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Old 52 General Store brings back memories of bygone era

Naomi Bradbury-Marchand, West Funeral Home's family service coordinator, visited the Old 52 General Store in Sabin, Minn., last week, in search of samples of old-fashioned candies and treats to serve at West Funeral Home's January Nostalgic Round Table. She was greeted by West Fargo resident, Kari Onkka and Hannah Heller of Sabin, part-time employees at the store, who helped her choose candies from the store's huge selection of treats from the past.

Bradbury-Marchand was delighted to find rows of glass jars filled with what many of us remember as "penny candy," bags of black strap molasses licorice sticks dating back from 1830, Black Jack gum, Fizzies, candy cigarettes, jaw breakers, Chick-O-Sticks, and Slo Poke suckers.

Kari Onkka serves up old-fashioned sodas from behind a fountain lined with shelves stocked with colorful bottles of flavored syrups. Onkka said she has had requests for every combination of flavors imaginable for sodas and sundaes. However, their most popular orders are Black Cows, Brown Cows, Chocolate Monkeys, and Strawberry or Orange Dreamsicles, made the way many customers remember ordering them from their local soda fountain jerk after school when they were growing up.

Chuck and Ellen McWethy, owners of MAC'S, Inc., opened the Old 52 General Store in July of 2007 with Chuck's brother, Mike. Located on Main Street in the heart of Sabin, the building site has a colorful history. At one time a grocery store stood there. Unfortunately, the original building was destroyed by fire. The new building housed a variety of businesses over the years, but stood empty for many years before it became Old 52 General. The McWethy partners lease the building from friends, who purchased the boarded up building and spent months renovating the building, inside and out.

Orderly shelves stocked with groceries, general merchandise, and hardware fill the back half of the store, while shelves of old-fashioned toys and candy occupy the front half. Vintage commercials from the 1950s to 1970s play on a small TV on the counter as customers browse through an eclectic assortment of merchandise. Lincoln Logs and Erector sets, a Slinky dog, and a Jack-in-a-Box rest next to a Whoopie Cushion. Back-to-back with the toy shelf is a rack holding Orange Crush Pop, Nesbitt's Strawberry, and bottles of Green River, dated 1919. Wooden barrels stacked on the floor are filled with bags of licorice drops. Behind the counter, Zig Zag Cigarette Papers are tucked on a shelf next to cans of chewing tobacco and cartons of cigarettes. Watkins products are on display nearby.

Next to the front window, a round checkerboard-topped table sits in a corner with a box of wooden checkers, where customers can indulge in a game of checkers, eat pizza, or sip on their sodas. Black and white framed photographs line the walls.

If you haven't had a chance to visit Old 52 General Store yet, you don't know what you've been missing.

Chuck McWethy, owner of the Old 52 General Store, will provide a display of pictures and memorabilia from his store for West Funeral Home's January Nostalgia Round Table on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

To commemorate Valentine's Day, the February Round Table topic will be Entertainment and Dating in the Past. The Round Table will be held in West Funeral's dining hall, located at 226 4th Ave. W., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. John Bye, an archivist at NDSU, will provide photos of the Crystal Ballroom, local roller rinks, and entertainers of the past. Additional seating will be available for anyone wishing to listen to the discussion as a spectator.

Tracy Briggs and Paul Bougie from WDAY Radio will be promoting the Notalgic Round Table during their morning show on Feb. 5, and asking WDAY listeners to call in and reminisce.

For more information, or for transportation to the Round Tables, contact Naomi Bradbury-Marchand at 282-6699.