardin County. E’town was the center of our rural community in those years from the early 1900’s until 1962 when the little store closed to give room for the big chain groceries we have today.
Ernest Weisemiller retired late in 1962 and closed the store forever. He died at Sunrise Manor Nursing Home March, 1985, and is buried at Hardin Memorial Park, N. Miles Street, Elizabethtown.
Ernest Weisemiller was married to Bertha Percefull on June 16, 1921. They had 3 sons, Ernest, Harold and Randall. As a teenager, Randall worked in the store and many old timers remember his quickness with addition as he added up those orders. Ernest went into the Air Force, was a pilot in WWII. He spent his life in the Air Force, active duty and as an Air Force Exchange Manager in Illinois, Texas and Louisiana. He retired in Louisiana to live near his daughter and her family. Harold, known by many as Pop, worked at E’Town Distributing Co. Harold was known and loved by many Hardin County residents. He died August 6, 2007 and is buried at Hardin Memorial Park. Randall died September 12, 1995 but his descendants still live in the area.
The memory of Walker & Miller Grocery brings a smile to my face as I reminisce about yesteryear. I will be forever thankful for the contribution the little store made to the history of Elizabethtown.