When he steps inside the crumbling building, with its decaying porch and missing window panes, Bill Tillett can still see the bustling general store where he played as a child.
A broken chicken-wire cage--designed to keep mice out--once brimmed with cornmeal and flour. A hollow metal ball suspended above the counter held the string that his father used to tie customers' packages in brown paper.
And then there was the piece de resistance for the children who visited S.E. Munday's General Store in Waxpool: sweets. "I really remember the candy counter," said Tillett, 63, who favored licorice whips and Milky Way bars. "It was a glass case that was rounded in the front and had sliding doors on the back."
Now the store, opened sometime before 1898 and boarded up since 1943, will be recreated in more than Tillett's memory.
Tillett has donated the remnants of his family-owned business to Loudoun County. The county plans to restore the counters, safe, scale and other wares and display them as part of the Lanesville Heritage Area and Loudoun County Heritage Farm Museum at Claude Moore Park.
Supervisor Joan G. Rokus (R-Leesburg), who helped coordinate the donation, said she was astounded by the treasures inside the tumbledown store. "The items have been fascinating, things that haven't been touched since 1943," Rokus said. "I'm so delighted they wanted to share that history with future generations from Loudoun County."
The shop has been in the Tillett family since 1906, when Bill Tillett's grandfather, S.E. Munday, bought it after an illness forced him to stop farming. Tillett's parents, C.R. and Tessie Tillett, eventually took over the combination store and post office but closed it during World War II because they "didn't want to fool with the ration stamps," Tillett said.
Tillett and his cousin, Bob Munday, 62, of Rockville, still remember when the whitewashed store with blue shutters and tin roof was a constant flurry of activity. People would walk miles to pick up canned goods or grain or to gossip at the store, which stood amid farmland at Waxpool and Belmont Ridge roads.
"This was kind of a department store for the area," Tillett said. "It was a thriving business."
Guns and ammunition lined one wall and cosmetics another, Tillett recalled. There was a hand crank telephone and even a voting booth. Two wooden brackets still attached to the ceiling above one counter were a perfect fit for brooms and mops. The store was chock full of everything from animal medicine to fatback, and "everything had its place," he said.
Remnants of faded signs still tacked to the door advertise "Vicks cough drops. Medicated with ingredients of vicks vaporub" and Prince Albert pipe tobacco, "The National Joy Smoke."
Inside, a few weathered supplies have survived the years. A broken box of "Eureka condition powders for horses, cattle, hogs, etc." sits on the counter. "Preventative for all diseases of the blood and digestive organs." Nearby is a half-empty tin of rusty nails. Behind a counter, a bin is imprinted with the message: "Crushed oats. Always fresh and sweet."
Supplies weren't all that the customers came for, Tillett recalled. Visitors would linger around a cozy wood stove in the center of the room. As a boy, Tillett said, he occasionally would fetch wood to keep the fire burning.
"There was a bench there for people to come and tell tales," Tillett said. "There's probably been many a lie told."
The stove is gone now, but a brick chimney marks its place. On the dirty, worn floor one can still make out two shallow indentations in the wooden planks that had been filled with sawdust and used as spittoons for tobacco-chewing customers.
Bob Munday said his father, Jim Munday, would cut customers' hair around the stove.
As a child, Munday said, he'd often visit the store. "I used to come out and get a bottle of pop and some ginger snaps or those coconut strips," Munday said, remembering the pink-brown-and-white candy that was his favorite treat.
After the Tilletts closed the store, it was quickly filled with clutter--extra farm equipment and other odds and ends, Bill Tillett said. When he and his late brother, Edgar, inherited the building, they both hoped it could someday become a museum.
Busy raising cattle that graze outside the store, Bill Tillett said he never got around to pursuing the idea. Then, last year, Tillett considered selling some of his farmland, and the possibility prompted him to offer the store and a half-acre parcel to the county to be turned into a museum.
Although county officials decided that the building was too dilapidated, the Board of Supervisors was happy to take the furnishings and leftover stock to Claude Moore Park.
Tillett said he is eager to see the old furnishings restored and displayed after years of collecting dust. "My brother really wanted to make it a museum, and me, too," Tillett said. "It would be nice to have it here, but it will get more exposure at Claude Moore."
CAPTION: William Tillett outside S.E. Munday's General Store, which has been in his family since 1906.
CAPTION: Tillett stands in the doorway of the store he inherited from his father. The county plans to restore the counters, safe, scale and other wares and display them at Claude Moore Park.
CAPTION: William Tillett, right, raises cattle that graze outside the old store, left, which closed in 1943. "This was kind of a department store for the area," he said. "It was a thriving business." Above, remnants of a Prince Albert tobacco ad still cling to the store's front door.