visiting a piece of my childhood…

After my visit to the Clemson University campus, I thought it was time to go to another old stamping ground of mine, located in Pendleton, the next town over from us. It’s home to a number of historical buildings that you can tour, but the place my family always heads for is Pendleton Square. I’ll post photos of the Square itself, later, but it really is an old-fashioned Square with shops on all four sides.

One of these stores, The Mercantile, is owned by friends of our family. In fact, my grandfather knew the owner, Bill Earl, before he even met my grandmother. So, their friendship could be dated back to the 1940′s. We all knew each other, when I was a child in Alfred, NY, and then when my family decided to relocate to South Carolina, the Earls had already beaten us there.

From the age of eight, and on, I remember going to visit their store, and taking an interest in the things that you would expect. They had puppets, toys, and Boyds Bears (both stuffed and figurines), as well as rows and rows of candy, in old-fashioned jars. We would save up our allowances to buy rock candy, button candy, Sour Patch Kids, nonpareils, and anything else that struck our fancy.

When I was older, I would save my allowance for a longer stretch of time, in order to buy a dragon puppet that I had wanted for… well, it seemed like forever. I still have that puppet, and I’ve never seen another like him. My mom and I both went through a period of time where we collected Boyds Bears, the resin figurines, and I spent a lot of money in that section, over the years. Eventually, The Mercantile phased out their Boyds section, but I wasn’t royally upset, as my interest was starting to wane. There were still many more things there that I was interested in.

And then there were the rubber stamps. When I was little, their rubber stamp collection was not as large, and they hadn’t expanded into so many other craft areas. My brothers and I all would buy rubber stamps and ink pads to decorate paper or to make cards. I had the largest collection of stamps in our family, as well as a lot of containers of different colored emboss, and an embossing gun, to go with it.

If you’re not familiar with rubber stamping and embossing, then let me explain. Instead of using a colored ink pad, you would use a special clear embossing pad, thoroughly coat your stamp with the ink, and then firmly press it onto paper. Then, you open your container of emboss (gold, silver, or any color you please), and pour it onto the ink. Carefully picking up your paper, you pour the excess powder back into a container, and the design now shows up beautifully, with the powder stuck to the ink. Then, you get out your embossing gun, which is similar to a hot glue gun, but with a heating element like in a hair dryer. Aiming it carefully at your powdery design, you move it around until the embossing powder melts. Once the whole design has melted, it will be permanently affixed to your paper.

In later years, I remember one Christmas where we actually made all our Christmas cards, and I don’t know how many designs I embossed onto cards. When that was finished, I wore out several special pens, that I used to color in between the lines. It’s a lot easier than regular coloring, with embossed outlines that are easy to stop at.

Over the years, while my Boyds and stamping interests lessened, The Mercantile expanded their craft section, especially the rubber stamps, and started giving classes on every craft imaginable, and some that I hadn’t imagined. When I went to visit them, the other day, they were having a jewelry class, where they were working on a Viking Braid, which involves making a wire design, and then creating a similar design inside of the first. I’m not sure how it’s done, but it looked both beautiful and fun.

When I was eighteen, I worked at The Mercantile over Christmas vacation, and though it was only for about two weeks, the Earls’ son-in-law took the time to teach me to drink coffee. Now, my family has always had several coffee drinkers, but I’d never taken to it, because I can’t drink the coffee without sugar. But The Mercantile sells flavored coffee, and my coffee teacher assured me that I just hadn’t put the right amount of sugar into it. So, he poured me a wonderful flavor (I don’t remember what it was), and loaded it down with sugar and cream. And I’ve never looked back.

They always have a coffee sample container out, so I always get one, when I come to visit. And I always visit, even when I’ve been living several states away. Because wherever I moved to, whenever I would come home, The Mercantile was on my list of places to go, right after I arrived. I would pop in to have a good wander around, and have a good chat with whoever was working that day. I’ve had many good chats with Mr. Earl, keeping him up-to-date with the doings of my family, and he would do the same for me, concerning his family. He knew all of my parents’ generation, when they were younger, so I can tell him who has grandchildren, who got married, and so many other things.

Of all my brothers, who also enjoyed going there for candy, when we were younger, my youngest brother is the only one that continues to come in, now and again. But unlike me, who wants to catch up and see everything that’s new and everything that’s the same, Joe comes to go jewelry shopping.

When he was in his teens, and still looking at the toys and candy, Joe discovered that The Mercantile sells beautiful jewelry, and that it’s classier than the stuff you’ll find at Claire’s (that’s an American youth-aimed jewelry shop). Also, that it’s not extremely expensive. So, he began to buy earrings for my mom and me, for birthdays and for Christmas. He knew he had found a good thing, and he stuck with it. As the years went by, he also found out that the jewelry displays in the back of The Mercantile, by the work table for the craft classes, are not for sale, but you can ask them to make you one of them. In other words, he can commission them to make jewelry, from a wide selection of gorgeous samples. Oh, the possibilities are endless.

So, I wandered through the same building that I’ve been visiting since I was a little girl. I bought people Christmas presents there, and bought many things for myself. I marveled that Terri Earl could come up with so many amazing designs with rubber stamps, but I always stuck to the simplest designs. I wished that I could take every class they had, but never found the time to take one. And still, I always come back. Because they make you feel welcome, whether they know you or not, you feel at home immediately, and what they sell and craft are both beautiful and unique.

Also, I still come back for the candy. For those of my Aussie friends who remember me trying to tell them the perfect three candies to eat together… and then I drew a complete blank, here they are. Semi-sweet chocolate nonpareils (not milk chocolate or dark chocolate), Swedish Fish, and Sour Patch Kids. The combination of chocolate with something sweet and something sour is absolutely perfect. The only way to make it better would be to eat pretzels with it, and add in the salty element. When I was a child, I’d come in and get a half pound of each, but now, I buy their small bags with a dollar’s worth of candy in it. Just a little bit, not overdoing it any. Since I’ve been eating this combination since I was ten, or less, I think I can say that I know what I’m talking about.

If you’re ever in Pendleton, and you haven’t visited the Square, then you should. Over the next few days, I’ll be showing pictures of the Square itself, as well as another favorite store, Mountain Made, and a surprising discovery that I made there. I didn’t have time to go into the antique stores, that are on the corner of the Square. Take the time to visit and you won’t be disappointed!

4 thoughts on “visiting a piece of my childhood…

    • I wish I could’ve been here for the Jubilee. I’m sure you bought us presents there, too, but Joe took to buying earrings for me when I came home from PA and when his girlfriend lost an earring, he took the other back to have it copied. Just makes it memorable. :)

    • Thanks! I love stores like this, too, but nowadays, they have to really fit their niche if they’re going to compete with Walmart or Michael’s, with their craft stuff. Nothing wrong with competition, but I do find it a little sad when the little ones can’t keep up. The Mercantile seems to have found theirs, a long time ago, and hopefully it will be there for a long time yet.

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