Monday, August 12, 2013

Stepping Back in Time

During our recent trip to south Louisiana, we stopped in Jennings to visit the Tupper General Merchandise Museum, which I had read about before we began our journey south.  

Jennings is a small city located in Jefferson Davis Parish, which is in the heart of Southwest Louisiana.

It is known as the "Cradle of Louisiana Oil" because the state's first oil well was drilled nearby.

Downtown Jennings

As I said ... we stopped in Jennings to visit the W.H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum.

The story of the original Tupper General Store is an interesting one, which I'd like to share before I take you inside the museum.  

W.H. Tupper operated his General Merchandise Store beginning in 1910, in a rural community just north of Jennings.  The original intent of the store was to supply the needs of area farmers.  However, demand grew for additional items and soon the store carried a little of everything.  During the "Great Depression," workers were often paid with "Tupper chips" which could be exchanged for goods at the Tupper Store.

When the Tupper family closed the doors in 1949, the complete inventory and display cases were carefully preserved by the family and remained virtually untouched for 40 years, until 1971 when it was carefully packed and warehoused.  There it remained until his grandson Joe Tupper, Jr., donated the store's contents to the City of Jennings for the creation of the W.H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum.

City officials, with the assistance of experts, recreated the store interior at its present location, restocking the shelves exactly as they were in 1949. Over 10,000 items are on display, with many items in their original unopened packaging and and still bearing original price tags.

The museum offers visitors a glimpse of nearly every facet of early 20th century life in rural Louisiana ... a simpler time when town folk picked up their mail, bought groceries, shopped for notions, wished for toys, and caught up on the news ... all at the same place -- the Tupper General Store.

A very gracious lady greeted us as we entered the "store," and as we looked around, she told us the history of the store and how the museum was created.  As she talked, I wandered around the store taking pictures and was fascinated by all the treasures I saw on the shelves ... 

And display cases ...

And, literally, stuffed in every nook and cranny.

As I walked up and down the aisles, I was surrounded by the original wooden display cases and shelves filled with toys, needlework, fashions, medicines, thread, enamelware and kitchen accessories, tools and hardware, shoes, and Native American baskets from the nearby Coushatta tribe.  It was as if I had entered a time machine and traveled back to 1949.  

I'm going to begin my tour with the "post office."  It was to the left as we entered the museum and looked as if the postmaster had just stepped away for a minute.


February 1940 Calendar

Next, we'll browse some of the aisles and see what's in the display cases.

Need stuff for a baby?  No problem ...

There's everything from Dolly Dimple Talcum Powder to a fancy baby toiletry set ...

The lingerie case was brimming over ...

This corset (?) looked very uncomfortable to me, and I'm not even going to hazard a guess about what that black item is next to the corset.  Can you imagine wearing something like those today!

Sweet bed jacket ...

 I love the fabrics that were popular back then ...

[You can click on the pictures to get a closer look]

I love the pink chenille bedspread in the next picture ...

Can you imagine ironing on a wooden ironing board?

Our hostess was kind enough to hold up this pretty dress for me. I found it interesting that some of the styles back then would fit in perfectly with today's fashion trends. 

I'm not so sure about the shoe styles, though ...

Aren't these adorable!

One of my favorite fashion displays showcased several hats from the period.
(I wish I had gotten closeups of all of them!)

This hat is my favorite ... wouldn't Queen Elizabeth look lovely in it!

I guess you could call these next two cloches, but I think of them as "flapper hats."

The men weren't forgotten when it came to fashion.
They could buy a "made to measure" wool suit for as little as $17.50.

The sign displayed next to the suit fabric swatches caught my eye ...

It reads:  "The outward indication of self-respect is your appearance.  Have your garments made to your measure and be known as one who is properly dressed."  

I love the old perfume and cologne bottles, and wish I had gotten better pictures of these!

If you were looking for more practical things, like cleaning and laundry supplies ... you didn't have to go very far.  They were just a couple of aisles over ... against the wall.

Or perhaps you needed some eggs or syrup ...

Notice the prices on these ...

You were also in luck if you needed thread ...
They had a very good selection. 

And they could cut twine or yarn for you, too.

  They carried an excellent selection of enamelware  ...

If you grew up in the 50s, you might remember Hadacol Tonic (shown on shelf).  Hadacol was a patent medicine created and marketed worldwide as a vitamin supplement by a legendary Louisiana entrepreneur/politician.  Its principal attraction, however, was that it contained 12 percent alcohol.

I love the picture on this old 1934 calendar ...

How would you like to bake in an oven like this one?


1949 version of Home Depot ...

The old cash register still stands on a desk at the entrance to the museum ...

Wish book ...

And speaking of "wishing" ...

I'm sure the little ones who visited the store with their mamas and daddies back then did a lot of wishing while standing at the toy cases ...

A wind-up Charlie McCarthy

Wind-up Popeye and Olive Oyl
Olive Oyl plays an accordion while Popeye does a jig.

Sometimes it's frustrating to me to look at my pictures.  I see "parts" of things that I wish I had included in the shot (like the carriage the doll is in on the right side of the picture below!) ... or more closeups  ... or just MORE pictures!  

I am glad I stopped and read the poem shown in the picture below and took the time to capture it with my camera.  We need more parents who PLAY these days ... in my humble opinion, at least.

I love the color of this old scale ...

The museum is also home to several more exhibits, including a very impressive Children's Telephone Museum, a special hands-on exhibit that shows how the communication devices of yesterday evolved.

Children can play with an old-fashioned switchboard, telephone booths, and an interactive global calling display.

I hope you enjoyed "stepping back in time" with me for this visit to the Tupper Store museum.  I found it fascinating and hope you did too.  

By the way ... in case you're wondering ... the Tupper family had nothing to do with TupperWARE.  
I asked.

[Just for your information:  In case I have piqued your curiosity, Tupperware was developed in 1948, by Earl Silas Tupper (1907-1983), in Leominster, Massachusetts (a lonnnnnnng way from Jennings, Louisiana.]


Carolyn said...

This is truly a step back in time!
Love this tour. Now I want to visit Jennings just to see this store.

Stacey said...

What a cool place! So many perfect things from the past preserved there. Thanks for your great pics. :)

C. M. Designs said...

Your trip to Jennings has really given me a glimpse at how things looked when I was a baby. I was born in Jan. 1941.

The prices of shoes, suit coats, scarves, etc. show that they were made a long, long time ago. It is wonderful that all of the merchandise was saved and put back in the store for folks to enjoy seeing. It is mind boggling to see how different life is and times are now.

I worked in a Christmas shop for many years and the store owners used many of the pieces of display furniture that are shown in the museum. The furniture really added character of the store. The store was in an OLD house which made it even more interesting.

Thank you, again, for another interesting and informative trip to explore Louisiana.

I was thinking about the "birthday boy" over the past weekend.
Charlotte in Va.

racheld said...

Oh, Janie!! You know I've never told you you shouldn't have done something---but THIS---it's such a cascade of memory, the falling of them like leaves in the Fall wind, that I can hardly breathe for the tide of them.

This is rich taffy and buttery fudge, and I feel as if I've been gobbling marshmallows, trying to take it all in at once.

Every stitch and scent and color and shape of time ago is there, and I'm sitting here with my head bowed and my eyes closed, hoping as I type that I'm hitting the right keys.

More later, for the words are in my head for a hundred memory-posts and stories and times, and I have to stop the gulping of past shadows and get into some calm before I look again.

This is absolutely the most wonderful birthday gift---I cannot tell you, though I do seem to go on and on.

Thank you, you lovely friend, and moire non,


racheld said...

Janie, I've just linked Lawn Tea to this post, and used your magnificent Spanish-moss tree for the header.

Thank you again. Moire non, much moire non.


Jeanne said...

Hi Janie, I came over from Rachel's post and I am so glad I did. I can see why she loved your trip down memory lane with these awesome pics of days gone by. Your photos are so wonderful and I too am taken by the memories of my past that came flooding back. The difference is I am not a writer like Rachel. Smile. Her stories are so wonderful to read. It makes one feel like you are there experiencing her story.

Thank you for sharing the wonders of this store preserved in time.
xo, Jeanne

mississippi artist said...

Just stepped over from Lawn Tea-this is wonderful! I had a baby doll like the one in the pink dress and my grandmother had the exact white shoes as the ones in the box. Now I am going back slowly to look at the kitchen stuff!.