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Atwood-Hammond Public Library receives local historic item, “The Clerks’ Book

Among the local historic treasures donated to the library over the years, time has proved even the smallest item comes with a historical trail. The latest treasure presented various trails including a memory of simpler times, a path to a bygone local business and a book with business leadership tips still relevant a century later.

A small gift, a 4 x 5.5” slightly stained book, titled The Clerks’ Book, printed in 1907 and written by an unfamiliar author named Frank Farrington is the latest treasurer. Cheryl Sorenson, a daughter of the late Evone Urban, presented me the book. It triggered special memories of the Urban family, dating back to years when we all lived in Garrett. Most people remember Evone from the Atwood Café, but my favorite memory is when Garrett kids lined up to get a haircut from Evone in her garage. Evone never seemed to mind how many kids stopped by at a given time.

The library is the recipient of books and many other special materials patrons and visitors have donated to the library over the years. Treasurers such as a local handmade historical quilt, works of local artists, trophies, historical documents, school memorabilia, mementos from special events, doctor’s tools, along with other keepsakes reflecting our local history. Donations always generate curiosity and the library staff scurries to find any relevant information to document and expand our knowledge of the donated item. The latter isn’t a written policy, but experience is a teaching tool that proves there is no better time than the present to connect an item with its history for the future.

This little book was accompanied with a handwritten note to me from Evone; When we bought the building (117 S. Main) in 1967 I found this little book when we cleaned.” she went on to say “Lucille Williamson had run a dry goods store there years ago. I thought you might want to put in the library.”

The inside of the front cover of the little book is hand inscribed “Compliments of The National Cash Register Co., likely a gift to merchants for purchasing a product. A Google search states Frank Farrington was born in 1872. His father was Maurice Farrington, a flourishing businessman and photographer in Delhi, New York.

Frank owned and operated the successful Farrington’s Drug Store in Delhi. He is known to have written one of the first sales training books in the United States, titled “John Martin’s Clerks”. He authored numerous articles and had several books published all relating to business practices. Frank Farrington died in 1955.

The Clerks’ Book is full of dos and don’ts for merchants and their employees. Finance, manners, honesty, ownership, salesmanship, customers, language, personal habits, and cleanliness are a few topics addressed for them to consider. The author suggests the book be kept “by the counter or in your pocket and pick it up at odd moments.” Although written in 1907, the advice holds true today, and could easily apply to anyone who works directly with the public. A favorite line of mine from the book is “As a drawing card in a store, Mr. Grouchy is about as attractive as a case of smallpox. Cheer up.” The following advice may bring to mind a childhood memory, “If you swear or tell indecent stories, go and get your mouth washed out with soap and water before you attempt to associate with respectable people.” There are many more timeless phrases of advice, but I’ll stop with the following for you to consider, “Three reasons there are for man’s dishonesty: Drink, gambling, woman. All three can be nullified as temptations by abjuring the first two and respecting the last.”

I remembered Lucille Williamson and her store, but I was curious to find out more about her. Lucille was the daughter of Orva and Estella Williamson and she graduated from Atwood Township High School in 1935. She was active in the Christian Church and became the treasurer for the Village of Atwood in 1942. She lived at the family residence on West Forest St., currently the home of LaMar Schlabach. Miss Williamson married Edgar Green in 1964 and moved to Taylorville where she resided until her death in 1975.

You won’t find The Clerks’ Book available for check-out, but you can find it among the library’s collection of unique local history items. Items in this category aren’t always a featured display, but with a timely request the public is welcome to schedule a view of any of the collection.

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