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Mom and Pop: 1937

Mom and Pop: 1937

August 1937. "Storekeeper and wife in front of their store at Section 30. 'Bust' iron mining town near Winton, Minnesota." Medium format nitrate negative by Russell Lee for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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Mom and Pop storekeepers identified!

"Oppel’s Store, fore-runner of modern shopping centers, was famous throughout the area and did so well that eight clerks, a bookkeeper and two butchers were kept full time." -Minnesota Humanities Center

This is Joe Manning. I managed to identify this couple by contacting the local newspaper, the Ely Echo, which ran a short article with the picture. They were William and Nellie Oppel, who ran Oppel's store, near the iron ore mine. William died at the age of 72, about two years after this photo was taken. You can see more information, and more photos of the store, on my website.

Denver sandwich

Strange, here in Canada we refer to a "western sandwich" as a "Denver Sandwich" and usually it's an "Open faced Denver" that is the preferred.

Dr. Grabow

They're in love, seems to me. Radiates from them like sunshine. I especially like the pipe; it looks like one of my Dad's Dr. Grabows. He's unconsciously tamping it with his finger, as my dad used to do, and as I do now,on the rare occasions that I smoke.

7 Layer cake

The Denver Sandwich reminds me of what we New Yorkers called Seven Layer Cake. Alternate layers of vanilla and chocolate butter cream. My God, how I wish I could walk into one of those Bronx bakeries and buy a slab of that. Imitations are available everywhere including Palm Desert, California, where I am spending the winter.

Laugh lines don't lie

Both of them have plenty of laugh lines around their eyes, indicating a lot of fun in their lives.

I bet they were a hoot and a half to hang with.


"We Feature Empress Coffee" -- that's what the apron says.

Great photo!

Reminds me of all the mom and pop stores of days gone by. And they're actually smiling for a change.

She looks like my grandma

She wore a tidy little hairnet too.

"Take your brother with you

When you go to the store, pick up our meat order and Mr. Burge will have a surprise for you." Usually it was a dime credit for coke or candy for us. Our grocer was a butcher, baker, produce manager, and stock clerk. He did it all with help from his wife, probably just like the folks in the picture. He also knew every customer's name including their kids.

They are quite endearing

Would this have been what the song "Sixteen Tons" called a "company store"?

How many souls are on its books?

Denver Sandwich Candy

"Crispy wafers surrounded by creamy caramel and nuts coated with plenty of milk chocolate." What's not to like? Made by the Sperry Co. in Milwaukee.

Who has the keys to the Delorean?

There's something I love about this couple. They look like people you could meet today, or during any time period really. Great picture!

They must be....

in love. I am always impressed when I see a couple that look as comfortable around each other as these two do. I only wish my marriage had been so successful.

TV Mystery Solved

So this is where Sam Drucker got his start!

Denver Sandwich Candy

I had never heard of such a thing! The only photo I could.


Dave, you've made my day! One of the best pictures yet on Shorpy! A perfect pair.

Wonder what the apron says?

I love this photo. I grew up in North Carolina and I remember store keepers that looked much like this couple. I like the looks of his hands, they look like he has done some good honest work with them. Great picture.

Sans Pitchfork

American Gothic without the pitchfork, frowns and barn.

Worth a thousand words...

Much as I love those photos, a moment frozen in time does not need bustling streets and signs galore to say as much a this one does. Really a wonderful backward glance—thanks, Steve.

Fleischmann's Yeast

Ah yes, Fleischmann's Yeast. At one time, they operated a large factory in Peekskill, NY and when it was up and producing, a karge part of the Mid-Hudson Valley could inhale its scent.

Pipe Smoking

Dang... I miss my pipe. I finally get old enough to not look odd smoking a pipe, and I have to go and get all health conscious.

Whatza whizit

Really neat old Lee denim sign in the upper left. Has their early "house" or triangle logo and "slanted e" logo. Whizits were Lee jeans and overalls with zippers. The first jeans maker to use 'em. Less draft and no puckers -- smoother lines. When Levi's finally began offering 501ZXX jean with a zipper, one irate cowboy who had been sent a pair with his order as a promotion of the new product sent them back -- "It's like peeing through the jaws of an alligator!"

Thanks Again, Shorpy!

You did it again: another photo that brought a smile to my face. What a happy and sweet looking couple.

A sweet looking couple

Not sure if they are husband and wife, brother and sister or just good friends, but they look like they've been together for years, have seen a lot together and still enjoy each other's company. A great natural pose!

[The mystery of their relatedness can be solved by, quel surprise, reading the caption. - Dave]

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