History of the Eaton Store.
What is now known as the Eaton store began almost by chance. In 1900 Charles T Woodruff and his wife Theresa Coyne Woodruff built a new house next store for their growing family. The home of parents and grandparents of Charles T. Woodruff which had been passed on from earlier generations was too small for them.
When the new house directly to the east was almost completed, it was apparent that sufficient lumber remained for other uses. Mrs. Woodruff had a sudden thought - why not build a little store on the front of the old house? SHe could use the store as a center for the sale of some of the Woodruff family orchards products - apples, peaches, along with eggs laid by the chickens which the family had in the back of the property.
Mrs. Woodruff was an active women - in her church and in a few sidelines such as newspaper reporting of "local items" in addition to her household duties and responsibilities. Her husband was in an increasingly active role in public life, including agitation for creation of a separate community apart from the township of Union (Later he became president of the union County Board of Agriculture). After a couple of years, Mrs. Woodruff tired of being tied down to waiting for customers to come into the little store, so the family rented it out to one neighbor after another.
Finally, by 1910 Gilbert Easton, who had built up a good business vending fruits and vegetables from his horse and wagon, agreed to rent the store. The house itself was vacant at the time, so the Eaton Family moved into the house. Sarah Baxter Eaton operated the store most of the time while her husband continued to go house to house selling some of the products. They continued the business until 1927, through the efforts to create the township of Hillside in 1913 and through the World War I years. Theirs was one of the few telephones in the area and many a message was relayed by Gilbert Eaton as a special favor for customers and neighbors.
Today the store has a new life as a major center of attraction for visitors, old and young, who see the Eaton store as a striking example of the vast differences between a neighborhood store of the early part of the century and the supermarkets of today. Some of the older visitors now remember the days of their childhood when they came into a store and with eye wide open and mouths watering asked for several items displayed in the candy case on the long counter.
As one enters the store as restored, curtains are still seen in the windows at the front. Jane Eaton Schorr a vice president of the Hillside Historical Society, grew up in the house and store, and as project director for the restoration from 1978 until her death in 1988, said her mother always had curtains in the windows. Regularly the historical society trustees see to it that the curtains are washed and simple displays are shown in the window area.
The store, although the newest part of the Woodruff property acquired by the society in 1978, was in the worst condition including a leaking roof and decaying corner wall and floor, all of which had to be repaired before the store could be returned to its 1910-1927 appearance. Mrs Schorr donated hundreds of collectors items of old time store products typical of the period. Other friends have dug out old keepsakes and donated them to the displays of the site. One must look around quite a bit to find similar old time store displays. Some exhibits today are representative of the times, not necessarily of this store.
A few of the items in the store are original. The old counter was discovered folded up and stored in the garage in back, a breadbox which once stood on the porch of the store was found in the basement, along with the old coffee grinder. A gas lamps hangs overhead, now electrified.
The shelves in the store are original. On both sides of the store one will find a variety of products, chess boxes, and so on. Cracker and cookie cartons and tins and other examples of old time sales are seen. The pole used years ago to "grasp" packages to bring them down from a top shelf is still in use.
Here people see sacks of flour, sugar sacks, tins cans containing butter in bulk - from which customers used to scoop out their needs and bring them to the grocer at the counter for weighing, on a very old type scale with weights to determine equivalent amounts. Here the old time grocers such as Mrs Eaton would take paper off a roll to wrap the purchases before typing in bother dictions and placing a handle on the cord for the customer to carry. A very old time cash register is at the end of the counter, able to at least record the figures involved without any register tape.
Near one corner of the store is a pot bellied stove, similar to the type which provided hear in the store many years ago. Its is one of the many reminder of the changes in life during the century. Including the lamp which hangs overhead.
Near the front of the store today stands a ballot box - not original t the store or of Hillside, but indicative of another change. Ballots with the old ballot box show the names of Woodrow Wilson and Vivian M Lewis, candidates for Governor in the election of 1919. (The box even contain unopened, uncounted ballots) Also here is the Williams Bread Box which at one time was out on the porch. According to a recollection of Gilberta Earon Scannell , spell binders stood on the top of the box to shout their demands for local representation for people in the area instead of government from far away Union Township! WHen they weren't arguing out in front of the store, local townspeople might have been playing checkers on a barrel in the rear near the hear of the pot bellied stove.
In other words, the Eaton store was one of the several little community centers where people argued their points about secession from Union and where the boundary lines should be if ever independence could be won - which did arrive with a vote on April 29, 1913 in the single voting district that comprised what is now Hillside.