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A LOOK BACK: January White Sales at Smith and Klinck

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By Derek M. Otto

January has been known as the month of White Sales for many years.  In 1878, Wanamaker’s Department Store in Philadelphia began the custom by using the slow post-Christmas time in January to discount linens and beddings.  In the northeast, let’s face it— we spend more time indoors and it’s a great time to change the sheets.  In those days most sheets were white, so the sales period would be called “White Sales.” Today, White Sales include most linens and bedding, but also general household items.

In Springville during the twentieth century, there was one store on Main Street that was known for their White Sales, and that was Smith and Klinck.  In 1936, Edna Bianca Smith and Frances Marion Klinck purchased the stock of E. B. Kuhn and opened their store at what is today 39 East Main Street.  (Miss Smith and Miss Klinck were an aunt and niece team.)  The building is currently occupied by the Echoes through Time Civil War museum.  The store promised great discounts on linens and the material to make linens and sheets. Each week in January, the ladies took out ads on the front page of the local newspaper.

Even more interesting than the merchandise were the ladies who ran the store.  Both had more interesting lives before coming to Springville.   

Edna Smith, the older of the two, was born in Cattaraugus County, but before she finished school her father had “run for a claim” on the Cherokee Strip.  Edna became a school teacher in a little sod school house on the plains.  From the plains, Edna strived to improve herself and graduated from the State Teachers College in Alva, OK.  The plains didn’t keep her; Edna went to receive an A. B.  Degree from the University of Michigan and also received an A.M. and special certificate from Columbia University.   With her education, she would teach English and Sociology at the State Normal School in Indiana, PA for 14 years. Ten of those years she served as head of the English Department.  She late went on to serve as head of the English department in Bridgeport, CT; in her post there, she made an extensive study into children’s literature.   Before coming to Springville, she taught at the National Park Seminary, where her courses included Contemporary Fiction, Poetry and Drama.   Maybe a little over-educated to peddle yarn in Springville?

According to the 1939 Springville Souvenir, “By her pioneer life she became familiar with the needs of people with little means, learned how much wear could be got from various low-priced fabrics and grew up respecting frugality.”  It goes on to stay that later in life she was able to observe the mercantile procedure in some of the highest quality stores in the United States.

Her niece, Frances Marion Klinck, also had been exposed to frontier life.  Born in Hazelton, KS, to Edna’s sister, Nettie Alice Smith Klinck, she graduated from high school in Hutchinson, KS.  Frances attended the University of Kansas and earned an A.B. and also studied Journalism and piano.  She, too, was a teacher.  Miss Klinck taught English in Silver Springs and was head of the English department in Wellsville, OH.   Prior to going into business with her aunt, she also was the choir director at the Springville Methodist Church.   

By today’s standards, women owning a business in the 1930s were very unique.  Oddly enough, the aunt and niece are also known as the Springville’s greatest spinsters and feminists.  Seeing them together was also a sight—Miss Smith was barely five feet tall and Miss Klinck was a burly six foot tall. Their store catered to women by selling cookbooks, apparel, linens, sewing supplies and even the unmentionables.   The last ad for the store on Mather’s Day read, “Make mom happy but from the store where 90 percent of the goods are bought by women for women.”  That was a little racy for the 1950s.   But greater was their mention of the assistants in 1939—  Mrs. John (Clara Henry) Langhans and Mrs. Fred (Bertha Gould) Schroeder.   Remember at that time women were known as Mrs. (husband’s name here).  It was totally against the grain of the time to also include the woman’s maiden name when mentioning them.

In 1958, the ladies decided to quit the business, literally.  Pressure of other stores, like the new M and M’s and the coming of Wallace’s may have been the cause. The reality is by this time Miss Smith alone was in early eighties. Shortly after Easter in 1958, Smith and Klinck ran ads stating Smith and Klinck QUITS!   The liquidation of goods ran the gauntlet of products being gradually reduced in price until they closed their doors that June.    

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