Togetherness at the market

William Paul Corun, 84, a native of Ellicott City and former owner of Paul's Market on Main Street, was interviewed by folklorist Alison Kahn in 1997 as part of an oral history project coordinated by Friends of Patapsco Valley & Heritage Greenway Inc. This is the second of two excerpts from that interview.

So anyhow, [Ray Dorn] got his store [Villa Market], and I got mine, and of course Bladen [Yates] inherited his, and we worked together. And I told them - we knew each other well, we talked together - I told them, I said, "Look, the only way we're going to succeed is help each other, even though we're competitors, but we'll help each other." And we did, for the 25 years that I had the business, we did everything in the world for each other


....Anything that he'd sell out of, he'd send up and get from me, and vice versa. And the same way with all three. We never dealt in money. It was, you know, all on OK, and then at the end of the month we'd straight up.

....And it turned out to be perfect.... And I would have contractors that would dig ditches and things like that, and people that were building homes and one thing or another, they would run into ... animals alive and they'd either bring them to me alive or dressed. ...


The turtles we would dress for the people, and sell them the turtle and then charge them for dressing it, and had a regular business going. There's seven different kinds of meat in a turtle, and actually - I can open a turtle and I can show you or you can always recognize it - like chicken, veal, lamb, beef, pork. ... And if it's a young turtle, you can parboil it and fry it, and if it's a big turtle, you make soup

.... I would buy all the rabbits at the 4-H Club, and I bought rabbits from Johns Hopkins or one of the hospitals that uses them for experiments. ... if the rabbits was perfect, they would take them, and if they objected to them I would buy them. So we had the 4-H club going and the man encouraging the kids to raise rabbits and everything, and I'd sell every one I had.

....We'd have a Coke machine on the outside and business got so good, we had a Coke and a Pepsi, so we had two machines. And we did a landslide business of toys at Christmas, you know, layaway and all that stuff.

....Everything was definitely service, and we had 16-foot ceilings and we had stock reached to the ceiling and we had these package-lifters, you know, 12-foot package lifters that we would knock it down and catch it as they come, and either you caught it or it knocked you out, if you had a big box of soap powder or something.

So people got sport-like, you know, liked to see it, and the customers that we had, when they would have company in the summer vacation time, first place they'd bring them would be down to the store. ... And we got to be quite a legend or a landmark.

As a matter of fact, when I sold the business out, we were doing better than $1,000 a day for a little store like that. But people would come in and they would enjoy, you know, the atmosphere and everything. And we'd be elbow to elbow, and I'd notice a new customer come in and I'd go and make myself known, and I'd say, "Now this is what you call togetherness," and they laughed and enjoyed it.

We each had our regular customers, and of course we had account receivables - charge accounts. And the beauty of the three of us working together [was] if one person beat this guy, we'd tell the other one. We'd call him and say, "Mr. Jones just beat me out of $40, $50," or something. I said, "Be careful, don't charge him," you know.

[Then] we would probably say [to the customer], "No, we're not taking on new charge accounts," and then they'd get upset about it, one thing or another, and then I would say, "Well you didn't pay Ray what you owed him last month," see? So then, that was it.


....Yeah, we made home delivery up to the point where I couldn't get help enough to take on the new accounts, and then I told the old accounts - the older people, one thing [and] another - that we would deliver to you as long as we were in business. And we did. ... You'd carry the package from the truck to the house to the kitchen, and if the people were like invalid or one thing [or] another, you'd put them groceries away. Everything, you know, there was no end.

....And then to make matters more interesting, I took up taxidermy business and I did taxidermy work for 20 years. ... [Clagett] Higinbothom, the undertaker, see ... he sent for the course.

...And him and I got to be friends over the years. He was older than I was and he practically treated me like a son - him and his wife never had children. And I would help him retrieve bodies and fill in for pallbearer and one thing [and] another. He'd come over to the store and Clagett would say to Jim Brown, "Jim, I want to borrow Paul for maybe 20 minutes, half an hour."

He'd go, "OK."

So I'd take my coat and apron off and so I'd go with Higinbothom, and him and I would go out and retrieve the bodies that died during the night or whatever. And then I'd come back and get in the store, and worked in the store, of course, the rest of the time. ... so it was a lot different than it is today. And course, maybe the people were a little different too, but we had a world of our own and I enjoyed every minute.