Although it is still filled with the original cases and furnishings, progress has made its presence known. The phone rings quite often with questions that Linton Dean would never have heard in the 75 years he was there and the faces of folks entering through the battered doorway are often unfamiliar.
Since the population of Woodstock was 276 in 1906, the year the store opened, Mr. Dean saw the same faces day in and day out. Very few true visitors came in.
His customers wanted to purchase any of a number of items from mourning stationery to fountain Cokes. Today’s visitor isn’t shopping for such.
Instead they want maps and postcards and Woodstock souvenirs. They ask about bike trails, theater productions, concerts-in-the-park dates, and farmers market info.
There are more questions about Friday Night Live including: Will the trolley be running again? (The answer is … who knows!) And then there is the main topic for lots of folks … The outlet mall. (There’s where the trolley should be, running constantly from the mall to Main Street.)
Mr. Dean would be so busy. He wasn’t one to ignore progress. After all, he used the most modern Coca-Cola equipment at the time.
He had a phone booth inside the store for folks who couldn’t afford a phone at home. He advertised in the media such as it was in his day. He was accommodating to a fault, but nonetheless a shrewd businessman.
From his vantage point in the middle of town, he watched as progress brought automobiles and telephones, paved streets and streetlights, increasing train traffic and bus service. He plugged into those modern amenities by serving as the collection agent for Georgia Power and the telephone company, and the ticket agent for the Trailways Bus System.
He sold auto parts and gasoline for the cars, and served as the middle man for customers who wanted to purchase coal brought in by the freight train.
When Linton’s daughter, Alice, decided to spruce up the building a bit in 2001, 20 years after her father’s death, she included the addition of central heating and air. The once-modern gas heater that warmed the corner of the store where retirees hung out, and the huge whirring electric fan that had replaced hand-held paper fans, were discarded. Old progress was taking a back seat to new progress.
It’s hard to imagine all that when we look out the window now. A freight train rumbles through a couple of times a day, but has no reason to stop. There is no longer passenger service, and there is no longer a Trailways bus.
The commuter bus to Atlanta makes its stops near the Interstate, never rolling through town. An occasional car horn sounds and we joke about someone wanting curb service. (Does today’s generation know about such?)
Usually it’s someone using the only means he has to tell the person in front of him that he’s breaking the law in trying to turn left from Towne Lake Parkway onto Main Street. Sometimes there is a cop just waiting for the lawbreaker once the illegal turn is made.
Perhaps soon there will be a left-turn lane and we won’t hear those horns anymore. The noisiest interruptions during a normal day are the clang-clang of the railroad crossing bells to announce an approaching train, or the sirens of fire trucks barreling into Main Street from the nearby station on Arnold Mill.
One of my favorite photographs of Linton Dean and the store captures Linton holding open the screen door at the store’s front.
It’s reminiscent of a time when there was no air conditioning, anywhere. It calls to mind that squeaky sound that all screen doors made, and it brings back those voices of mothers who seldom raised their voices but would not hesitate to call out, “Close the screen door, you’re letting in the flies.” (There was always one smart aleck who would respond, out of Mom’s hearing, “We’re letting the flies out!”)
Somehow we all cleaned up our acts, and the occasional fly doesn’t linger very long. Sometimes even now, we can open the screen-less front door for a few minutes or a few hours, and the only unwelcome guest will be an illegal peddler … or the noisy sound of a siren … or a car horn. But seldom a fly.
That proverbial fly-on-the-wall has been replaced by hidden cameras, but not at Dean’s Store.
You’re welcome, so come on in.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.