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Early stores filled need for hard-to-raise staples

(ran PAS edition)

Many early settlers north of Tampa had a garden, a milk cow and maybe a few chickens.

Relatives worked together in raising, butchering, cleaning and cooking their own pigs, chicken and cattle.

Men often fished and hunted wild game. Women and children picked strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and huckleberries, which usually found their way to tables in pies and cobblers, fruit jellies and jams.

Vegetables were served fresh from the garden or were canned for later use.

But not everyone could grow or raise everything they needed.

To put a meal on the table, one still needed such staples as flour, sugar and rice. And tobacco, which many men either smoked or chewed after a meal, rarely was grown or cured locally.

Grocery stores sprang up to meet those needs.

A ledger from the old community of Drexel, near Ehren Cutoff, belonged to the Osteen, or O'Steen, family. (Its members spelled it both ways.) Entries date to the late 1800s.

The family sold groceries and brokered jobs. Members paid workers to load boxcars, cut cordwood and to do other odd jobs.

The first grocery store in North Tampa, now known as Lutz, was built in 1911 by P.E. Matthaey. It was a two-story building on First Avenue SW. Matthaey ran an ad in the North Tampa Bulletin that read, "Everything fresh and clean and all perishable goods kept on ice."

Prices then may seem unbelievable today, but keep in mind that 50 cents or a dollar was considered a good day's wage.

Twelve pounds of the best flour sold for 40 cents. For a quarter, one could buy either 4 pounds of rice or sugar, 7 pounds of cracked rice, or 10 pounds of cornmeal.

A dozen fresh eggs sold for 24 cents. Cut, a sugar-cured ham cost 20 cents a pound. Uncut, it was 18 cents. A pound of cheese cost 20 cents. The best butter available cost 35 cents a pound.

By August 1912, Duval Smith had become the proprietor of Matthaey's store. Smith expanded the business, promising customers groceries, hardware and dry goods at competitive prices.

The old grocery store had a lunch counter and restaurant.

To the best of our knowledge, the space occupied by the store eventually became home to a lumberyard run by J.I. Mann. Mann later sold it to George Sibthorpe, Lutz's first postmaster.

With the growing popularity of the automobile, roadside stores became more common.

Walter Powell owned the Stemper Grocery on the east side of State Road 5, now U.S. 41.

W.D. Coates ran a grocery and feed operation in Lutz for more than 20 years. Eventually, it was replaced with a modern concrete building dubbed the Lutz Superette.

Prices at the Superette, according to an ad in the Feb. 11, 1953, edition of the Lutz Civic Review, seem quite reasonable by today's standards.

Bologna cost 34 cents per pound. A pound of slab-smoked bacon cost 39 cents. A 4-pound bucket of pure lard cost 59 cents.

Hubert Godwin built a combination gas station, grocery store and home in central Pasco, where Ehren Cutoff meets U.S. 41. The lumber used to build it came from the old Ehren Pine Co. commissary.

Later, B.A. Wells bought the store from Godwin and named it Wells' Grocery.

Lake Padgett Station sold gas and some groceries. Many old-timers may remember a big, red Coca-Cola box that stood in one corner, full of iced-down cold drinks at a nickel a bottle.

W.A. Gowers, for whom Gowers Corner is named, sold only groceries at his original store. Later owners added gas pumps.

The South Riding Grocery, just south of where Hungry Harry's Famous Bar-B-Que stands today, sold fresh produce and groceries.

Adage of the week: "A slice from a cut cake is never missed."

_ Elizabeth MacManus is a lifelong central Pasco resident. She can be reached at 949-4352. Send letters c/o North of Tampa, P.O. Box 1439, Land O'Lakes, FL 34639.

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