Just 1 Quart a Week —Counting Change---Cigar Boxes--- Owns the Bank---Spiral Pad Bookkeeping---Picture Postcards---
A 2 penny profit---Not So Tasty Chewing Tobacco---Sniffing Snuff---Kah Melles.
Clayton has Jane Street, John Street, Mary Street, Franklin Street, State Street, Riverside Drive and River Shore Drive. I don’t know who named the streets of Clayton, but they missed the name of one heavily traveled thoroughfare—Memory Lane.
My trip down that boulevard began in 1952 when I was seven.
It was that year, when my mom and dad bought the six-bedroom cottage of the late Jefferson County Judge Crandall Phillips on Steele Point. The Town of Clayton property maps of the 1920s called it Island View Point. (It would take a lot of fingers and toes to count the number of points with island views, wouldn’t it?) Today the many-times-renovated home sits on Emery Avenue, the name assigned to it when it was annexed by the Village of Clayton.
It was in the spring of 1953, when I discovered a slightly submerged flat-bottom rowboat tied to our rickety dock. “Can I have it, Dad. Can I keep it? Can I? Can I? “The answer was “yes” and that became the first of many boats I called my own over the years. What I didn’t know was that it was as dry as a bone when my dad tied it to the dock a few days earlier. That summer was spent learning the art of rowing. The following summer, I was the proud owner of a 1.5 horsepower Evinrude ---it had a single gear---forward---a 180-degree turn became its’ reverse. No five-gallon red fuel tank, either. Fuel was poured directly into the engine’s internal tank---my ration was one quart a week, and that was plenty for my travels around Steele Point; but I digress.
The years went on and at age 16, I was ready for my first salaried job. Following in my brother’s footsteps of five years earlier, I approached Charlie and Laura Reinman for a summer job at their iconic newsstand at the corner of John Street and Riverside Drive in Clayton. I was the happiest teenager in Clayton with my 75 cents an hour job.
The newsstand was a compact little store with a loyal year-round clientele. They came by every day for their newspapers, pipe and chewing tobacco, cigarettes, candy, ice cream and magazines. The real draw was the display of papers from Watertown, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and New York City (the NY Times, Wall Street Journal and the Daily News.) Some customers reserved them every day, many paying in advance.
In those days, before credit cards, some islander families maintained charge accounts, with their caretakers, boatmen, housekeepers and grandchildren authorized to put purchases “on the books.” The accounts were recorded by Charlie Reinman in a spiral notebook and billed after Labor Day.
Camels and Lucky Strike cigarettes sold for a quarter. Filter tips were two cents more. Pipe tobacco---the most popular brands were Carter Hall and (still my favorite) Cherry Blend --- sold for the same. Candy bars were a nickel and popsicles were seven cents, as I recall.
Charlie Reinman was a man who worked through the depression. By necessity, he learned to be thrifty; emptied cigarette cartons were cut into small note-sized squares. Those little white squares from the inside of the cartons served as note pads for inventory and handwritten pay stubs. Wages were paid in cash.Reinman Family
He insisted that change be counted back for the customers (how many clerks can do that today?) He saved emptied cigar boxes for a friend who sold bait to fishermen---he was told the worms liked the tobacco smell (?) inside the boxes. He was generous---I’m sure I saw him give four quarters change to a few not-so-fortunate regulars who paid for their purchase with a one-dollar bill.
He left me alone in the store many afternoons when he and Laura went to their cottage to rest. He trusted me with signed checks, in a magazine-sized checkbook, to pay the wholesalers who delivered the stock he ordered in the morning. He often sent me to the bank up the street to make deposits---carried in a cigar box, of course. I felt like the most important teenager in Clayton.
A few things pop into mind as I walk down Memory Lane.
- A friendly soft-spoken gentleman often came by, not necessarily to make a purchase, but to stand around to chat with customers. After several days of watching the exchange of pleasantries, I finally asked Charlie, “what is your friend’s name? “ He told me “why, that’s Bob Grant, he owns the bank. He’s very important.” He was a gentleman, whom I was told years later, kept track of bank loans to farmers on a pad in his inside coat pocket.
- Every day at 10 am, like clockwork, Laura and Hilda Reinman, wife of Murray (Charlie’s son and owner of the adjoining furniture store) walked across Riverside Drive to Harry’s Snack Bar for coffee.
- On Monday afternoons there was a delivery of magazines from a Watertown distributor. Laura directed that they not be put in the display rack until she inspected what the distributor delivered. She held back for return some magazines that she felt were inappropriate for display in a family newsstand. They were separated and placed in the small storeroom for return. I can admit now, nearly six decades later, that my coworkers and I peeked at them when Charlie and Laura were away for lunch. Playboy was pretty risqué at the time, so we didn’t look at the pictures---just read the articles. Uh huh.
- A five-foot- by five -foot custom-built wooden display rack for postcards was placed street-side every morning and stayed there until a few minutes before closing, at 10 pm. Moving it was definitely a two-person job. As if by magic, local boys on their bikes appeared at 9:55 to undertake the moving effort. Their reward from Charlie was a popsicle or ice cream sandwich of their choice. 10 Cent Stamp Machine
- One or two occasionally returned for two-cent deposit bottles that had been. returned previously, for deposit by others! Hmmm. They discovered where the empties were stacked behind Murray and Hilda’s furniture store awaiting pickup by the soft drink companies. Boys will be boys.
- A red, white and blue postage stamp machine was mounted on an inside wall, near the card rack. It took dimes. If a customer balked at a dime for two four-cent post card stamps Charlie explained that the little folder in which the stamps were dispensed and the labor to put them in the folders far exceeded the two extra pennies. Some opted for a walk to the post office, then two blocks away on James Street. Decades later, I saw an identical machine in a Clayton antique store. I bought it and it sits in my home office to this day, as a reminder of the good ‘ol days
- Another of my relics is a bottle with raised letters spelling out Anheuser Busch Brewing Association, St. Louis, MO--Watertown Branch. A diver, a regular customer for his Syracuse Post Standard, retrieved it from the River bottom, near Calumet Island and sold it to me for a half dollar or so. Years later, I asked the Anheuser Bush (Budweiser) Beer curator in St. Louis if it had historical value. He classified it as “rare” and dated it to the 1870s, when the brewer sent beer in barrels to local bottlers for resale. Some time ago I donated it and 70 other Watertown-labeled soda, medicine, beer, cure-all tonic, prescription, liquor, milk, cream and water bottles of all sizes, shapes and colors to the Jefferson County Historical Society. I had to; I ran out of shelf space and the will to keep them dusted.
- A local tree cutter came into the store late every afternoon to buy his daily pouch of Red Man Chewing Tobacco. I was intrigued, watching him put a handful into his mouth. Frankly, it fascinated me. I tried it. Gagged. I spit it out and washed the taste out of my mouth with a York peppermint patty and two soft drinks---orange and grape--- from the 10-cent soda machine next to the tree, a few feet from the door.
- The floor was some sort of composite, as I recall, and had to be “oiled” periodically. I never understood that. Spread-out sheets of day-old newspapers absorbed the excess oil.
- One of my favorite customers was an elderly man named Martin who lived a few blocks up John Street; he was a Great Lakes seaman in years gone by. He enjoyed his afternoons sitting at the village docks, watching ships pass Clayton, always wearing an old steamship line-issued--monogrammed shirt. Before settling in dockside, he stopped by for a can of Copenhagen snuff. I watched him drop as much on the sidewalk as he put between his cheeks. I took a whiff of Copenhagen but never tried the snuff stuff.
- A tourist came into the store one day and asked for something that sounded like Kah-Melles. Huh? I asked him to repeat his order. “Kah-Melles,” he said. He wanted a package of Camels.
- Working for Charlie and Laura sometimes meant staying until the store closed at 10 pm. A tall, affable white-haired gentleman named Gene, clerked nights at the Fitzgerald liquor store next door. Because that store was hot and Riverside Drive had a nice breeze, he preferred leaning against the parking meter in front, chatting with passers-by until a customer entered the store. Butter-Kist_Peanut_MachineA retired border patrolman, he told stories about chasing bootleggers, with boatloads of whisky and beer, headed for Clayton from Gananoque during prohibition. He said the “bad” guys often threw their valuable cargo overboard in Eel Bay as the chase narrowed. Over the years I’ve crossed Eel Bay hundreds of times often wondering if Captain Morgan (rum) or Jack Daniels (bourbon) were sharing the bottom with the eels. Frankly, all I ever caught in Eel Bay were perch and a few bass (and a kiss or two from a girl I was trying to impress with my nautical prowess.) I also remember curling the prop on our Chris Craft Lancer, near the Gan Narrows light as I sped toward Gan for fireworks. That turned out to be an expensive trip through Eel Bay.
- Howard Corbin worked at the liquor store some evenings, too. He smoked Carter Hall and was in the Marine Corps like my dad. I remember them reliving the Corps experience from time to time.
- July 4th was always a busy day at Reinman’s. With fireworks lighting the sky over the channel at dusk, the store was stocked with popcorn and extra ice cream bars for the crowds gathered to watch the colorful displays. Popcorn sold out, and the soda machine was emptied. My job was to sweep the sidewalk clean as the crowd left downtown.
- One of my best memories was working alongside “Cab” Burns--- we’re still buddies 60 years later! He’s a retired educator, a stalwart of St. Mary’s Church and Board President of Clayton’s Hawn Library—both just up the street from the Reinman corner. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t chew Red Man tobacco or use Copenhagen snuff either.
- The newsstand on the corner is gone now---the current generations at Reinman’s Ace hardware store (if they don’t have it, you don’t need it) (or, we’ll order it for you, it will be here Tuesday) absorbed the newsstand space many years ago. For me, their corner aisle along John Street, is Memory Lane.
By Cary R. Brick
Cary Brick spent 30 years on Capitol Hill in Washington and retired to Clayton, where he served as a Library Trustee, Fire Commissioner, Associate Village Justice, Clayton Local Development Corporation Trustee, TI Land Trust board member, and served on numerous village advisory committees. He was responsible for arranging Seaway Corporation funding for development of the Regional Pier at Frink Park. He is currently in Houston, Texas.
Comments posted from the old TI Life:
Comment by: David Rappold
Left at: 7:51 AM Tuesday, January 15, 2019
I'm guessing the tree cutter chewing Red Man tobacco was "Shack" Canell.
I purchased his old 1937 Plymouth from him for $50 and towed iti through Canada to Detroit to restore.
Comment by: Cary Brick
Left at: 5:19 PM Tuesday, January 15, 2019
I've often wondered what happened to that car. Where is it now?
Comment by: Dick Withington
Left at: 7:47 AM Saturday, January 19, 2019
Cary, you nailed it! Great article. It reminds me of my first job at Hutchinson's Boat Yard in Alexandria Bay. Long ago, and far away Thanks for the memories. Write another article. It is fun to read about those days.
Comment by: Ann Nardi Bennett
Left at: 12:45 PM Saturday, January 19, 2019
In the summer of 1953 my sister, Mary Ann and I moved to Clayton with my father and mother, Phil Nardi and mom, Rose Nardi. We came from a little town, Heuvelton N.Y. I was so excited when we arrived and moved into a yellow house on the corner of High St. and James St. The school was almost in my backyard. After living in a small town, I thought Clayton was a real" hip" town. My dad took us downstreet and we stopped in Rieman's newstand to buy a Nutty Buddy. There were so many neat things in the store such as penny candy, newspapers, etc. When I started school in September, I met Jimmy Reinman. Jim and his wife, Glorian are still friends today. After my sister, Mary Ann and I were married my father, Phil took our kids for a ride in his truck to Reinman's to get a yes you guessed it, a Nutty Buddy. Down memory lane, indeed.
Comment by: Steve Strouse
Left at: 7:51 AM Monday, January 28, 2019
I remember the News Stand as a kid as well it was a great little store, always stop for candy or ice cream, Clayton had a few corner stores when I was 16 I worked at Reinmans for Jimmy, he and Gloria were neighbors, my grandfather worked at the liqour stoor as well, another memory is Hanna Fuels my grandfather would come and get us kids when a tanker was coming in to Coal up before going into thru the Great Lakes and he ran a store there I remember there were showers under the store for guys on the ship, lots of changes thru the years in Clayton
Comment by: jack hammond
Left at: 7:55 AM Monday, January 28, 2019
Thanks for the journey, Clayton is so special to so many. The many interesting people I met while introducing UPS to Clayton [yrs1960 to 1965] made a life long impression.
Regards Jack Hammond
Comment by: Fritz Delaney
Left at: 4:44 PM Monday, January 28, 2019
In 1962 I worked for Grays wholesale as a delivery driver and delivered the tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, and candy to Reimans Newsstand, to restock their inventory and remember having to "check the order in" to make sure they got everything they were charged for. In the Winter time there was usually a card game going on next to the stove in the store.
Comment by: BOB CRANE
Left at: 3:23 AM Tuesday, January 29, 2019
ENJOYED READING THE ARTICLE,I LIVED IN DEWITT, AND IN 1966, I SOLD SEWING NOTIONS TO REINMAN'S AND YARN AND CROCHET, FOR THE THREAD COMPANY COATS & CLARKS
Comment by: Frances Rivers Bennett
Left at: 5:57 AM Wednesday, January 30, 2019
I was born and brought up in Clayton on Franklin St/ I have many fond memories of Reinman's. I remember the penny candy, popcorn machine, coke machine with 5cent glass coke bottles, 6 oz. bottles. Village men playing cards. So many memories. Thanks for writing this article. I thoroughly enjoyed it.