Each Christmas we set up a model train that travels around under our Christmas tree. This train includes several Railway Mail cars. Next to its tracks sits a replica of an old general store, The H.B. Perine General Merchandise.
Both the mail cars and the store are inspired by real life events that occurred during the childhood and adult years of my Grandfather, Ralph Clemens Perrine. He worked in the Railway Mail Service for most of his career.
I grew up begging Grandpa to tell and retell all the stories from his growing up years spent working and playing in and around his Dad’s store, the H.B. Perine General Merchandise. A railroad passed near the front of the store, and Grandpa used to watch to the mail trains pass and wave to the mail clerks standing in the open doorways of the mail cars. He dreamed of being a mail clerk someday and eventually made good on that dream, spending his career as a mail clerk on Railway Mail Service. When Grandpa passed away in August 2000, my father and his brothers found a number of materials and photographs related to the store.
Here is a picture of Henry Burton Perine (my great grandfather) with his family. Henry had been a sawyer, but later bought the store and operated it until the 1930’s as best we can tell. I believe the photo above was taken before my Grandfather was born. He was the youngest. The brothers present in this picture are likely Cassell, William and Henry Clay.
In 2013 I began working on a replica of the store based on the photograph family members found in the book, A Photographic History of Ritchie County, West Virginia. Below are photos of the replica in progress. This article started with a photo of the store replica in its finished state, next to the railway mail train we set up under our Christmas tree each year.