Redeker's Store

Herman and his sister
grew up behind the grocery counter
in the Vail and Campbell brick building
their grandfather and father built in 1893.
Grocery counter on the south side of the store,
also cigar base.
On the north side dry goods, notions, yardgoods;
hats on south side balcony.
Kerosene, syrup, molasses,
pickel barrel and herring (ten cents a pound)
kegs in basement.
Crackers, prunes, apricots,
raisins arrived in wooden boxes,
cookies in tins.
Horse blankets, jackets, sox, first floor center.
Father's rolltop desk, east end, second floor.
"We handled everything from kerosene to silks."
But not shoes or bread. The Redekers refused
to compete with old friends Ed Bolte or Henry Hartmann
or baker Grandpa Mors.
"Business is ninety percent friendship."
Redekers' was the town's hospitality center.
Saturday night, locals strolled downtown
to pick up supplies and news.
Saturday shoppers from Itasca and Buffalo Grove
hitched their horses under the elms
south or west of the store,
made their purchases,
then gamboled expectantly to the Redeker manse
north of the store
for Mrs. Redeker's fresh-baked coffeecake,
coffee and lunch--in the house, on the house.
Schooling his new daughter-in-law
in merchandising etiquette,
Grandpa Redeker taught her giving ways.
How to manage the scale:
add extra scoops after careful measuring
from the 350 pound bag of sugar,
add extra cookies to the requested pound.
Always the extra measure,
the added half yard from the bolt.
Hospitality extended to children.
Half a century later, adults in town
remembered with secret pleasure
the bag of candy Herman's
father tucked in their pockets
when their parents paid monthly tab.
Like Herman, his sister Eleanor and
Marian Petterson, daughter of blacksmith just north,
played in and about the cinnamon's pungency,
the plod of farmer's boots, the bolts of
sturdy calico, and best--the boxed dolls,
resplendent, evocative, unattainable.
Until the Christmas when Mr. Redeker
presented Marian her favorite doll,
the one that matched her dream.
Now she could take her out of the box.
Truly the extra mile.

Trains brought milk to the city,
commuters to their jobs--
even at century's turn--
shoppers to Marshall Field's,
and bums to Arlington Heights.
As the locals said,
"There were many transients
hooking the trains from Chicago."
They roamed the village during the day
begging a cup of coffee grounds
or a few slices of bread
from thrifty housewives
who got to know them.
A regular community,
they gathered at dusk
to cook their dinner
in the wooded area
south of the tracks
and east of Arlington Heights Road,
State Road then.
"It was real pretty
if you looked out from the train at night
to see the little fires there
and the bums sitting around the fire."
Once in a while,
one of the thrifty housewives
would suggest, "Would you
be interested in doing a
little work today?"
"Not today, lady,"
was the invariable reply.