MAPLETOWN – Mapletown may be a small country town, but it is home to some large personalities, particularly 82-year-old Bob Watson.
“You know, I wake up every morning and put my feet down on the floor and look up and thank the Lord that it is another day and I can still go,” said Watson.
Watson, who owns Watson’s General Store in Mapletown, is a happy-go-lucky guy with an enchanting personality, who said the store has become more of a hobby than an actual general store.
“This place used to be booming back in the day, but now it just gives me something to do,” said Watson. “I don’t know what I would do with myself if I had nothing to do every morning.”
The many people who visit the store come in, not necessarily to purchase anything, but to spend time with the captivating owner, or to buy pop from one of the machines out front that usually bring in enough money to pay for Watson’s monthly electric bill.
The store still holds its rustic charm with the old metal “Watson’s Store” sign hanging above the small porch, the glass bottles of Coca-Cola available in the cooler and the dresser drawer that has been used as the cash register along with a calculator. So don’t come asking to pay with a credit card.
But the overwhelming Mapletown, Greene County and Watson family history hanging up in every empty space is what gives the small store a personality as big as its owner’s.
Old and new newspaper clippings of Mapletown events hang all over the walls, preserving the memories from Mapletown High School graduations to beauty pageants that had been won by a Mapletown resident.
Huge scrapbooks and picture frames sit all over the counters, filled to capacity with photos of family and friends of Watson, who has no problem sharing all of his interesting and heartwarming stories with anyone who walks through his doors.
But the story that brings out the most emotion in this grizzled, cigar-smoking man is a love story, a story about Ginny.
Virginia, as she was known before she met Watson, broke her engagement with another man after one dance with Watson. They were married six months later.
When asked about stealing another man’s woman, Watson laughed and exclaimed, “What are you talking about, she stole me.”
Watson gave her the nickname Ginny, and it stuck with her for life.
“My Ginny worked in this store all the time and raised three great kids,” said Watson.
Even though Ginny has passed on, her presence is evident throughout the store. Pictures of her are everywhere; sweaters she had worn while pregnant still hang where Watson can see them every day; and the obvious true love that Watson has always felt for her is seen and heard as he talks about his memories of her.
“A lot of old memories are in this house,” said Watson as he placed his Mapletown letterman’s jacket with his four letters in baseball, basketball, wresting and football back onto its place on the back wall of the store.
The store was built in 1919 and 1920 by the Clevenger family, who opened it as a Clover Farm store. Watson and his father purchased the store in 1955 and turned it into Watson’s General Store.
“We sold everything back in the day, and if we didn’t have it, we would go and get it.”
Watson said the store was busy all the time; everyone in the community came to make their purchases, and young children who came with their mothers were always given a pretzel rod or lollipop from the penny candy jars.
They had to have two people in the store at all times to keep up with the business. Watson, both of his parents, his wife and his three boys all lived their lives within the walls of the store.
The general store even had a VCR cassette tape rental room that still stands in the back of the store today.
“(The VCR rental) used to be a booming business, I mean everybody liked it,” said Watson. “But then they came out with those little records (DVDs) and now nobody wants the old cassettes anymore.”
Time and change have taken their toll on the building and the store over the years. The big-name chain grocery stores have wiped out most of Watson’s clientele.
Watson plans on taking the store with him when he goes.
“You know, I have lived a full life. I have been in the Air Corps and flew; I have shaken hands with the man who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima; I have my own business. I married the girl of my dreams and I have three great kids. I know I am a lucky man.”
Watson’s General Store has lost its booming business, but in exchange it has become a mini museum that captures the times and changes that have taken place in the world, Mapletown, and the Watson family.