Letters to the Editor

April 10, 2010

Old building in Trego needs to be torn down

To the editor:

This letter is in reference to What's Wrong With This Picture? in the March 8 edition of The Herald-Mail.

This story was about the dilapidated old railroad station in Trego. It once housed my father's business, Trego Store and Elevator Co. My father was Lawrence H. Colbert Sr. He first partnered with Noah Mullendore in the 1920s and later was sole proprietor. My mother was Leah (Homes) Colbert. My brother, Lawrence "Howard" Colbert Jr., and I were born and raised in Trego in our home diagonally across the railroad tracks from the store. My father died in July 1958, my mother in December 1981 and my brother in August 2007.

My father's country store was a thriving business. He was also the B&O Railroad agent. It was filled with history of the era in which it existed. Its pot-bellied stove was a centerpiece. In the evenings, farmers and other men gathered around it sitting on boards over rail pegs. They would chat, smoke their pipes and chew tobacco. They might buy some cheese and crackers, have a soft drink and later a half-pint of hand-dipped ice cream. He sold coal to businesses in Boonsboro, Hagerstown and to many residents in the area. He delivered boxed orders to the people across the mountain of Chestnut Grove. He sold fertilizer and plant seed to farmers who later paid him at harvest time. The store was stocked with canned goods, a barrel of molasses, delivered bread, a large Nabisco showcase with cakes and cookies you could buy by the dozen, a glassed candy case with its crystal dishes holding penny candy, and at Christmas, all kinds of brittle and toffees. There were big jars of pickles and peppermint and birch drops that the seniors loved. There was a wooden, glass medicine cabinet stocked with old-time remedies. He also sold bib overalls, straw hats, aprons and some other articles of clothing. It was a typical country store.


Farmers brought their crates of berries, eggs and other foods to be shipped to Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. The little passenger train we called "The Dinky" traveled from Brunswick, Md., to Hagerstown Monday through Saturday so people could shop. A round trip was about 50 cents.

When my father died, the railroad closed the agency the next day. My brother and I decided that since he did not want to take over the business, we would sell off the inventory and then have the building razed. There was a lot of salvage in it.

A resident, Dick Sisler, expressed an interest in buying it because he thought the people needed a store. So, with a very diminished inventory, we sold it to him. Miss Ethel Grimm, my father's faithful employee for more than 30 years, stayed with the Sislers until they were familiar with running the business. She then moved to Hagerstown to live with my mother.

As the years passed, I knew that the store had different owners. In the late 1990s, I saw that it had started to deteriorate. I talked to my cousin, Evelyn McGolerick, and her husband, Fred, (they bought my brother's home in Trego) and to Lee Gosnell, an engineer for the B&O for many years. Mr. Gosnell said an engineer who lived in West Virginia was the last owner. He could not remember his name.

I went to the courthouse to try to run a title search (I once worked at a law firm). Because the records are now computerized, it was difficult for me. I was told that the property was on the Washington County Historical Society list. I got angry. How could this be with the property in such deplorable condition? Who would want to see it? Even though I knew I was no longer responsible, I still had this terrible guilty feeling deep inside of me. My parents and brother would have been devastated.

Finally on March 8, I learned the name of the property owner, only to learn that he is deceased. It dismayed me that he would buy this property because he was interested in steam locomotives and then not pay any attention to it. I am angry at him, at the historical society and at the county for not doing anything. The people of Trego have suffered long enough with this problem. What are they waiting for? A catastrophe to happen?

The memories of my years in Trego and this store flood my mind. I am now 81 years old, but I can remember as far back to when I was 4 years old.

Hindsight is 20/20 and were my brother still alive, I think we would both agree that we should have followed our first plan and had the building torn down. At least it would have gone down and been remembered for all of the good it did for the community and not for the controversy it has caused today - none of which is its fault - only those who thought they had better ideas.

It is my prayer that the next time I ride through Trego, the old store will be gone and the good people of Trego can rest without anxiety.

LaVerne Colbert Kendle

Letter writer fills in the blanks for Muldowney

To the editor:

The Herald-Mail Articles