Siblings recall decade when their father owned Caldwell’s General Store in Woodside
For a decade in the ’50s, Caldwell’s General Store was located at the corner of Woodside and Canada Roads, operated by the dashing Emott Caldwell. Two of his adult children not only have distinct memories about that era but retain a copy of the quirky newsletters their father published called The Crossroads Enterprise.
Jim Caldwell recalls that his father bought what was then called Neuman’s general store on a bit of a lark. “He had some money and viewed it as a kind of hobby.”
“He’d moved from Philadelphia where the family owned a jewelry business,” explains big sister Haydi Sowerwine. “Evidently, there was a family feud of some sort.”
“We ended up on Polhemus Avenue, so the store, renamed Caldwell’s General Store, was just down the road,” says Jim, an architect and artist who lives not far from the current market, Roberts, in Woodside. “He’d be behind the cash register. Given that he was handsome, he became a confessor of sorts to the women who shopped there.”
Menlo Park resident Haydi describes her father as “eccentric, but a hard worker.”
“He owned the store for about 10 years from 1950 to 1960, when it was purchased by the Robert’s family. He opened and and closed it everyday.”
Emott, who died in 2000, leaves a legacy of that decade in The Crossroads Enterprise, which, promoted then many services the store offered:
“We’ve had many comments from customers and friends on the number and variety of services we offer here at the store…we’ll repair your lamps, develop your pictures, insure your house or whatnot, teach you to knit, register you as a voter, or dray things around for you…As if this weren’t enough, we’re pleased to announce still another service, Airplane Charter, which we now offer to anyone who will put up with the rather strict limitations we have imposed in the interests of safety.”
Of note: passengers paid $25 per flying hour in Emott’s Beachcraft Bonanza. An experienced pilot who served inWorld War II, he became a flight instructor and later served as a pilot to Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz.
He also advocated for a traffic light at the corner of Woodside and Canada Roads.
“We’ve heard it said that a traffic light right here in the middle of Woodside would make it seem urban, or less rural, or something,” Emott wrote. “We maintain that it would make the intersection a lot safer, which would be a vast improvement over the way it is now, and we invite anyone who has doubt about the need for such a light to spend a brief period observing the situation from our front porch, an experience which we guarantee will convince the most skeptical.”
“In the picture of the store [below] you can see the Standard gas station across the street. The men’s room was right on the corner, and it was smashed into several times by cars going through the stop sign at Canada Road,” says Jim.
Being the first of six children born to Emott’s three wives, Haydi and Jim can remembers local kids reading comic books in the front corner of Caldwell’s, something Emott opines about in the January, 1955 issue of Crossroads.
“We had a communication from a friend the other day…whose avowed purpose was to rid newstands of the crime and horror currently flooding them.
“Having as we do, five children and a newsstand full of comic books, this problem interests us more than somewhat and has for a number of years. The infinitude of comics sent to us by the wholesale new agencies does indeed contain a fair percentage of especially gruesome or revolting numbers which we immediately set aside and bundle up for return to the news company…As for the remaining, they are regularly pored over by such swarms of children that sit-down on our front window sill…That they rarely feel impelled to buy the blooming things doesn’t both us at all, for they keep absolutely quiet, and their grubby little hands are kept off the merchandise that people do buy!”
Photo of Haydi Sowerwine and Jim Caldwell in front by Roberts by Robb Most (c) 2021; historical photos courtesy of Caldwell family