Today I walked into a time warp. We visited Chloride, NM, a town miles from nowhere where the road, highway 52, ends. Nine residents currently inhabit the town and most of the historical buildings are owned by one family, a family that didn’t even come to Chloride until in the late 1970s. One of the buildings, the General Store, was boarded up for many years with the contents intact. When the current owners purchased it and began restoration, only the bats and rats had been inside since it closed. Careful cleaning and restoration of the building have brought it to where it is today.
I grew up on a farm outside Alton, KS, a town with a current population of about 100 and probably not too many more than that in the 1950s and ’60s when I was there. Stephenson’s store stood on the northwest corner of the “main” intersection and when I walked into that store in Chloride today, it felt like walking back in time. Wall shelves held cans and bottles of every description, most from a time before mine but still reminiscent of the store I remember. Cooking utensils like a tea kettle that my mother had and cast iron skillets as well as early aluminum ones were displayed on a wood cook stove. On one shelf we saw a copper boiler like the one LeRoy remembers using to heat water for laundry. (Our son found a new use for it as a boiler for shrimp.) Different types of scales, some used for produce, some for grain, others for candy looked just like the ones in my memory. Of course, the store is a museum of the town’s history as well, with showcases in the center that held papers that had been scavenged from other buildings in town–old bank counter checks, deeds, receipts. A survey instrument called a transit sits on its tripod, not so different from the modern one LeRoy left behind in the office when he retired. The current owner had worked for IBM in a previous life and when he found a small box that had been a portable desk, he labeled it “The First Laptop” because it gave the traveler anything he needed to do business from his lap. Inside I found a writing instrument that we called a scratch pen when I was learning to write in cursive with ink. The nib stuck into the handle (sorry, I don’t know what that was called) and the writer dipped it into an inkwell to add ink whenever it became dry. Fountain pens were a real step up when we were finally allowed to use them!
Outside the building and across the street was a fifth-wheel camper and an RV park, unused today, was behind the building. The local artists co-op has claimed the old dance hall/saloon as a gallery to display their wares including quilts, jewelry, blown glass dishes and framed paintings. Times have changed outside the general store, but inside, memories take you to a time long ago.
Check out http://www.pioneerstoremuseum.com for an aerial view of Chloride.