Ernie Jupenlaz on steps of Shop
Jupenlaz Harness Shop
1890 to 1980
CHANGING TIMES IN THE HARNESS SHOP
By Ernest Jupenlaz
Ernest Jupenlaz was born May 30, 1903 in Richmond Township. He attended Mansfield Schools and graduated from Mansfield High School in 1922.
"Ernie" as he is affectionately known by the town, personifies the stability and morality that is the base of the American Ideal. Throughout his years in business, both with his Uncle, and in his own right, he has been known for integrity and honest dealing. He has helped anyone who came to him in need, and in his quiet way, offered a word of advice here and there that has kept many people on the right track.
Ernest Jupenlaz is as much a part of the Mansfield scene as the park, and is highly regarded. He has successfully and gracefully made the transition from the days of the horse to the present.
In this book he modestly recounts some of the happenings along the way.
Chester P. Bailey
CHANGING TIMES IN THE HARNESS SHOP
Although the name JUPENLAZ came to the shop ninety years ago, it all started for me fifty-eight years ago in 1921. At that time my Uncle Fred made a proposition with my Dad in regard to letting me come to his shop to learn the harness trade. Although I was a little runt and still in high school, I was not impressed myself. Dad reasoned that my being small and light, I was not suited for farming. I conceded with the promise of trying it for a year. That was a long year and when it was up I still did not like it. It was argued that still being in school, I did not have the fair chance at the try-out, so I agreed to one more year.
In that year I graduated from high school and without further thought I continued at the shop. My small size was both humorous and controversial at times. It came back to us that a local druggist had considered my Uncle in violation of the Child Labor Law. I admit that I stood on about a five inch box at the bench when I started.
One day when Uncle Fred happened to be out for some reason, Hyram Rarick came down from his hilltop farm with a need at the shop. I learned later from a local grocer that Hyram said "I canít understand Fred going off and leaving that kid in charge." Also on the lighter side, Gil Webster, a little man himself, usually referred to me as "little britches" so then, he being a small man himself, it came about between Uncle and me that the name became reversed and he became our "little britches." As time went on I must have stretched out some but I donít know just when I abandoned the box to reach the bench. That reminds me of the day when Archie Carpenter was in. He looked me up and down then said "You finally did grow up. There was a time when I thought you wouldít be big enough to eat out of the cat dish."
Letís not think for a minute that my thoughts of the farm were put in the background. Every spare time and Sundays I was right back there in the great outdoors among nature, the cattle and all the goings on. For many many years that followed, my summer vacation was to spend it on the farm helping with the making of hay. Also I was always wanted to be on hand for the threshing and silo filling.
It was also interesting when, in those days, the stores were open on Saturday evenings. That was the time when the farmers came to town and joined their fellow farmers to discuss their weekís accomplishments and the like. Summer evenings were often spent sitting out on the front steps.
Down to Business at Hand
Growing into the business was gradual. The very beginning was to unpack freight boxes and putting away the goods. In those days the various buckles, rings, etc, were bought in gross lots. Harness hames were usually in one or two dozen pair lots. The rolls of leather came in ten side rolls of leather and usually five to ten rolls were in a shipment. In those days we made two dozen bridles at a time. I remember sitting day after day hand sewing in the tuck loops on the bridle cheeks. It was customary to wear leather ferrules around the thumbs to prevent the thread from cutting into the flesh when snugging up the stitches. This process was done with the aid of the "stitching horse," the old standard harness tool which was a stool with a wooden clamp that held the article being stitched. While I was still learning, in order to keep up with demands, a third man was hired during the winter. He was L. Guy Brown who had learned the trade from Uncle Fred. Guy had gotten into trucking which, in those days was more of a summer job. Winter also was the time for oiling and repairing the farmerís harnesses. Now it is almost unbelievable what we did for $4.00. We took the whole harness apart, removed the hames and painted them. We cleaned, brushed and scraped the dirt from the straps, then submerged the harness into a vat of oil by means of a wire basket. The length of time the harness was in the oil varied according to the condition of the leather. One hour was a good standard. Then it was left to drain, preferably over night. Then came the process of assembling it all again after all straps had been gone over with a black harness dressing. This brings to mind on one occasion we forgot and left the harness in the oil over night. It was well saturated but we made the best of it. Some time later the farmer told us that we didnít spare the oil on his harness. He said he could hardly control his horses because the reins slipped in his hands. But we kept the secret.
As time went on and I became quite adept at the work, I must say that my Uncle and I became a real efficient team. When it came to making harnesses each knew his job and brought the work to a speedy completion. It was almost entirely my assignment to operate the sewing machine. By making reins in lots separately and bridles separately we got so we could turn out about one team set in a day. We practically proved that one day. On this particular day we received a call from Westfield, Pa., from a horse dealer who had the sale of a team provided he could get a harness of a style which we did not have in stock. He wanted it as soon as possible. This call came in the middle of the afternoon. At four oíclock Uncle Fred said, "Let us show him something." So he started cutting the leather and it was customary to "sweat" the leather over night. The next morning and all day we were busy making up the harness. That very same evening the completed harness was delivered in person by us. Mr. Seager could hardly believe it when we drove in.
When it comes to change, I remember that in my earlier days at the shop a 19 inch collar was quite standard. As time went on and larger farm machinery came along, so also larger and heavier horses became popular. The collar sizes kept stepping up 21-22-23 and not unusual toward the last 25-26. The 1 ½ harness was outmoded early. Then the 1 ¾" was standard for quite some time. Finally it was too gave way to the 2". Of course the woodsmen went up to 2 ¼ and 2 ½ harnesses. I recall only one lumberman who demaded a 3" harness.
Horse collars were a big business and the shop had the whole ceiling lined with collar hooks and as I remember, one season all hooks were filled and two dozen collars stored in the basement for one seasonís needs. There was much collar swapping too as horses changed hands.
It comes to mind, one day when Henry Beardslee, a kindly farmer, but with impaired vision, came in for a used collar and Uncle Fred was showing him a collar and telling him of the wearing qualities still in the collar and as Mr. Beardslee took a close squint at the collar said "yes, but there is already a little hole in it," and Uncle Fred responded, "Someone told me you couldnít see well." It was all good naturedly and both smiled about it.
Jupenlaz harnesses earned a good reputation for quality and service. The secret, if you can call it a secret, is to know your leather. A side of leather, unlike a sheet of any man-made material, has its best parts and lesser quality parts, just like the meat that it originally covered. Therefore, to know just what part of the harness needs the best, and where the lesser quality will suffice.
When a harness came up in an auction, the auctioneer would not forget to mention when it was a Jupenlaz make. I must not forget that there might be a complaint now and then. One day a customer from Tioga came in and complained to Uncle Fred that his harness was not wearing well. My Uncle asked what parts were worn out. He said there were no parts really worn out, but the harness as a whole was showing quite a bit of wear. Uncle asked if he knew just how long he had had the harness. He replied, "Iíve only had it seventeen years."
We did, however, at one time get some leather that appeared ideal for certain straps in the harness, but soon found out that this lather could not stand the sweat of horses. There were no re-calls in those days but free replacements were made to all complaints. Our serving area kept expanding. Many harnesses were made and shipped to Elmer Shaffer, a teaming and construction contractor at Berwick, Pa. Then too, when M Bennett & Sons from Indiana, Pa., came to build the new concrete road from Mansfield to Tioga, we got the job of making their harnesses.
The Bennetts were very particular because they had only choice horses, so the harness had to be choice too. It was a pleasure to make these really fancy with all brass trimmings, yet sturdy and of a different style called the Clarion County style. As the Bennetts moved to another job at Wyalusing, Pa., we still supplied the harness. We had a good supply for them so hired a Model T trucker and delivered the truckload to Wyalusing on a Sunday.
We also made man collar top pads of our own design which were lined with sheepskin. These were sold to other dealers and as far away as Olean, NY. It was not hard to distinguish the difference between a good horseman and teamster from lesser efficient. This showed up among the lumbermen. A good horseman-teamster knew just how to give his team an advantage in a pull, so these fellows broke up much less equipment than a less experienced one.
There were different styles of horse collars, such as genuine Irish, farmers Irish and all leather. The so called genuine Irish was the choice for best heavy business. This is a leather collar that has the padding come clear to the top point. The padding is of curled hair covered with collar ticking fabric. In the earlier days there were several manufacturers of these collars. One manufacturer used a Shamrock for his particular label.
At one time we had some of these. Later we switched to another brand which seemed superior. One day we had a customer for a genuine Irish collar but he insisted we were not offering a genuine Irish. This caused a little argument. The customer finally said, "It canít be a genuine Irish collar because it doesnít have the Shamrock on it," so he would not buy.
When these collars became worn and torn, refacing was quite something else. Uncle did not do much of this, so one day when we visited Lew Mills in Morris, Pa., he insisted to show me how to go about it. Lew was loosing his eyesight and became totally blind. I seemed to master the job of refacing and often wished I had taken a picture of a dilapidated collar before and after.
I donít remember how it came about, but on different occasions we received a batch of collars from the penitentiary farm at Bellefonte, Pa., which I refaced or repaired.
As time went on, the mid-west was first to become mechanized. There by many horses were being retired and so the demand for harness leather became less. This accounted for tanneries to discontinue harness leather. This made it necessary for us to change suppliers from time to time. In my time I remember going from a tannery in Saginaw, Michigan, then to Pittsburgh, Pa., then to Buffalo, NY, then to Ambler, Pa., and finally to the present supplier at St. Louis, Missouri.
The depression years were trying times. Yet our Tioga County was cushioned to quite an extent by the discovery of natural gas on a hill out of Tioga. The rush was on to lease the lands of the farms, so much lease money was brought in which took care of many a farmers taxes. It was still slow at the shop and I was not earning my wage, so took a voluntary cut. One customer was amased to see me building bird houses to while away the time.
Uncle finally came up with the idea to meet the farmers halfway. So we made harnesses with no frills or trimming, but with good quality that could be sold for $50.00 per set. This idea got things moving and as time went on and customers were more able, they demanded the extras again and by their own demands the cheaper harnesses were again eliminated. As times slowly improved there came a number of years good for the harness trade.
A transition was about to begin. As farmers became more prosperous the mechanized farming was coming out of the west and starting to make inroads into the eastern hills. There were customers who vowed they would never give up their horses. Many of these had to join the trend and eliminate the teams.
I recall at about this time I said to my Uncle "I believe it is time that I look for a more promising future." He told me not to be disturbed as he was sure that there would always be enough business left to keep one man busy. I now am sure he was right.
About this time though (1940) there was still a trade magazine published "The Harness World" in which I noticed an ad in the latest issue: Wanted -Harness-maker for making bridles and riding equipment. Must have an eye for symmetry for silver trimming. Edward Boblin Saddlery and Silver Smithing, Hollywood, California. As a lark I thought I would answer the ad, telling a few things about myself. Now, to my surprise, it must have been by return mail, I received a picture of his beautiful establishment along with the most attractive wage and fringe benefit offer.
Then the question "If you decide to come, how soon can you be here?" Naturally it was quite a thrill and of course I showed it to Uncle. We agreed that it was an interesting offer. He said he would not stand in my way, but there would be no turning back as he was ready for retirement and would not carry on. Possibly I knew myself better than he did for I knew I was still country oriented and would never fit in a city. I also knew as he mentioned, that sometime the shop would be mine. So I sent back my regrets.
This brings to mind not a great length of time after this a big husky cowboy stopped at the shop and asked me to sew his belt buckle on to his belt. As I was sewing the buckle on I kept admiring the beautiful silver buckle. When I had completed the work, I noticed on the back "by Edward Bohlin, Hollywood, Cal." I walked to the front of the store where my Uncle was and said "would you like to see a beautiful buckle, and it is by Ed Bohlin!" The cowboy spoke up and asked "What do you know about Edward Bohlin?" Then I told of having been offered a job. The man then identified himself as Ken Maynard of the movies and mentioned getting into Bohlinís place occasionally.
Soon, however, a cloud loomed on the horizon and we were in World War II. With the tightening of gasoline supplies, we were now busy keeping the farmers horsepower going. Added to this came the clamoring from milk companies for milk wagon harnesses to put horses back on the streets for deliveries. Besides supplying Williamsport and Painted Post more of our harnesses went to New Jersey. Now then as busy as we were, Uncle Sam was scraping the bottom of the barrel for man power, so being single, I was put in Class A-1 for the draft. It was not long before I got my call and was off to camp on the 12th of October. I was shipped to the brand new camp at Atterbury, Indiana. The camp was scarcely finished so many things needed doing. On the first morning we were lined up and the Captain asked if there was a carpenter in the lot. There were no replies so he said "Jupenlaz, I believe we have a hammer that will fit your hand." That was my good luck perhaps. I started by finishing the lids on the coal boxes at the barracks, then it led to making rifle racks and on to training aids. This job let me miss many drills and hikes. One day the Captain said "we need to keep you around the supply room so much, weíll make you our mail orderly." This also made me a Cpl. I liked the mail business because all the boys liked the mailman. It must have been most of a half mile to the Post Office. Things got pretty heavy before Christmas so I was given a helper and a jeep when real necessary. I didnít miss out on everything. I did get into the field work and even made marksman at the rifle range with a loaned rifle. Things went along quite smoothly and one day while working on a project the Captain came along and said in a kind of dreamy way, "Jupenlaz, I donít know what we are going to do with you, we couldnít send you into battle with a hammer and saw in your hand."
After the first of the year came a surprise new order that those over thirty-eight could leave, provided they had a job that would still aid the war effort. Being over thirty-eight, I was glad to accept. My buddies wouldnít believe that I was that age. One of my lieutenants told me I should never have been put in the infantry, that my ability belonged in the ordnance. He asked if he could get me transferred would I stay? I declined of course.
Things really moved fast and it was only a couple of days until about eight of us had our Honorable discharge, were paid up along with fare home.
I looked forward to the surprise upon my getting back. However, my heart sank when I came to the shop and found (Closed due to illness.) I knew right away that I was back in the saddle-ery again. So after three months for Uncle Sam it was back to the leather business as usual. Uncle Fred barely made it, so it was some time that I did the best I could alone. After a gradual recovery Uncle was back to share some of the load. Much of my memory during this trying time is quite hazy. It all added to my learning as I had to take care of ordering and paying bills, which was not my usual end of the business.
It is hard to say when it started because it was so gradual. In the beginning all we did was make harnesses but as time went on a few suitcases were added and the luggage business grew into a major side line. The glove and mitten line grew to an important part. I still remember when we had less than half a dozen purses in stock. Now the billfold end of the line is possibly the most important. By adding a monograming press we now sell very few purses and billfolds that do not have the names printed on them. This is all a free service. Although there were always a few custom articles made up, as time went on, there were more and more of these. Many dog collars were made by the dozens and sold to dealers. The dairy industry was now changing to tie stalls for their cows so there was a big demand for cow neck straps.
As mechanized farming came about rather fast and the work horses were retired many horse lovers turned to having a saddle horse around. As one line in the shop faded out a new line took its place. So this brought about stocking saddles. Making riding bridles and other riding equipment kept things active. Since Uncleís illness he was not as active in the work as before but he was around every day. However, one day he mentioned that he did not feel very well and said he would be going around by Dr. Vincent on his way to lunch. That afternoon Dr. Vincent came to see me at the store and suggested that I attend to all phases of the business and not let them accumulate. By this I knew what he was telling me. It was about two weeks later when my dear Uncle Fred passed away. The date was May 7, 1947.
Things seem to have a way of smoothing out the big bumps. By Uncle Fred slowing down after his former illness, had me more or less prepared to carry on alone. All of our suppliers were very co-operative in giving me a chance to prove that this new management was going to operate with the same basic principles.
The custom jobs, perhaps increased more than anything else. One time when I was making childrenís pistol holsters I had a customer come in who was from Miami, Florida. He said he had a store and he was interested in what I was doing and asked if I would make holsters for his store, so for a few years I made and sent him dozens of toy holsters. Then too, through my sister in Florida, by chance I got to making equipment for the Florida State University Circus. These included many leather mouth-pieces for hanging by the teeth, some foot harness and shoulder straps and belts with a cup to support the pole for the actor.
Repairing was always a big item and somehow I got to repairing zippers. This took no advertising to get business, word of mouth did this. It reminds me of removing a slip from a zipper more than once on the person. However, the surprise was one day when a lady had zipper trouble in her dress at the bus stop. She was sent to me for help. I took a look and said I could not fix it on the person. She said "then Iíll take it off", so she did and I fixed it and she was soon merrily on her way. There were a few times too, when men had emergencies and had to remove their pants for a repair job.
The shop was always an attraction for youngsters and we were always pleased to see them interested. Some of the local boys liked to come in and watch. Most were still too small to see the top of the work bench so I would let them sit on the bench. Of course little hands would have to be busy so they were always cautioned not to use the knives or sharp tools. Often a piece of scrap leather and leather punch kept them busy punching holes. I might, however, catch one using a forked edge cutter as a tack lifter and another time one was pushing the leather out of the punch tube with a round awl. These tricks were quite the reverse of being a benefit to the tools. On one particular day Jim Knowles was the one on the bench and when I was not aware of it he had the round knife. All of a sudden he was throwing his hand up and down and behind him the blood was spattering up and down on the window. I was so startled and asked what had happened. He said, "I cut my finger", so I hurried him to the sink to wash it for a band aid, but he jerked away from me and dashed out the door for home. On my way back from lunch I stopped at his home and asked his mother how he was. She said he cut a little slice off the end of his finger but we would be O. K. I said, "I know because I found the little slice on my bench." Later in the afternoon Jim came in and asked if I still had the little slice. For some unknown reason, I did have it on a piece of tissue paper. He wanted it so away he went. He is a grown young man and neither he nor I will ever forget the incident. I have probably become more alert as to what was going on after this. Along with co-operating with the young customers I have made harness for pets as small as a red squirrel and pet rats. When it came to large animals, I was cut short on making a head gear for an elephant, which was still in the inquiry stage when the owner-trainer suddenly died. As things were now going at quite an even keel my thoughts become diverted.
It was my good fortune in meeting a delightful teacher in the Department of Home Economics at the college, Melinda Fiat. I knew then that soon my bachelor days would be over. My wife resigned from the college at the end of the term.
I remember when we left on our wedding tour through New England states, I just put a sign on the shop door ĎClosed for Alterations.í Some time later an out of town customer was in and said to me, "Well, the place looks the same to me" and I remarked, "Yes, nothing changes in the old harness shop." He then told me that the last time he was in town there was a sign on the door and then it came to me and I told him that the alterations were regarding to the management, not the shop.
Melinda was the best thing that ever happened to me. Always encouraging me on any idea I might have. I always liked to participate in our Fourth of July parades. It did not matter how absurd my idea might be for something different for the parade, she was all for it and encouraged me to do it. Projects included the building of a chariot, a one horse shay and a cannon that would shoot paper wad balls. Melinda was a big help at the shop and always on hand at busy times. She was the best clerk to wait on customers. Many times when she was not in the customers would ask what had become of my nice clerk. She was quick to learn horsey terms and the many various harness and saddle parts. Then too with our spending many Sundays at my brotherís farm she learned the joys and problems of farm life which was all new to her.
Now time marches on and the old harness shop becomes more of a tourist attraction every year. Other shops have faded from the landscape but I would like to think of this one as a "Survival of the Fittest". Visitors from far and near like to drop in for reminiscence or just to have a look.
This brings me up to the year 1969. On an ordinary spring day I had such a visitor. He had some questions as to what I made here myself. He asked if he might take some pictures to which I was agreeable. He finally introduced himself as Mack McCormick from the Smithsonian Institution and asked if I would be interested in going to Washington to show my skills. I told him I was not interested. He went on to tell what it was all about. He said it would be the Folklife Festival that was to be held over the Fourth of July week and it was to feature Pennsylvania that year. He asked why I would not consider it. I told him I was not the type to make a show of myself and I was of the quiet type and not much for talking to people. He asked if my wife knew anything about the business and I told him she often helped in the shop and had an unusually friendly way with people. He said that this would be just a perfect set-up. "You could be going about your making things and she could tell the people just what you were doing. I still was not weakening about my decision. Not being interested, I did not ask what the set up would be. He volunteered and said it not a money making deal but our trip would be paid for both ways and shipment of materials and tools would be paid if it was not possible to take them with us. We would be housed free and have free meals and free transportation from the grounds to living quarters. We would be taken care of as best they knew how. Now, he asked if that did not sound interesting. I said it was a very nice gesture but my answer was still NO. When he left me he asked if I would think it over. To that I could agree. At home I told Melinda about it. She was not too excited, other than saying that even with some work involved it might have been a paid vacation of a sort. The thought was pretty well dismissed until about two weeks later when I received a phone call - "This is Mack McCormick and Iím calling to hear that you have decided to come along." I told him I had really not given it much thought since he had been to see me. He said he had rounded up Marshall Caseís lumber men, a blacksmith, a wooden tub maker, a wheelwright and said everyone who knew me said that I should have you along. There was some more conversation to convince me. He finally said "Iím putting you down that you are coming, O. K. ?" He told me in case of any hardship, I could still decline, so I accepted the O. K. Further instructions were to follow by mail. Time passed and it was June and we were not sure of anything. One evening later in June we got a call that they had some foul up, but instructions would go out at once. There was no time to lose now to get my equipment and needs ready. A work bench was to be furnished, but I had to have my own bench board and back board. The board I made hinged so I could fold it to take along and the back was arranged so the tools were in the same order as in the shop. Finally with things well planned, we took along the stitching horse, the heavy bridle press, plenty of leather and some made up articles for display. Of course, all necessary tools, thread, needles, wax and blacking, just about all the Chevy would hold.
Now on Sunday morning we were ready for the take-off with full instructions as to how to reach the Mall. We were asked to be there about four oíclock, which we were, and received by helpers to show us our stand and help us unload. There was a security tent where all of our things were kept at night. We had been there only a short time when the Roy Cummings truck pulled in with logs and timbers for the woodsmenís demonstration and contest. It was already a feeling of relief to have someone else here that we knew. Cars were not kept on the grounds, so in the evening participants were led in a caravan to the Trinity College where the cars were left for the week and we were housed in the dormitory and were transported back and forth from there. I remember the first morning when I was setting up my stand, I was hanging up my made up articles for display and as I was putting up a holster with a real looking toy pistol in it, a colored man was watching me and then said "If you all gonna leave that up all night it wonít be there in the morninĎ."
My work bench was along one side so people could see me work from an angle or come around and see from the front. Melinda had sort of a low counter on the main thoroughfare side and displayed some pictures and small articles that might be of interest, like the circus mouth-pieces and belts braided without open ends. The first day was taken up with several interviews and taking of pictures. The next morning the Washington Evening News had quite a coverage of the Festival, including my picture along with many others. It was our intention to stagger our lunch time but there were girl assistants on hand and they insisted that they were to help, so Melinda and I were able to go together. Some other participants at the Festival not mentioned previously included a baker, a metal caster, a brick maker, Mrs. Kinnan from Keeneyville with her apple face dolls, a broom maker, an egg painter, a rug weaver, a moonshine distiller, several woodsmen with Mr. Caseís demonstration, several wood carvers, and of course, musicians and others. Although this was Pennsylvania year, not all were from Pennsylvania. The ground was featured with various Hex signs which of course is quite Pennsylvanian. Willard Watson with his mountain moonshine still was quite the man of the week. He was a slender man with black hat, black mustache and well up in years but very proud of his ability. He had all fixes with him, kegs, vat, jugs, boiler coils and all. He quipped that the revenuers kept an eye on him to be sure he was distilling only water here. Of course he had his shot gun leaning up in a corner too. With most of us having breakfast together and riding the bus back and forth we soon were like a big family.
Now getting back to my stand, it was really quite interesting with all the questions and telling people just where Mansfield was located. Each stand was furnished a sign with the name and home town and occupation. It soon turned out that it was very much like home. Someone would come along and say that they had a broken camera strap, would I fix it for them? A lady came along and wished that I would fix her purse handle and so it went on with various requests to mend sandal straps, etc. These people were just lucky because I was not allowed to make any charge. The prize when one day a young man leaned over my bench and in a rather confidential whisper said, "Iím in big trouble, will you help me out?" "What is your trouble?" I inquired and he whispered that he bent over and the seam in his pants ripped all the way up the back and he hoped I could sew it up for him. I wondered where I could do it with so many people around, He said, "I donít care, if you will just fix it for me." So I had him come around by the back corner and I sat on my platform which was about ten inches above the ground and he backed up to me and I made a hasty closing. However, right in the midst of the job my cousin from Florida came around the corner and said "Well! Is this what they brought you to Washington for?" Later in the week a man came and said he had an English saddle that he was repairing but there was a problem. He was not able to sew the pads back in and asked if it would be possible for me to help him out. The following morning he brought the saddle. This seemed to work out as an advantage to me. The onlookers, mostly the youngsters, would say, "Oh, look heís working on a saddle." This was a big deal for them. The man was very pleased and lucky to have the job done. I received a nice Thank You note from his young daughter, who was the one to use the saddle.
Just before the Fourth of July, all the participants received a printed invitation to a party to be held on the evening of the Fourth of July on the West Portico of the Science and Industry Building, which was like a reserved spot to see the fireworks out by the Washington monument. It was an ideal evening with drinks and goodies and dancing for those who wished. The fireworks were just spectacular.
The week was very hot and the weather held pretty well until Friday evening. Just as we were packing for the day a wild storm with much wind came up very suddenly. I was caught in the security tent but Melinda did not make it. I was real concerned. She had stopped at Mrs. Kinnanís tent and they feared the whole thing would be blown away. The next morning debris and broken limbs were cleaned up. The trash cans had been blown over and the contents scattered. It was lucky that it came at the end of the day, so things could be quite normal on Saturday.
The foregoing are some of the highlights of a week filled with many more interesting experiences. We were all treated like someone special. Now I must think how I nearly passed up an experience of a lifetime. Even at home we received lots of publicity in the local papers. It brings to mind how it paid off. When I was back home it was time for my scooter inspection so I took the scooter to Wells and Goodallís garage. I asked Stub Wells if he could work in my inspection now. Stub, who was never short on humorous wit, said, "You know we are awfully busy, but we make a point of taking care of important people."
Now business as usual at the shop. Quite some time later I had a family from Washington stop in at the store just for a look. In the conversation the lady said that they had seen this type of work going on at the Festival. She took a close look at me and said, "Why - you are the same person." Also some time later I received copies of Exxonís quarterly magazine sent to me by friends. It was apparent that Exxonís representative was one who had interviewed me, because the magazine had a picture of me at work at my stand and a nice little feature story of me. I donít want to neglect to mention that the ĎThank You noteí from the Smithsonian told of a near figure of six hundred thousand persons passed through the Mall during the Festival week.
During the demise of other shops there were chances to buy left-overs that we could use. We took advantage of some such goods from Morris, Troy, Towanda, Canton, Pa., and Hornell, NY. In fact, the horse head in the window came from Morris, the heavy sewing machine from Towanda and the Singer patching machine came from Westfield. The time now is the starting of people buying some of our goods for antiques. Quite a number of horse collars were sold to collectors who had mirrors put into them for wall mirrors. Some pretty delapidated collars were brought in for repairs for the above purpose, because the collars of their own held sentimental value. The coming of platics created the leather men headaches. These were made to wear out, not to repair. However, the repair work on these articles became endless. So many nice leather bags were spoiled when they were made with vinyl linings and partitions. The vinyl just does not have the lasting quality of leather.
Now here we go again, and it is 1971. We received another invitation from the Smithsonian. This time we were asked if we would spend one or two weeks for them at Montreal, Canada. This was to be a similar demonstration in the U. S. Pavilion which was there from the Worldís Fair. This occasion was called "Man and His World." This was to run for the full season with participants changing in one or two week shifts. After having such a good time in Washington, we agreed to a one week stay. We again chose the week over the Fourth of July. There were some differences. This time we were put up in a hotel, but had to take care of our own meals and financial reimbursement later. Subway tickets were furnished for to and from location. We left on a Saturday and took in the Eisenhower Lock and stayed over at the Thousand Islands.
It was interesting at the check point entering Canada so we had some explaining to do about all the stuff we had in the car. They were not aware of "Man and His World", but all worked out without unpacking. It was beastly hot on Sunday. On the way down the St. Lawrence we never saw shade look so good and not be able to take advantage of any. All signs said, "No Stopping, Emergency Only". We finally stopped at a filling station and took a break on the shady side. There were particular emblems posted all along the way which took us directly to the grounds and the big Spherical Pavilion. Upon our arrival there we were checked in. The checkers were to list each article. These fellows, however, spoke only French and we could see they did not relish checking each tool because they did not know the name or identification. After much conversation between them, they finally told us to take them in and they would see us the next day. I guess they finally bunched the lot as tools and other equipment. We heard no more about it. Marshall Case and his lumbermen were just leaving since they had the previous week. We were occupying the stand just vacated by the metal caster whom we met in Washington. The big Sphere had at least four landings and we were next to the top. Although there was some air conditioning, it was mighty hot a couple of days. I noticed one fellow stop at our stand and he seemed to be studying my sign. He said, "From Mansfield, how did you get up here?" He was from Horseheads, NY. When the clog dancers were putting on their skit on the ground floor they made the place ring with echoes. The blacksmith up here was an interesting person who hammered out lots of different gadgets. He made me a couple of small horse shoes for souvenirs. As rough as he appeared at work, at the hotel he was a spruced up man. He admitted that he was also a lay minister. He did not hammer out anything on Sunday. It was interesting to take our breakfast and evening meal at "Benís Place" with all men waiters and very friendly. They also made up our sandwiches to take out for lunch. At the pavilion, Pepsies were on tap, free at all times. These again were only some of the highlights of the week.
We came back down through the beautiful Adirondaks. Although Melinda was never one to complain, I had sensed through the week that she did not feel up to her real self. We made a stop-over near Cobleskill, NY. Then the whole event was over the following day.
Now it should have been back to business as usual but a cloud of gloom hung over me. Melinda really did not feel well but refused to give up her regular routine. She came to the shop on Saturdays as usual, but as time went on it became very difficult and against my judgment. Helping in the shop before Christmas was always a highlight for her and she was hoping and looking forward for the season. However, with her courageous fight against cancer, it was necessary for her entry into the hospital about the middle of November.
For several years there was a group of deer hunters from New Jersey who seemed to make it a point to stop in the shop for their purchase of gifts to take back to their wives in appreciation for letting them have the hunting pleasure. Melinda enjoyed helping them select the gifts. Even at the hospital Melinda asked me if I had goods on hand for the hunters. Even now it is hard for me to tell it. My whole world fell apart on November 27, 1971, when she went to her reward.
Deer season was on and the hunters were back. It was like a stab in the heart when they asked for the lady who usually helped them make a selection. How I ever got through this pre-Christmas shopping season, Iíll never know for I was in a daze. However, my cousin Gertrude did not let me down. She came to the store to help. She had helped her father when I was in my short stretch in the service. Other plans fell apart too. In 1972 would have been my 50 years in the shop and the time we had set for my retirement and some years of ease. With all the emptiness now, it was not the time to quit. I had to have contacts with friends and customers at the shop. The routine now to make money was a minor ambition. The aim now was to be of some good to my loyal friends and customers. I tried to eliminate some undesirable jobs but this was hard to do. It seems that now the demand for antiques is in full swing. I have gotten into the restringing of sleigh bells. There were bells brought to me from Connecticut to Florida. I would occasionally get a call inquiring whether I was still in business. I had one such call from a man in Washington, D.C. He said he had passed through Mansfield one time and stopped in the shop. He told me that he was restoring a 1916 Buick and needed leather straps as near to the original as possible. Could I make them? I told him to forward exact measurements and descriptions and I would try. This all worked out to his satisfaction. Some time later I heard from another man in Michigan who was also restoring the same model and would I make him a set? He furnished the papers from the first customer, who wanted them returned, so I made the set. From the Michigan customer it spread to Iowa but for some reason this one did not materialize. I also had an order for antique Ford parts (not leather) from California. He must have had the false idea that I was in the antique car parts business.
As things stand now, I have some good friends who drop in quite regularly to cover the topics of the day and give me a break in the routine.
I have always tried to keep from getting into shoe repairs. But now with shoe shops getting scarce too, and Jim Caracciolo, the local shoe repairer not taking on much work any more, Iím asked to repair shoes constantly. However, as busy as the place is I prefer to work as a loner with my sister Eliseís help in the pre-holiday season. What it boils down to is the satisfaction that my services are appreciated. However, I think that an Unknown Author said it best with the following:
Sometime, when youíre feeling important,
Sometime, when youíre egoís in bloom,
Sometime when you take it for granted,
Youíre the best qualified in the room,
Sometime when you feel that your going,
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow this simple instruction,
And see how it humbles your soul.
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it, up to the wrist,
Pull it out, and the hole thatís remaining,
Is a measure of how youíll be missed.
You may splash all you please, when you enter,
You can stir up the water galore,
But stop, and youíll find in a minute,
That it looks quite the same, as before.
The moral in this quaint example,
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself, but remember,
There is no indispensable man.
These are some of the items which have been associated with the Jupenlaz
Harness Shop over the years. They include: sleigh bells of various sizes,
bridles, halters, hames, horse collars, horse shoes, stirrups, back straps
and other items. Note the "Wells Fargo Express" sign.
See Ernie's Obituary at Prospect Cemetery 2000
The Following photos were submitted by Chester P. Bailey
|Inside Jupenlaz Harness Shop - Ernie in back room facing||Fred Jupenlaz on steps of shop|
|Inside the Jupenlaz Harness Shop (Undated) Ceiling covered with Horse collars||Ernie Jupenlaz|