The Hoped for Season

The Hoped for Season
"There's a time between the seasons, when winter is tired, and Spring is a hoped for thing..." ~ from "The Pancake Song" by Joshua Finsel

Saturday, August 22, 2015

"I think of Cal everyday...People must think I'm crazy..."

I think of Cal everyday…Even today, each day that man makes me smile…sometimes I catch myself alone in the car, laughing and laughing at something Cal said…People passing me by must think I’m crazy…but they didn’t know Cal Haas.” ~ Dick “Jockey” Semmel, March 2011

  
Ahead of his time: Cal Haas, with his George Strohl delivery wagon prior to opening his store on Coal St in early 1930.  This photo was taken just south of the corner at Third and Iron Sts, Lehighton.  Though he was just a deliveryman for Strohl, Cal had his own name painted over the rear fender. 


(This story is a companion piece to another post "From Farmers, To Grocers, To Tire Dealers: They were the enterprising Haas's" can be found by clicking here.  There you will find more genaology and a few other stories not found here.)   


Haas' Store: the institution, it was the nerve center of the neighborhood universe at Fifth and Coal Streets in Lehighton. 

It was the center of my life. 

Cal Haas was enterprising and industrious.  He left his family farm in Andreas before he was ten to live with his older brother Ivan who was a green grocer living on Ninth St in Lehighton.
L to R: Miriam, Madeline, and Mildred "Sis" in the
earliest days of the store circa 1933.

All the Haas’s had a dint for hard work and a nose for business.  His father David farmed but huckstered oysters.  Brother Clint timbered, raised cattle and ran a hotel at New Ringgold (On the same lot as the mini-mart gas Station is today, at the railroad crossing.) 

Davie ran an ice cream shop at today’s “Bridge Street Hotel.”  Jeremiah “Jerry” ran a tire re-tread business in Allentown and later worked at the Tropical Fruit Store at Sixth and Tilghman Sts.   

Raymond home delivered produce and ran a Store on Second St. in Lehighton before returning to his own farm. Youngest brother Wilmer ran “Haas’ Restaurant” at 806 Hamilton St.  Owing to the Haas work ethic, Wilmer claimed to give “25 Hour Service.” 

And two of Cal’s daughters, the two who scoured the neighborhood with order pads, Miriam and Mildred “Sis,” also had businesses of their own.   
"Sis" working the counter at Garvin's Restaurant at Third and Coal Sts
while her husband Lee Garvin works the grill in the early 1960s.

“Sis” Garvin ran a restaurant on the corner of Third and Coal Sts in the 1960s.  It later became the “D&D Print Shop” and is currently “Deet’s Salon.”  Miriam ran a cement lawn ornament shop at her Center Valley home for many years into the 1990s.
Bread was king, it was the "bread and
butter" to most corner stores.  Most
stores also had these promotional pictures
of the store owner posing with "Freihofer's
Breads."

Haas’ Store’s “big bang” was in bread.  Cal Haas ran three bread routes for George Strohl.  Cal’s first step of breaking from Strohl was the advent of his own home-delivery of groceries, his “Store on wheels.”

(Cal had a brother-in-law, Raymond Weigner, married to his sister Sadie, who was also in bread delivery.  He was struck by a car and killed in Summit Lawn, Allentown, just three days after Christmas in 1928.)

Strohl’s cream donuts were said to be particularly sought after.  Miriam remembers George Strohl to be a tobacco-chewing, unshaven son of a gun who made the best bread in town (click here to read more of Lehighton’s baking past.)

The early years were harder on the older children who were fully employed by the store.  Madeline, Miriam and Mildred (“Sis”) went door to door with order pads, writing down orders that would be delivered later.
Madeline Haas with Cal Haas sedan, with the ever present
"rabbit," which is what Haas means in German.

Cal was known to be a night owl, entertaining other insomniacs with his stories while he shucked oysters or watched television to the early morning hours. 

Miriam especially felt a great responsibility to her family’s livelihood.  She remembers leaping from her bed before 7:00am at the noise of delivery trucks.  She’d rush down before the delivery was complete, scrutinizing the actual delivered goods versus the invoice to insure a fair trade. 

The restocking the Haas delivery sedan each evening also fell on Miriam’s shoulders. 

A key friend of Cal’s was William Snyder.  Snyder ran a confection and tobacco business out of his 458 Cypress Street home, just down the alley from the store, during the 1920s and 30s that predated Haas' Store. 
Bill Snyder's Cypress St business
pre-dated his friend Cal Haas' Store.  This
is an ad from the 1928 'Gachtin
Bambil,' LHS Yearbook.
William "Bill" Snyder and Cal having
a weenie roast in "Bill's Lot."
The store is in the background.  
Bill's lot was a favored place
to play for many of the Haas
children and grandchildren.  The lot
is now owned by Hilly Haas.



























Ruth Arlene Haas and family would rent the former home of William and Arlene Snyder while the Snyders moved to the rear, occupying the second floor over the confection enterprise.  From that point onward, from the 1950s into the 1980s, the Snyders never raised the rent rate, which was $45 per month. 

 Eventually, the Snyder estate was divided among the Haas siblings, the home going to Ruth.
George Freeby's own label, here and below.
Clever: "Free-B" with a 'bee' atop the 'B.'


















Arlene Snyder was the sister to Progressive Merchant Wholesale grocer George Freeby.  Freeby was also Vice President of the Pennsylvania Grocer’s Association and was a founding investor and director of two Lehighton Banks.  His warehouse was on Maiden Lane, Lehighton and Cal purchased many of his groceries from Freeby including George's own label "Free-B."

(As children, all of us grand-kids were enthralled to go there for store wholesale orders, going to the second floor to watch the cigarette cartons travel at a high rate, getting their Pennsylvania tax stamps, and then watch as the automated machine folded and sealed up the cartons.)

(George Freeby killed blacksmith Charles Mertz at Mertz Corner on his way to the Country Club with three friends.  Mertz was on the road, as he returned from voting on November 6, 1928.  Freeby was also a good friend of George Rabenold, brother to Zacharias.)

Like most legends, separating Cal Haas the man and Cal Haas the myth is nearly impossible. 

People like Dick “Jockey” Semmel adored him.  Cal Haas was an enigma: known for an unfiltered wit and quirky habits, sprinkled with moments of intemperance, his behavior yet another testament to why people considered my Grandmother Becky as among the saints.



According to Semmel, Cal’s ‘Twain-esque’ humor and insight created ideas ahead of their time.  He credits Cal with originating the idea of a hotline between the President and Moscow, long before the Cold War necessitated one.  The store didn’t have a warehouse, but it did have a “wareroom,” another moniker that allegedly originated with Cal.

On at least one occasion, Cal would check-in at his favorite stop, Diehl’s Triangle Hotel at South First and Bankway. A call would come into the store, “Cal’s too drunk to finish his route,” and Bobby or Miriam had to walk to the truck and finish the deliveries.

Other times, Lehighton Officer “Tuggles” Armbruster would bring Cal home.  

Undeterred by such setbacks to his fun, he’d walk back to Diehl’s or to the Eagles club.
Miriam with perhaps Tommy Buck along the Fifth St side of the store.
The cellar door at right received stock from truck deliveries.


 Another time, Cal drove the wrong car home. When Tuggles came to retrieve it, Cal handed over the keys with a promise to wait until the morning to retrieve his own car. 

And with that promise,  the case of Cal’s grand theft larceny was forgotten and forgiven.

Like most corner stores, Haas’ provided store credit.  Customers could put things “on the tick.”  One night of reverie led Cal to end the inner nagging of some of his longest outstanding debts. 

According to Cal Haas lore, on at least one occasion, he came home assembled about $2,000 of unpaid customer bills and burned them.  To understand the magnitude of this figure, know that a loaf of bread was under ten cents at this time.

I remember, near the waning days of the store, I made a perusal of the unpaid bills, some reaching back to the 1940s and 1950s.  The sum, then once again, was well into the thousands of dollars. 
Hilly Haas makes a delivery to long-time customer
Lavona Ronemus in 1989.

I can remember being around nine or ten and delivering one of my first home orders to a neighbor woman struggling with an alcohol problem who subsequently developed the habit of owning grocery debt. 

My uncle’s admonishment and coaching before I left went like this: “Do not to enter the house and certainly do not let go of that box, until you have cash in hand.” 

I can still see the shock in her eyes as I took the order back to the store with me.

During my lifetime at the store, I saw how many people relied on the store for more than groceries.  Some like Tex Gilbert came for meat ends because he had nothing else to eat.  The store would also break a box of butter down to quarters to make it more affordable for those unable to buy a whole pound.  I can still see Oscar Diehl buying one stick and eating it straight from the wrapper like a popsicle.
Becky's big-heart emerged from a childhood
of uncertainty.  Her father died was she
was in her early teens, forcing her mother
and family to move off the farm and into town.
She and her mother and sisters cleaned homes
and lived with an older couple as caretakers
to survive.  She married cal when she was
just sixteen.  Becky with Robert and Ruth
behind the store around 1936.

My mother would often mention how Becky’s generosity was well known among the collection of hobos who passed through town among the freight lines of our town’s famed “Packerton Yards.”

Others found an outlet for their gambling needs with both the Pennsylvania Lottery and in the small bets the uncles covered in the kitchen, the nerve center of the store. 

Bill Bayer and Uncle Hilly often covering each other on several NFL games each week at $5 per game.  Each man getting to choose 1 game over the other.

The front counter had a doorbell button connected to a buzzer when assistance was needed from one of the Haas men who were posted for duty at the meat counter but whiled away their time, with foot on the former table of Becky and Cal, watching TV between customers.

In the 1930s and 1940s, and even into the 1950s, only about half of the neighborhood had a telephone.  The store served as a vital communication center, relaying messages from relatives far away. 

Railroad dispatchers too, called the store when they couldn’t find one of the many railroad workers for an assignment.  Many times the Haas children were enlisted to find these trainmen to get them to their posts.

Cal put most of his drinking behind him by the 1950s.  However for one occasion, the wedding of his daughter Ruth, he reached deep down for a good one.  His jag included the theatrics of accusing his son Robert of bilking him for over $60,000. 
Cal, back center, with son Bobby holding hat.

Cal and Becky enjoyed Sunday afternoon excursions to the “Ridge Cup,” along present day Route 309, back near his old homestead.  They’d pack Becky’s knitting and Cal’s rubber ball, and of course his favorite: a thermos of oyster stew.  Cal would find a nice flat spot to bounce his ball.

He was known to have bounced a ball a million times on at least three to five separate occasions.  He kept records of it in his safe.  One day a disbelieving salesman asked to see the records but only saw Cal’s fury when it appeared that someone had gotten in the safe and thrown the records away.
One of many of the many colorful characters associated in Haas' lore: Johnny
Knauss.  He later had his produce shop on North First St below Carbon St
which he ran into the 1980s, long enough for the grandchildren of Cal like myself
to be old enough to drive there produce order pick-ups for the store.

He’d save his money for various things in unique ways.  He had a tire fund, a tax fund, a deep sea fishing trip fund and what have you.  After the total was determined, he’d calculate the thickness in quarters or half dollars to reach his monetary goal.  Then he’d cut pipe to the length necessary. 

Once the pipe was full, he knew he had the right amount.  He’d do the same thing by calculating the volume of glass jars and cans as well.  All the while, he kept his accountings on pieces of butcher paper slung across the hallway wall, hence you could say Cal was first to utilize “spreadsheets.”

(I remember my mother saving for my sister’s orthodontic braces in the same way with her tip money from waitressing.)
David and Mary Alice Haas on one of their two
farms they lived at in Andreas.  A fire necessitated their
need to find a second home.
This picture most likely late 1920s.

Sometime in the 1920s, Cal’s parents David and Alice moved to 222 South Sixth Street to semi-retire.  David still huckstered oysters nearly up until his death in 1937.

Cal’s store was underway and he took over more and more of the oyster business as his father’s health faded.  Many of people who stopped by the store watched him sort the stewers from the fryers, carefully saving the juice, dropping the shells through a hole in the counter he special built for oyster shucking.

Some of the shells made their way to the chicken farm across from the present day high school which had a hammer-mill for cracking down corn and oyster shells to be mixed into chicken feed. 
Bobby behind the counter of the store near the end in 1998.

Other shells were used as fill for the dirt alley leading down to Cypress St where I grew up, in William Snyder’s old home.  Even though the alley was paved in the early 1980s, you could still find chunks of oyster shells there until recently.

Besides my cousins and the constant homecoming parade of old friends, there was always a colorful array of characters dropping in, much like Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment.  They always had a new dilemma, a new story, a new heartache to discuss, or just to simply sit in silence across the kitchen table at the rear of the store.
Tough Girls: One of my favorite pictures of my aunts, epitomizing their
witty charisma: Aunt Miriam Haas waving from her thumb to Aunt "Sis"
second from right,  with their friends Claire Parish Whitehead sporting the
Winston Churchill "victory" sign and her future husband's sister,
Melba Whitehead.

A partial list of real people here: Earl Simmons, Tommy Buck (Aunt Miriam still fawns for his ever so white teeth), Attorney Bayer, Wimp Nothstein, Tex Gilbert, Richard Herlihy, Tom Polk, the Kostaks, Dorthea Xander, Bill Blocker, Jimmy Murphy, Wesley Bowman and etc. 







For me, it was a place to belong.  And It was a center of my learning too.  Chiefly, I learned the value of hard work.  But ever so subtly, it is where I learned how a family can work together as well as argue like enemies.  

The Uncle Bobby vs. Uncle Hilly fights were epic.  Poor Hilly, forever the “little brother,” could seldom do right in Bobby’s eyes. Visible through that ever settling debris field of family dust-ups, one could still find the love instilled through the ages of family.

It is where I realized you didn’t have to always like your family, and yet you never stopped loving them.  As I’ve aged, one of my favorite “compliments” from my own brothers, when we’re fighting, is that I’m just like Uncle Bobby.
Bobby Haas's lottery permit originated in 1972.
Six of Seven of the Haas Children: Mildred, Miriam and
Madeline fronted by Hilbert, Ruth, and Robert.  BetteMae,
the youngest is not pictured.

The store was a place to spend many hours with my aunts and uncles: Uncle Bobby, Uncle Hilly, Aunt Madeline, and Aunt “Sis” (Mildred).  Additionally, there were the many deliverymen I looked forward to seeing each week.

There was the 7-Up man who controlled his blood pressure herbally and smelled so strongly like garlic, that he forced everyone to hold their breath until he left.  And once he did, the store was properly aired out.

There was Ernie Long and the Zimmerman’s Dairy truck.  Ernie was among the many deliverymen who’d let me sit at the wheel, pretending to drive, honk the horn and flash the hazard lights as they completed their delivery. 

The Tastykake man would bring me Phillies schedules on little cardboard cards, the home games listed in red ink on the front, away games were in blue on the back.
And of course there were the best delivery day of them all: Thursday mornings between 8:30 and 9:00am, "Trexler Park" day.   Trexler Park was a major distributor and wholesaler to small grocery stores.  To me, it was nearly as anticipated as Christmas day.  (See “Epilogue” for more on this.)
Robert Haas with some Krakow Polish Ham - 1970s.

My earliest sin and lie that I can remember was committed there.  Uncle Hilly just returned from Johnny’s Produce on North First Street with a box of tomatoes. 

I promptly remember sticking my fingertip into one of them.  There was a tactile thrill here.  So I did it again and again, until the whole top layer of tomatoes was ruined.
 

View of aisle leading to the kitchen, the Chip and Tasykake shelf,
 foreground right is where Cal and Becky's stairs once made their descent.
This left side of the modern store was originally downstairs living space.

I can remember the anxiousness on Hilly’s face when he called me into the wareroom, alone. 

My heart sunk as my fears were confirmed with the presentation of the key evidence against me: the damaged tomatoes. 

Scared to death, I lied.  I was released and went down the alley home.

Later that day, I was summoned again by Hilly, frantic now after finishing the questioning of all the other cousins who had been in the store that day.  His elimination process had left him with the only likely and logical suspect.  After carefully considering each and every alibi and modus operandi, I remained his main suspect.

And in my little six year old heart, I knew he had me.  Mea culpa!  I had nothing left to do but to break down.

The store was a constant stream of the off-color story, adult jokes, and the zany, unfiltered humor of the Haas family and customers alike. 

There was a stack of my uncle’s men’s magazines, carefully concealed in the wareroom that certainly opened my young eyes.  I can also remember being shown the picture of a close relative who unabashedly sent her own picture into one of the amateur sections of one of those magazines.  (Uggh.  I don’t even know where to begin to heal those scars.)
Katie Nothstein Boyer with her sister Becky Haas.  Cal always teased
about Aunt Katie.

Though he had just a third grade education, Cal was an avid reader.  He loved, probably in this order: greasy foods, Friday night boxing on TV, and of course his wife (though often joking how he married her only to get closer to her sister Kate).  

Benches were set up on the porch and the TV was brought outside. The fights drew crowds to the only TV set on the block.  
Cal with money in the kitchen:
Cal's unpredictable wit and deadpan stare was known to scare
people at times.  There was one smooth-talking sales person
who would visit, ask to use the upstairs bathroom, and on
at least one occasion, cleaned Cal and Becky out of their personal
cash from their bedroom.

But it was his wit and charm that amassed the loyal friends like former Lehighton resident Dick Semmel. 

With a capriciously sharp wit and a shotgun leaning against the back kitchen door, Cal could also scare people too.  

He once literally caused a woman to faint in the Street.  And on at least one occasion, Cal made threats toward his one daughter who still remembers the menacing voice and expression to this day.  Those words if taken literally would scare anyone.  But knowing the hyperbolic Cal, I'm certain it was all in dark fun.


Cal indulged in staying up late and eating fatty foods, like fried summer sausage.  He refused to interrupt his mastication for the grease running out and down the corners of his mouth.

Many have attested to Becky’s saintly big heart, Dick Semmel and recently deceased Bill Blocker of Lehighton among them. 

She took a steady decline due to Parkinson’s disease and died in an Allentown nursing home in 1969, her mind nearly gone due to dementia.

The late nights and poor diet caught up with Cal too.  The diabetes soon took his leg. 

To boost his spirits, his son Bob and Dick “Jockey” Semmel took him for a ride, out past the old Ridge Cup, past his brother Clint’s old hotel and when they got home, they all had some oyster stew.  Seeing the old sights did much to lighten his mood.

Bu on June 28, 1967, Cal felt the pain in his arm that prompted daughter Madeline to take to the Lehighton Hospital.   Soon though, the doctors and nurses discovered the Haas humor, and all seemed to be all right.

Feeling better, Madeline left him with the staff to phone the store to tell everyone Cal seemed to be fine.  But during that call, his heart arrested and Cal Haas was no more.

The store made it through another thirty years with son Bob.  He expanded the building, and for a time, it thrived, despite the introduction of the big supermarkets of the 1970s.

And so it goes.  But memories linger on.

Oyster stew remains as one of my go to comfort foods to this day.  It seems to do so for untold and unseen reasons.

Studying this story of my past connects those threads, the love of oysters going back to my great-grandfather, Cal’s father David, born over 150 years ago.

It’s funny how the small subtle pleasures that we gain throughout our lives gain clarity as we age.  Having grown from a boy to a father of grown children myself, I can to see and taste my mother’s oyster stew, stretched out over time.




The Store: the 1950s version above, 1970s below.  Note the vintage 7-Up machine cut-off left, below as well as the exterior porch and stairs cut-off at right, and of course the expansion of the store to fill the entire downstairs.  These are the most notable changes Bobby Haas made expanding the store from the family residence to a more "modern" corner store.
Changing times: the "Cigarette Permit" of 1953 evolved
into one owned by both Robert and wife Geri by 1958 (below.)



EPILOGUE:


Trexler Park Day:

His name as I remember it was ‘Bill:’ This big-jawed, scruffy-faced, cigarette smoking, hoarsed-mouthed, laughing man brought that sixteen-wheeler along the Fifth St side curbing each Thursday morning around 9:00.

The street would be cleared of cars from the burn pit to the corner to make way.  He’d parallel park so that his side door opened to the cellar door, and the skate wheel conveyor was set up.  Almost always it was Uncle Hilly at the bottom catching.

Early on, it was a thrill just to be in the truck while “Bill” set the stuff down.  

Occasionally he’d miss-time Hilly’s return, sending a case of Maxwell House Instant coffee in glass jars crashing to the cellar floor.  But maybe not so much so accidentally, the big box of Bounty towels inevitably always one of the last items sent, was sent to the floor.
One of the favorite pastimes of the many grandchildren and stock-boys
was writing graffiti and stories on the cellar stairwell.  Fights between Hilly
and Bobby gained permanence here, documenting how one fight erupted
over the placing boxes on the stairs in a "wrong" manner (top right).
Some of the writings extended past the stairs onto the surrounding beams
in the cellar.  These markings are still preserved despite major renovations
to the building.  It is now owned by the Larry Markley
Nationwide Insurance Agency.

Eventually I got big enough to release the boxes from the top and I loved sending the paper towels flying without Hilly to receive them.  And then, perhaps by around ten years of age, I Started helping Hilly catch the boxes.  I had to work up to the big and heavy boxes of laundry detergent, but eventually I could do those and the boxes of Campbell’s Soup and everything.

The store passed from my grandfather Cal to his son Robert in the 1960s.  Robert expanded the store drastically: knocking down the wall that separated the Haas family living space of the left side of the house and taking out the interior stairs to the upstairs.  The former second floor living area was now an apartment accessible only by an exterior set of stairs.
Around the kitchen table at Haas's: BetteMae, Bill Snyder,
Sis, Becky, John and Miriam, Bob and Geri, and Arlene.
Chester wears the vest and Cal front and center.

Chester, also a WWII veteran, had many compulsive habits.  He believed in living out literal biblical pronouncements and kept separate places for his and his wife’s foods.  He constantly monitored the distance from the back of their cupboard to the stacks of their dishes.

He also once set out to cross Pennsylvania by foot.  After crossing a bridge of the Delaware, his determination was stilted after a few miles of blisters from his stiff new leather dress shoes.  

His phone call was to Becky at the store, mustering only the words, “Mam, I failed.”  The newspapers proclaimed, “Five Miles and Ouch (Out)!”

Chester was the shelf-stocker long before the days of the grandchildren stock-boy generation came along.  His precision and attention to detail was unmatched.  But to his chagrin, it was near impossible for him to ever quite finish the job.

If he neared the end of his stocking and if there were customers still shopping, Chester’s world would get stiflingly frantic.  As each gap appeared from this missing can or that missing box, Chester would dutifully descend the stairs for a replacement, one can or one box at a time.  This customer-stockboy cat-and-mouse was said to go on for hours.
Most of the oldest generation of Haas grandchildren
at the annual Haas family Christmas Eve Party mid 1960s-
Starting back Left: Brenda Garvin, Debbie and Kathy Haas,
Randy Rabenold with Jimmy and Jeff Garvin.  Susan Haas
is cut-off front center.


The Break-Ins:

In the 1980s, a local man, well-known to everyone in the Haas' Store neighborhood, began to have a series of run-ins with the law.  During his time "on the lamb" he used the store as a 'home-base' of sorts.  




More Grandchildren: Brenda Garvin helps with
Jacqueline Parker's socks at the store 1950s.
Because he couldn't show his face in the day hours but still needing sustenance, the man would find easy egress into the store by pushing one of the exhaust fans aside that simply sat in front of the open cellar windows.  

He generally took cigarettes and lunch-meat, but on at least one occasion wrote a note, with an apology and thus gave a fair accounting of the items he took.  
Rebecca Haas saw to it that her children, and thus her grandchildren,
were raised with an abiding faith within the teachings of a Mennonite
based, Salem Bible Fellowship Church.  Here is the wedding at the
Cypress St Church in 1951 for Miriam's wedding to John Parker.  The Jesus
as Shepard painting in the background was relocated to the new church
now in the Mahoning Valley.  Becky was strongly assisted in this en devour
through the efforts of Arlene Haas.

The man also knew of Hilly's habit of leaving his keys in his station wagon.  At first, the man took the care on rare or perhaps desperate occasions when he needed a ride someplace.  

I remember on at least two occasions driving around in Dick Herlihy's taxi with Uncle Hilly searching for his car.

But the joy-ride that took the cake was the night the man, in some sort of anger toward his car-loaning benefactor, decided to ditch the car, front end into the Mahoning Creek. 

I can still picture the sweep of the headlights as we turned into Baer Memorial and how they found the wagon at a pitched angle in the water.  And despite our best attempts at gunning the engine and spinning tires, it just wouldn't budge.
  
The break-ins continued over several weeks.  And thus began a rather long series of measures to stop them, including some diabolical "Home Alone"-style booby-traps at the cellar windows, reinforcement of interior door from the cellar and even late night stake-outs on alternating nights between Hilly and Bobby.  Cousins even sat in the store, in silence, each night through the small hours of the night.

Finally, one evening, when Bobby was on post alone, the mouse had entered the trap.  A slight scuffle and perhaps a shot from a revolver (this fact has strong confirmations though it was later disputed as happening), and the fugitive tore off through Bill's lot.  

Word passed on the town police scanner and some residents in the know went on alert.  It was local Power and Light Manager Lonnie Armbruster who apprehended the man hiding in his mother's shrubbery near Sixth and Cypress Sts.  


Bobby removes the letters in 1998.


The Eventual Demise:
Bobby and Ruth middle 1930s, at the rear of the store prior to the building of the "wareroom."

Family stores and businesses were under pressure for some time.  The Carbon Plaza Mall’s advent in the 1970s introduced the area to its first “supermarket.”  And later the 1990s saw the coming of Walmart.  First Street’s A&P market accepted defeat a few years before Haas’ eventual end.

The small furniture store of Mel Everett on Third St., formerly Trainer’s Grocery, is gone.  Along with Kirkendall’s Dairy, Ice Cream and grocery on South Second St. and Lou Volkert’s dinette counter and grocery on North Second.
Madeline (rear) and Bobby (ground) hamming it
up behind the store.

Gone too are Bennett’s Candy Shop, Levine’s Furniture, the Lehighton News Agency as was as Hammel’s store which was a news agency and dinette at the bottom of Coal Street.  And today we are saying goodbye to Lehighton Hardware.

I started at the store on my own volition.  I didn’t do it to seek a salary, but rather because it was something fun, a hobby.  It was a chance to be with those zany Haas’s worth more than change my aunts and uncles could put in my pocket.

I remember simply sitting up front, next to Aunt Madeline or Sis, waiting to be of service: bag five or ten pounds of potatoes, filling up the Lifesavers or Hershey bars running low, the extra stock beneath the counter, assessing the stockpile of bags: two, five, eight, twelve, twenty and the largest ones, the “flat-bottom” bags, and running to the cellar for replacements.

I made the “payroll” sometime around fourth grade.  I was allowed one returnable, quart-bottle of A-Treat (almost always “Cream,” but sometimes “Grape” or “Birch Beer”).  I was also allowed one small bag of chips, usually “Wise Onions Rings.” 
But soon my best hopes were answered when Hilly’s high-school age son Kenny gave up his duties of burning trash and carrying up the “List.”

Stock storage in the basement.  The stock needing replacing was placed
on a 'list' by Hilbert, then he would place the items into boxes that
were placed on these stairs.  The carrying of these boxes up
by stockboys like, Jimmmy and Jeff Garvin, Kenny Haas, and last Rick and Ron
Rabenold was known as 'the List.'  The "Dollar Days" canned food sales
required much heavy lifting.  The area to the left was where Cal had his oyster
shucking table as well as his barrels of molasses that according to Delbert
Haydt,  Cal once fell asleep mid-tap, pouring a hundred gallons of the sticky
stuff all over the floor.  Bobby also recalled times when these wooden barrels broke
upon the cellar stairs mid-delivery, causing a similar sticky situation. 

At first it was $5 per week for burning the trash on most days (never on a Sunday or when the neighbors had wash hanging to dry.)  Then it was increased to $7 when the “List” was added.  But the biggest promotion to my young heart was around Junior High, when my handwriting was deemed good enough to price the stock: 33 cents for a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.

The work was nearly worth the reward to my best friends as well.  Something akin to Huck Finn, I’d recruit one of two friends to help me carry boxes up from the cellar.  After which we’d share the A-Treat soda from the bottle, enjoying Hilly or Bobby’s company in the kitchen. 




The End of the Institution:

Upon entering the kitchen you could count on seeing at least one of two things: Uncle Bobby, with his nearly perpetual cigarette or Uncle Hilly, his right foot up on the table with a patch of  Lipton iced tea in a glass half-gallon orange juice bottle.
Hilly in a familiar pose in the kitchen between meat counter customers.

The “List” was each Monday and Thursday.  Hilly would appraise the stock on all the shelves, make a list, and collate the assorted cans and packages into boxes and place them on the cellar stairs to be carried up.

Early on, I can remember the stairs being quite full, with only a narrow walkway down the center, some of the boxes were piled two high across the nearly four-foot wide treads.  But these piles also served as a barometer of the store’s failing business, getting appalling scant as the 1980s turned into the 90s.  
After the sale of the store, Bobby and other relatives were
on hand on the day when the new owners demolished Cal Haas's
 "wareroom."  Found amid the wreckage was the maroon toilet seat.

Cal Haas's son, Robert "Bobby" Haas closed the store in 1998.  

The two sisters most associated with the store, Madeline and Sis are both gone.  Madeline in 2008 and Sis in 2011.


Though Bobby suffered and conquered several open heart surgeries from the 1970s he lived into his own 70s.  


He struggled for several months after a complicated aneurysm surgery and passed in April of 2012.  







The last of Cal and Rebecca’s offspring who remain are three: Second oldest Miriam just celebrated her 90th birthday, while the two youngest, Hilbert and BetteMae are still alive and healthy.
Madeline and Mildred "Sis" Haas were the two Haas sisters who are most known for working the front counter of the store.  Forever taking trips and having themed parties together, here they are in their retirement years above and as Devil and Angel below.


This tranquil winter scene of Lehighton taken from the second floor window looking toward the Lehigh Gap with Zion's clock tower and Trinity's steeple.  This background compares to the one in the picture of Bobby above.



This post was posted at 8:00pm, the time the store closed each night.