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Our Community Back When ~ Waynedale Celebrates 103 Years

The following is based on the first-hand accounts of local historian, Edgar B. Noble Jr.

In the heart of Waynedale, a community nestled within Fort Wayne, Indiana, stands a testament to the persistent spirit of early 20th-century America—a building with a prominent high roofline, constructed by Forest May and skillfully plastered by Ruhl Buskirk. This edifice not only embodies the architectural aspirations of its time but also the economic ethos that prevailed: a system of bartering, where goods and services were exchanged in the absence of cash. This practice of trade, deeply ingrained in the daily lives of Waynedale’s residents, fostered a network of mutual support and communal resilience.

The 1920s marked a period of burgeoning prosperity in Fort Wayne, thanks in part to the success of wholesale grocery outlets such as A.H. Perfect and G.E. Bursley. My father, drawn to the innovative business models of the time, chose to align with the G.E. Bursley “Home Store,” captivated by its cooperative advertising and the benefits of volume purchasing. This decision, reflected in the signage captured in a cherished photograph, signaled a pivotal moment in Waynedale’s commercial development.

Bartering, a tradition as old as commerce itself, thrived within this vibrant community. Mrs. Kimmel, with her weekly visits in a horse and buggy, became a symbol of this barter economy. My responsibilities included tending to her horse—a task that illustrated the distinct economic roles within families of that era. While men managed the broader financial decisions, women, like Mrs. Kimmel, controlled the revenues from poultry and eggs. She would bring eggs, carefully packed among oats to prevent breakage, highlighting the meticulous nature of this trade system. The oats, after fulfilling their primary purpose, would then feed her horse, underscoring the circular economy of bartering where nothing was wasted, and every exchange had multiple layers of value.

The narrative of Waynedale’s commerce is further enriched by Dwight Campbell, the ‘huckster,’ who, alongside his wife Mable Weaver, brought the convenience of a traveling grocery to the community’s doorstep. This service catered especially to the farmers’ wives, who wielded significant economic power through their ‘chicken & egg’ money, illustrating the personalized and interconnected nature of Waynedale’s market.

In 1925, our building expanded to include a fresh meat display and a butcher’s block, marking a significant evolution in grocery retailing. This section, along with a built-in commercial ice box, signified the community’s adaptation to changing consumer needs. The advent of electricity later transformed this space into an ice cream parlor, where Lucille (Lee) Slater’s “Lollypops” became a local delight. These treats, vanilla ice cream dipped in hot chocolate and sold for a nickel, symbolized the simple joys and communal spirit of Waynedale.

Our store, staffed by a dedicated team including my brother Jim and me, became a hub of activity and warmth. My mother, at the cash register, and my father, deeply involved in community organizations, embodied the ethos of service and trust that defined our business practices. This era, characterized by a profound sense of community and mutual respect, painted a vivid picture of Waynedale’s identity.

Reflecting on those years, it’s evident that Waynedale’s essence was woven through the intricate bonds of neighborliness, shared responsibility, and the joy found in simple exchanges. This story, set against the backdrop of a community embracing change while holding fast to the values of cooperation and mutual support, celebrates a way of life that continues to inspire the spirit of Waynedale.

The Waynedale News Staff
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