Businesses of Lemasters Remembered
By James C. Failor
Come join me for a walk through the village of Lemasters as I recall some thriving (and not so thriving) places of business over the years.
Let’s start coming from Markes (formerly Bridgeport) on Lemar Road and look to the left at Midway Diner, operated by Jim and Hazel Blattenberger. I remember Sloppy Joe sandwiches as their specialty. The Blattenbergers later converted the building into their residence - - 4052 Lemar Road.
Next to the diner was a small gasoline station and store which sold ice cream and miscellaneous items. Mr. Bill Beeler was the proprietor. At lunch time kids from the nearby Lemasters school would walk down to the store and purchase snacks and play the one pin -ball machine. A few years later, a cafeteria was installed at the school, causing a decline in that business. This would be in the late 1940s.
Up a short way on the right (4173 Lemar Road) was the office and home of E. Lee Reiter, M.D. Dr. Reiter served the Lemasters area from 1934 to 1967. There usually was no need to run to a drugstore after visiting Dr. Reiter. He provided the medications by giving me pills in a little white envelope or a chemical solution in a bottle to combat poison ivy. His charge for an office call was $3.00 or if he came to your home, it was $5.00. Dane Barthlow presently operates his D.A.B. Builders business from this residence.
Moving on we come to the Lemasters Consolidated School building, which was erected in 1922. It housed grades three through twelve and was the four-year high school for all Peters Township students. Later the school served only as an elementary school until pupils were transferred to the Mt. View School at Route 75 and Lemar Road.
Next we arrive at Maun’s Garage, a popular business of the village. Mr. F. R. (Fill) Maun started the business, followed by his brother Paul. In 1955, I purchased my first auto there - - a 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook Paul employed a number of good mechanics and sold new automobiles through Shively Motors of Chambersburg. The garage was a good place for young guys to hang out.
Then we come to the Lehmaster Elevator Co., owned by Mr. Aaron Myers and his two sons, Eugene and J. Richard Myers. They sold “Parnell Rations” in 100 pound feed bags and used the name “Lehmaster” because mail for Lemasters was often missent to Lancaster, Pa. In recent years the Snider Family from Williamson purchased the business as Snider’s Elevator, Inc. and have significantly expanded the operation. I know people from Hagerstown who come and patronize that store.
I remember when Lemasters had three grocery stores. First was the store next to the bank building. In my early memory it was owned by a Mr. Olson. Then Mr. Chet Myers operated it as the Pen-Mar Store. Following him, Mr. Orville Williams moved his store from St. Thomas to Lemasters and successfully offered a fine line of grocery items. After Mr. Williams, the store was owned and operated by Glenn and Carol Layton and finally by Marty and Sally Dallago.
Squire (Mr. George A.) Greenawalt for many years operated the store just up from “The Point” on Steele Avenue. I remember the “Grove Bros.” (from Waynesboro) ice cream sign on the grassy plot at the store entrance. At that store my Dad would purchase me an ice cream cone for five cents or a bottle of pop, also for five cents. Mr. Greenawalt was the Justice of the Peace. At times, you would see a state police car parked in front of the store. The state trooper would accompany the accused to Squire’s big desk located in the middle of the storeroom, where a mini-court session would be held. After Squire Greenawalt retired, his daughter-in-law, Mrs. E. Guy (Lola) Greenawalt operated the store for a short time. The store building presently houses the Lemasters Post Office.
Miss Josephine Gift served as postmistress from 1934 to 1951 and operated the Lemasters Post Office out of her Mother’s home at 4766 Steele Avenue. One day I noticed a box of live chicks on her post office floor. Would you believe they came through the mail? Josephine also sold a limited number of grocery items in “the lobby” of the post office. I remember the glass case filled with penny candy and stools to accommodate those waiting for the mail to be sorted.
Across the street from Squire Greenawalt’s Store, Mr. A. C. Etter operated the Allis-Chalmers garage where he repaired farm equipment. In the summer you would often see an old threshing machine sitting out front waiting to be repaired. And then up the street a door or two, Mr. Kenneth Fleagle from Fort Loudon operated a garage for repairing autos.
At one time there were four churches in Lemasters. I remember only three of them: Lemasters United Brethren Church (now United Methodist); Trinity Lutheran Church, which was dismantled; and St. Paul’s Reformed Church (now United Church of Christ). The other church was the Radical United Brethren Church which was converted into a residence -- 4856 Steele Avenue.
Across the street from 4894 Steele Avenue where I grew up was “The Old School Building”, which at times was used as an elementary school but more importantly was “the headquarters” of the Peters Township Supervisors. The front door key to our home fit the door lock of that building and I can remember as a kid sneaking in there at times to use the pencil sharpner. An old caterpillar road grader and snow plow as well as equipment for summer festivals were stored in the rear of that building. This frame building is now occupied by a church.
The two-story brick school building, where I got my first and second grade education, is now owned by the Lemasters Community Improvement Association and houses the Mercersburg Area Preschool. There was no music teacher at the school in 1938-39, so my Mother would frequently come across the street and play the old pump-organ while we sang. Behind that is the Lemasters Community Center built in 1967. The Edward Parnell Ruritan Club meets there and supports the community center.
Next to the Reformed Church (now U.C.C.) was the home of Jacob, Gail and Mary Garns. Mr. Jake Garns was the town barber. His little frame barbershop was along the alley next to his home. The cost of my haircut was twenty-five cents with no tipping in those days. The Garns home and the barbershop were razed and the site is now a parking lot for St. Paul’s United Church of Christ.
Lemasters has had electric street lighting since 1904. Prior to that lantern-type kerosene lights illuminated the two streets. On a pole in front of the home of Oliver and Miriam Friese was a large black box containing the switch for the street lights. I think Mr. Friese was paid five dollars a month to turn on the lights at dusk and extinguish them at 11 p.m. My Uncle Clyde, when visiting, would jokingly remark that “Lemasters would roll up its sidewalks at 11 o’clock”. The Lemasters Street Light Committee would hold festivals each summer to finance the street lighting. Now funding is through real estate taxes
I have almost forgotten to mention the Peoples National Bank of Lemasters, where my father, Robert S. Failor, was “cashier” and Miss Sara W. McDowell, his assistant. I received my first banking experiences at that bank. During my college years, Miss Sara would graciously take a three-month vacation, allowing me to be employed in her stead. In later years the bank became a branch banking office and was closed in 1990.
The bank building is now used as a convenience store. In the early ’90 , Mr. Duane Maun opened a grocery store there, followed by Danny Martin and Georgiana Saunders. Diana Rotz presently operates the store as J.D. Market. The purchase of oversized hoagie is popular there now.
For many years Mr. Roy Meyers ran a feed-grinding business. Mr. Harold Kriner had a trucking business on Etter Avenue. Mr. Tom Gift now stores his school buses on the next property down Etter Avenue. At age 91, Mr. Henry Angle still does chair caning and sells vegetables from his home on Lemar Road. Josephine Eutzy, now living in the oldest house of the village, succeeded Miss Ethel Smith as my seamstress. Miss Ethel was appointed postmistress on December 30, 1962 and operated the post office from her home at 4845 Steele Avenue.
I would also like to mention my piano teacher, Mrs. Cora Myers, who lived in one of the town’s oldest and most stately homes , now owned by Mr. A. C. Myers. It was said that she could teach anyone to play piano. In recent years A. C. and his wife Eileen operated the TLC Pet Lodge at their property on Lemar Road.
In addition to those already mentioned, businesses presently operating in Lemasters include Woodward Concrete Finishing, Inc. in the former Maun’s Garage building. Mr. Charlie Smith previously operated an automobile repair and inspection garage at 5045 Steele Avenue, where Burdette’s Welding is now located. Down Steele Avenue, Mr. Ben Myers operates the Berry Brooke Farm. Churchill Primitives is at 6078 Steele Avenue and Mr. Paul Myers has his construction business also at Churchill. Mr Bill Straley continues to operate his printing business from his home at 4879 Steele Avenue.
Long gone are the railroad tracks, the Lemasters Bank, the village doctor, as well as the elementary and high school. It would be an exaggeration to say that business is booming at Lemasters, but businesses do survive and thrive in the village We have all experienced change, which is inevitable, but it sure is fun to reminisce.
October 2013 ----- J. C. F.
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