Shared Stories: The Melody Shoppe

Helen Hampton grew up in rural Maine. She sang in the chorus and loved music. When she moved with her husband to Florida, he presented her with a unique opportunity. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Helen Hampton

In 1946 my husband Ralph and I moved to Florida. Ralph sold insurance, and after we had been there a short while, one of his customers said that he was selling his music business. Ralph called home and asked me how I would like to own a music store. I knew nothing about a business. After all, I was only twenty-two years old.

I thought for a minute and said, “Yes, that would be nice.” And so we bought the store. It was in St. Augustine, only two blocks from the ocean.

I called my store The Melody Shoppe. I started out with just sheet music and records, over on the west side of town. It was a small shop, but new, and it was next door to a movie theatre. That was good for business, as the people from the theatre would come in when the movie was over.

About a year later, I moved my store over town to the main business section into another new building. It was very large so we sold pianos and instruments. Business continued to be very good. We sold a lot of band instruments to the local high school and many pianos.

Doing business in Florida was different from many other states. First of all, we closed at noon every Wednesday because of the intense heat.  Also, we had to worry about hurricanes and flash floods.  All of the businesses kept sand bags on hand in case of emergency.

One Wednesday afternoon we were all at home listening to storm warnings on the radio. Ralph went down to the store just to be sure that everything was fine. He sat in a chair watching the storm but soon fell asleep. When he awakened, to his shock water was seeping through both doors! He hurried to put the sand bags in place.

After the storm, our store was the only business on the street that escaped flooding, that’s to Ralph’s foresight. Imagine what would have happened to our pianos if the store had flooded! My friend had a store next door to us, and she lost the first two shelves of shoes because of water damage.

I was so happy those five years that I owned the music store. Then Ralph was called in to the Navy again for the Korean War. He was sent to San Diego and we sold the store and moved to California.