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CONNECTIONS: Stockbridge memories |

It was her only criminal act. On a summer day, as early as 1935 or as late as 1939, she stole an apple. She took it from the fruit and vegetable stand in front of Elm Street Market. In the act of savoring her loot, her mother came out of the store.

The child stuffed the last morsel into her mouth, shoved the apple core behind her back, and announced, “All gone.”

Evidence destroyed, no action was taken. Now on the occasion of her 90th birthday, she is safe — the statute of limitations expired.

It is one of many stories about Elm Street Market. Built circa 1930, it served Stockbridge for almost a century. There is not a resident of Stockbridge, now or then, who did not pass through its doors.

For much of its life, Elm Street was both market and lunch counter. As a young woman, Nancy Fitzpatrick started a slim local newspaper. She wrote it up and left free copies on the Elm Street Market lunch counter. She called it, therefore, “Counter Culture.”

Midge Shanahan made breakfast and lunch for the folks who stopped by and serenaded them into the bargain. Midge loved people, loved to sing, and most of all, loved to sing to people.

Back in the day, when that fruit and vegetable stand was in front of Elm Street Market, Stockbridge was a bustling town. Around the corner there was a variety store. The owners, Dave and Ann Brahman, lived above the store. There was a second grocery store owned by Mr. Estes and then Mr. Galicia.

Under Mr. Estes’ management, another little girl was so taken by a colorful package of chewing gum that she could not resist. When her mother discovered she had taken it, she marched the child back down Main Street to return the pilfered item and apologize.

When Michael and Judy Abdalla ran it, the market took orders on the phone, prepared them and delivered groceries twice daily.

Shortly after her order was delivered, Ida Flynn of Shamrock Street (yes, Mary Flynn’s mother) called and said, “Michael, darling, you charged me a penny more for a box of rice than what I can get it for at Galicia’s.”

Don’t be fooled by the “darling” — all were “darling” to the Flynn women. Ida wanted a penny credit, or she would shop around the corner. A local householder, taking no nonsense, Ida got her penny. On the other hand…

They said the variety store on Main Street carried everything from a needle to a nail. One day a visitor from the city came in, selected an item and brought it to the counter. When the owner rang it up, she was outraged.

“I can get this cheaper in the city.”

The owner snatched back the item and said, “Then skiddy you back down to the city and buy it there.”

“But I am here, and I need it,” wailed the customer.

“Ah-ha!” said the storeowner and held his ground.

Poor Michael Abdalla was yelled at by the best of them. He pacified Ida, and not long afterward, in marched Margaret (Peggy) French Cresson. She was under the misapprehension that Michael was planning to cut down the elm tree near the front door of the market. Elm trees on Elm Street were sacrosanct. She proceeded to give him what the Flynn women would have called “Hail Columbia.”

Luckily, there was no such plan. As soon as he could get a word in edgewise, Michael reassured her and Peggy simmered down.

Located on just two shopping streets, the village was replete with pharmacy, liquor store, a bar (no food) called the Stockbridge Inn (no bedrooms), and the mandatory town drunk. No local paid in the shops or market; they took their purchases and received a bill once a month. It made it easier when and if stores had two prices: one for townies and one for outlanders. (Not sayin’ they did).

Elm Street Market in Stockbridge on the day of the house moving across and to right. Photo courtesy Judith Abdalla

The post office moved here and there in town, from Main Street to Elm Street, from the north side of Elm Street to the south side. The first post office was on Main behind the “post office tree.” Town folks collected their mail inside and, outside on the tree, posted and read messages. At one time in history or another, the minutes from the select board meetings, the town warrant and a signed declaration that a man would no longer pay his wife’s debts were posted on the tree. At one time, the post office was in the Mercantile Building on Elm with the telephone company on the second floor — a communication hub.

There was Tony’s Barber Shop, Coakley’s newsstand, and A.J. Salvador’s repair shop. There was a ladies’ dress shop “with such lovely clothes that no Stockbridge woman had to go to Pittsfield to shop.”

Old Tom Carey came up the back alley in horse and buggy to buy his necessaries on Elm Street before he went off to taxi people. The market had a liquor license and displayed a few bottles on the back wall by the meat counter. Carey hit the back wall so often that it practically constituted a daily ritual. Carey’s buggy hit the market wall, the bottles shook, clanged, employees ran to catch whatever fell, but no bottle ever did.

With less drama, early every morning, Miss Roz Sherwood sent her man. He was to be there in time to cut the tie on the day’s newspapers and select the ones Miss Sherwood read. The ritual was meant to assure Miss Sherwood had “fresh papers.” There was a story that other Cottagers had the newspaper ironed before it was placed on the breakfast table. That one may be apocryphal; this one was witnessed.

From the same liquor shelf, one man selected the cheapest vodka for his parties. He explained he kept empty bottles of the good stuff, which he drank. Before a party, he poured the cheap stuff into the good bottles for his guests.

Joseph Franz built his house on Elm Street — where the family still lives today — and the Mercantile Building in 1914. Later, Franz built the market. Judy and Michael Abdalla leased the store for 21 years, from 1959-80. Then Jim and Midge Shanahan ran the store, then it was purchased by the Red Lion Inn, then Raj Verma, and in 2020, Chris Greendale.

The Abdallas moved a large house that stood across Elm Street from the market. On the site they built the only area in Stockbridge that could be called a shopping center. Today it holds the post office, bank, dentist, liquor store and Michael’s Restaurant.

On the day Michael and Judy Abdalla moved the house, people stood in front of the market watching (see photo above). Around the corner the children were let out of school to watch as the house rolled by. Everything about the day was quintessential Stockbridge. They saved the house (waste not/want not). They made an event out of an integral happening. They made memories for the children by including them “in the doings.”

It is interesting that while the population of Stockbridge barely changed in all that time, now there seems to be the notion that the village has to build more to offer more. Wonder why.