The Wareham General Merchandise Store
By Margaret Wareham Ware
"This is the story of the Fred A. Wareham General Merchandise Store in Arcadia established in 1910. My father and my mother Charity (Tillie) also owned and operated similar stores in Onoway and Diamondale, Michigan."
"Arcadia was a booming town with freight and passenger carrying trains arriving and leaving daily. After Wareham's store was well established the Onoway and Diamondale stores were sold to give attention to this new venture. Though Mother Wareham was a partner and worked in the store, several young women from local families clerked for them too. It was a dream store where one could buy a variety of needs under one roof.
"Merchandise for the store (except groceries) was purchased at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Dad & Mom and my sister Helen and I rode on the train to Chicago to select what we thought would sell. In the 1920's Dad also sold pianos demonstrated by Carl Netzaw of Chicago.
"The store carried yard goods, buttons, thread, snaps, etc., as apparel was home-made. Some womens hats were sold too. A full line of dress and work shoes for all plus rubber boots or "artics" as they were called were carried. Red Goose brand shoes were a favorite with youngsters as a little red goose was embroidered on the cuff of each pair of shoes. A large iron "Red Goose" in the shoe department was an attraction for the children to ride on while waiting for a shoe fitting or for parents to shop. High buttoned ladies shoes were the style for women at the time. Wool fleece lined "long handled" underwear for the entire family with a feminine touch for women and girls was also carried. Waist cincher corsets and long silk stockings for women were featured. Woolen sweaters and heavy jackets sold well in our northern Michigan climate.
"A full line of toiletries, Palmolive soaps, and powders stocked the shelves. Evening in Paris and Lily of the Valley fragrances also came into being and sold in the 1920's.
"The grocery side of the store consisted of cracker barrels and shelving that housed canned goods. We even had corn flakes as the Kellogg cereal company was organized in 1906. Babe Ruth and Butterfinger candy bars were 5 cents, and candy raspberries and lemon drops were sold out of glass jars. Crackers, flour, cheeses, butter, lard, and cotta-suet were all sold in bulk and ladled out of wooden tubs and barrels. Butter and eggs came from farmers who exchanged them for merchandise from our store.
"Fresh oranges, lemons, and bananas were a real treat in season. Bananas were shipped in on big stems and hung from the ceiling. Tarantula spiders sometimes hitchhiked their way on the bananas so we had to watch for them. Vinegar and kerosene were housed in the back room and ladled out in cans and bottles.
"It should be mentioned that Dad Wareham was an environmentalist back then, because he discontinued selling smoking and chewing tobacco and snuff when he saw how young and old were becoming addicted to it.
"The large glass display windows were fun for my sister Helen and me to decorate as we grew up enough to help in our store. Some may remember the huge man-sized Wolverine mens work boots in the window. There were large openings sliced down in the boot to show how it was made."
"Our general store was built by the Maccabees, a benevolent insurance organization, which held their meetings on the second story. This floor was also used as a hall which served the community as a place for meetings, dances, and plays. Wareham's store below sold dry goods, clothing, groceries, and shoes. Across the street was Walt Keebaugh's garage, later owned by Al & Ray Johnson. Johnson Brothers sold International Harvester farm equipment, radios, and kitchen appliances. After one year in this location they moved to the corner of U.S. 31 and Road 600 in Bear Lake. Mr. Montes shoe repair was next to Keebaugh's. Next to and west of our store was a blacksmith shop owned by WIlliam D. Irwin who shoed horses and forged parts for farm equipment.
"When the Wareham General Merchandise Store closed, the contents and fixtures were sold at a general sale operated by Sam Sewell of Midland, Michigan in 1940. It closed a grand era as the top floor of this building was the social gathering place for operettas, musicals, chataquas, and minstral shows.
"The Arcadians who have been blessed with longevity and memory lived in the greatest of times and the best of community. We could worship and play and learn without fear. We were a close knit community. We had a great school, good teachers, and a library that helped us extend our education. It was a privilege to write this from memory, and I thank Elaine Iverson Hansen for the opportunity."
Margaret Wareham Ware is the daughter of Fred A. Wareham and Charity Wareham, the owners and operators of the Wareham Store.
The Wareham Store operated in Arcadia near the corner of M-22 and Lake Street from 1910 to 1940 selling dry goods, clothing, groceries, and shoes. The building's second story was used for meetings, dances, plays, and other community events.