Market Day Brought Bustle to Dowtown

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on November 30, 2002

 

MARKET DAY BROUGHT BUSTLE TO DOWNTOWN
Buyers and sellers jammed Dayton streets

By Roz Young

            The street market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 100 years ago in Dayton brought shoppers downtown in droves. Curbstones on one side of each Dayton street were marked off in 10-foot widths, and every year the market supervisor auctioned off the spaces to farmers.
            During the night preceding market days, farmers loaded their wagons with eggs, chickens, vegetables, fruits, flowers and other sale oddments and drove to town. They backed their wagons into the curb and unloaded their tables and showcases.
            By daylight the streets were lined solid, ready for customers. They were women, for the most part, dressed in hats, shirtwaists and dark skirts and carrying market baskets.
            Sherlock Gass, remembering watching from the window of the American Steam Laundry, wrote, `Let two marketers of even normal size, with a huge market basket on the left elbow, meet in midstream and stop to gossip, buffeted on both sides by others drifting in both directions, everyone else, too, with market baskets on their arms, and progress was impossible.
            `Market itself as an affair of sociability was its own justification. If it multiplied every marketer's acquaintance, if it made these stoppages happen every five minutes for her and every 10 feet for the hurrying pedestrian, why, that was the very unrestrained quality of market day.'
            Many of the farmers brought specialties in addition to their regular farm wares, Some sold cottage cheese made in their own kitchen. Others sold apple butter, mince meat, cider, freshly ground horseradish, dill pickles, coffee cake or baked apple dumplings.
            One woman from a farm on Troy Pike specialized in cakes with a lemon custard filling. She could never bake enough to last more than an hour after the market opened. She drove three hours from her farm to her stall on the street. She arrived every market day at 7 a.m., and by 8 she was sold out and drove three hours back home to start baking for the next market day.
            The Gass family bought apple butter from a stall in front of the American Steam Laundry, apples in front of the fish stall and baked beans from an enormous jar in a stall near the YMCA. These and a loaf of Bossler's brown bread made them more lunches than they ate at home and often dinner besides.
            One farmer whose stall was near the library sold nothing but dressed chickens.
            Every market day, a short man with a basket on his arms came along the street and stopped to look at the chickens.
            `How much?' he would ask.
            `Fifty cents.'
            The man would shake his head. `That's too high. I'll give you a quarter for a chicken.'
            The farmer always refused, and the little man walked on.
            One day the farmer discovered one of his hens had died of old age. `I'm going to have some fun,' he told his wife. `I'm going to sell him that old hen.'
            He dressed the chicken and put it in his wagon. When he saw the little old man coming, he took all of the chickens out of his case except the old hen.
            The shopper paused in front of his case. `I see you got only one chicken left,' he said. `How much?'
            `Fifty cents.'
            `Too high. Give you a quarter.'
            `Since it's my last chicken, I'll sell it to you for a quarter.'
            The farmer put the old hen into the shopper's market basket.
            The next week the little man stopped by the chicken stand.
            `How much is the chickens?' he asked.
            `Fifty cents.'
            `Too high. I'll give you a quarter.'
            `Nope. These are all fifty cents.'
            The little man turned to go away.
            `Just a minute,' the farmer said. `How did you like the chicken I sold you last week?'
            The man shook his head. `Can't say. It ain't done yet.'