Where’s The Keeper


Steve Nauman

My great grandfather who was born in 1880, had a general store in the rolling hills of upstate New York. Then my grandfather bought that general store, and my father bought the store from him. I started working in that store when I was 7 years old, and even though the plan was for me to take it over one day, I moved away when I was 20.

For the first three years I worked in the store, the only jobs I was allowed to do were washing shelves, windows, sweeping floors etc….. One day when I was about 8 or 9, I was sitting on the floor with items off a section of shelving while I cleaned it, when suddenly….. there was a loud “BAM!” I turned to see a white-haired older man had SLAMMED his fist on the counter, and then he yelled out: “Where’s the Keeper? I want to settle my account”.

You see, just about everyone in the community had a charge account in the store back then. There was a big heavy file drawer under the cash register and each customer had their own “account card” with their name at the top. At the time of a sale, we would write the date on the left side, a description in the middle and keep a running total on the right. (All of this was done in front of the customer each time of course) Then since most of the customers were dairy farmers, whenever they received their “milk check”, they’d come in (hopefully) and settle their account!

Now, did you notice that man used the word “keeper”? That was supposed to be short for “storekeeper”, neither of those words are used much at all anymore. And there sure aren’t many stores where most customers have an open charge account, or can say “put it on my tab”! But….. when that man was young, all those things WERE NORMAL just about everywhere.

There was a song written in 1902 that used some of the same terms that the ‘white-haired older man’ used, only he would have been a young man in 1902! The song even uses the same phrase he used about “The Keeper” and “a settled account“, it was written by Frank M. Graham and it’s called: “The Old Account Was Settled”. The song takes words and phrases that were common at the time and uses them with a sort of “heavenly analogy” in the song. There is also truth in the thoughts of the song….. Romans 14:12 “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Any charge account we have here can eventually be paid back in time with money. But our “sin account” that we are all born with, can only be paid in full by confessing our sins and trusting Christ as our Savior: 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

It’s true that words, phrases and ways we do business are constantly changing over the years….. but God’s Love for us never changes. He wants a personal relationship with each of us. If you never “settled your sin account“, why not do it today? Then with a happy heart, you can sing the closing lines of that old song:
“Up there you’ll not regret it,
cause you settled it long ago.”

Till Next Time…..

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Steve Nauman

These wonderful posts are written by my good friend Steve Nauman. He lives on a farm in northern Indiana with his wife, Ruth.

He owned and operated a machine shop until 2020. These stories come from the people and experiences that made lasting impressions upon him as he grew up in his father's general store in Upstate NY and later in his own business.