Did you know Eastman’s Hardware has over 100 years of storied history?
As the years passed, Charlie’s two sons, Elwood and Tom, were born and ultimately joined the family business. “My earliest memory of going to the hardware store was when I was three years old, the day my father agreed to get me out of my mother’s hair and rode me to the store in a little wooden on the front of his bicycle,” said Elwood. “Another thing I recall about my father is that he would sell anything. I remember he told a man who was very interested in buying his copper tub in the kitchen at home that he would sell it to him Saturday evening after our baths. He kept his word, and my mother was furious,” laughed Elwood.
Both boys kept the memory of their mother fresh throughout their lives by maintaining small, formal English flower gardens at their homes, just as she did at the family’s Gifford Street home. Her garden, which had been laid out by her brother, Frank, was of such color and variety that she often received garden club awards. The boys’ gardens were likewise captivating, leaving no doubt that they had inherited her green thumb touch with horticulture. “How very well I remember Mother, especially on Saturdays,” said Tom. “That was the day I always had to pare apples for her pies.” Tom became more fully involved in the family’s business when he was fourteen. Active in school in both classwork and sports, he took to business management just like his father.
While Elwood focused on the mechanical services of the business, Tom expanded the operations into sporting goods, clothing and gift items, prompting some people to call the store the second L.L. Bean Company. Their diversified inventory now encompassed hardware, paints, kitchen furnishings, electric refrigerators, oil burners, fishing tackle, a complete line of sporting goods, farm and garden seeds, lawn mower repair service, and bicycle sales and service.
The largest segment of their clientele was the caretakers of the area’s ever-growing number of summer estates. The Eastmans’ found that their busiest season ran from June 15 to Labor Day.
After Christmas, winter business trickled in those early decades, often bringing in only $10 a day. Locals would frequently charge their purchases, making handshake agreements to see Charlie “at strawberry time,” when they could earn enough wages to pay him by harvesting the local strawberry fields. To keep busy, Charlie would sell crates of apples up and down the Cape. Years later, Tom carried on the tradition of outside sales during the slow business months, but instead of apples, he sold sporting goods.
In those early decades of the century, Shivericks Pond abutted the hardware store and skaters often stopped by to have their skate blades sharpened. Later in the war years of the 1940s, Friday nights were the big shopping nights, attracting many of the soldiers and their family members assigned to Camp Edwards in North Falmouth.
“I remember we would have batches of popcorn loaded with butter for anyone coming in the store and we would all just stand around and talk with people as they came in,” recalled Tom in an interview in 1989, just a few months before his death at age 82.
In the middle of the century, World War II broke out. Elwood enlisted, was assigned to the Seabees, and was shipped out to the Marshall Islands. Tom continued to run the store with Charlie, Harry Gould, Ted Czepiel, and John Ellery.
In 1944, while Elwood was still away at war, Charlie died of a heart attack. His loss was felt far and wide. An editorial in the Falmouth Enterprise lauded Charles Thomas Eastman as a man who “became a dean among our businessmen, a veteran of Main Street, knowing everybody, and known to everybody.” Tom kept the business going until Elwood’s return in 1945.
Ten years later, in 1955, Tom decided to focus solely on operating the lawn mower side of the business and to sell area real estate on his own. Elwood thus assumed full responsibility for the store’s daily operations.
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