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W.H. Eaton

Updated on June 9, 2011

The Old Eaton Store

William Eaton

William Patrick Herlihy Eaton came to this country in 1922 from Ireland with his mother, Mary Kate Herlihy Eaton. They took that long voyage by steamship, as most of the immigrants back then did, and young William celebrated his 10th birthday by setting foot on Ellis Island. He was big eyed and full of wonder as he stared in awe at his new home from the ferry boat.

Born from the union of an Irish mother and an American father, William seemed to be already savvy to the ways of America. His father would tell him stories about the New York shipyards and the tall buildings. But sadly, his father was never able to return to America to show his son the sights, as he was killed in an unfortunate potato farming accident in Ireland. With no family and no real means to support herself and her young son, Mary Kate packed up and headed to America to get fresh start with the help of her late husband’s family.

Life was tough, they settled in the Irish sector of New York City and Mary Kate would make ends meet by working in the bakery making soda bread and taking in laundry to wash or to iron, Little William would do what ever he could to earn money. He sold newspapers on the street corners and worked delivering groceries and dry goods from the local grocery store. He would pull a wagon until he had saved enough to buy his own bicycle. William enjoyed riding through the streets with his red hair waving in the breeze. He had earned the nickname of “Red Will” from his friends.

But mothers love to worry, especially good Irish ones, and Mary Kate was worried that the city was not good for Will. She was always worried that he would end up in trouble or be injured some how. She was determined to find a better life for her William. She had heard stories of a quaint little Irish settlement deep in the south, and she made it her goal to relocate her son and herself to the town of Lulawissie. It took her several years to save enough to make the move, and by 1929, on the eve of the great depression, they left New York for places unknown. With dreams and high hopes in their hearts, they were met openly into the friendly arms of the Lulawissie Township.

The two found work right away, and Will, now 17, bought some fruit and vegetables from some local farmers and set up a stand just outside of town. He was good with money and saved everything he could. Within 5 years, he was able to put a stake down on a small building in town, and through some bartering and wheeling and dealing, he was able to open the first grocery market in the Lulawissie city limits. His business just took off. He and his mother worked the store together, and made it a booming success. In the traditional Irish fashion, fitting in with the décor of the town, he put his name on a large sign on the front of the building: “W.H. Eaton”.

Over the years, Will strived to service every need that his customers had, and his mother stood behind him at every move. She said to him jokingly one day “’Tis too bad ye don’t sell gasoline, Willy. Ye’d make a fortune.” The very next week, he had crews out in front digging up the ground for a new gas pump. Will Eaton had brought the first and only Gas and Grocery to Lulawissie.

Although that first building has long been closed down, the new gas and grocery is as modern and new as one could expect.Will has long since passed on, but his son and grandsons run the place just as Will did back in the day; they are always greeting people with a handshake, and they still offer home delivery service at no charge. What a wonderful organization they have created.

It’s a rainy night here in Lulawissie. I love the rain. I love listening to the frogs singing in the grass, and I love watching my dog, Wyatt, become annoyed when the grass frogs use his water dish as a swimming pool. He just lays there with his head on his paws waiting for them to finally leave, occasionally giving out a whimper or two.

There is nothing more relaxing late in the evening than listening to the raindrops falling on the roof or hitting your windows. The soft cadence of the frogs along with the breeze whistling in the trees brings a peace that you can’t describe with words alone. It is a night like this one that keeps me sane, keeps life in perspective and makes me anticipate tomorrow.

Thank you my friends once again for spending this time with me. I bid you a pleasant evening.


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