NORTH COHOCTON — It is unclear when the benches first came to the Olde Country Store, but many guess it had to be in Henry Wolfanger’s time. Wolfanger was the longest running owner of this area gem.
James Conrad of Colorado owned the store briefly in the early 2000s, and took the benches with him when he moved.
Conrad gave a brief history of the political Republican and Democrat wooden benches.
"These 1880’s benches were originally in a country church in New England. When the church was closed two of these bench pews were purchased and relocated to a Country Store in an area called Blood's Corner (North Cohocton) in Western New York,” he said. “The Country Store added the gold paint Republican and Democrat logos, and these benches were displayed on each side of the store's front door for many years."
Olde Country Store and More Owner Jeff Wells said he was very happy to get the benches back from Conrad to display at the store.
“The original political benches sit out front again,” he said. “I have gotten so many people telling me stories about when they sat on the benches as children. These benches are important to a lot of people.”
Wells said the idea to put the political titles on the benches came from the fact that people loved to talk about politics, and this was a silly way of saying politics were meant for outdoors. It is said that Independent was painted on the middle step, so that anyone neutral could be welcome in the store, and the others could sit outside and talk.
“I imagine people liked to talk about politics back then,” Wells said. “This was a place they could talk about their views. The Independents could come in the store, but the others could sit on the front porch and talk politics.”
Ever since these benches have come back home many people have been getting their photos taken on their favorite bench.
“We are very overwhelmed and excited to have them back,” Wells said. “When we first purchased the store we wanted to include the benches. I remembered them growing up, and their historic value when I was a boy. The benches had not been available when I bought the store. We found out these cousins bought the store and took them to Colorado.”
Wells added the cousins owned the store in 2011, and did some renovating.
“They didn’t know what would happen to the store in the future, and knew how important the benches were,” Wells said. “They didn’t want to leave them behind, and have people take them apart or sell them.”
The Conrad’s checked their hearts and decided the benches needed to go back home.
Wells is fascinated to find out the origin of the story, and if anyone knows for sure if Henry Wolfanger was the original owner of the benches. He was the owner for the time period in which the benches would have been around.
A couple plaques have been purchased and donated by the Conrad’s to be put on the benches. They will read the following; The bench labeled Democrat will have:"In Memory of Stan Strobel" "Donated by Jim & Louise Conrad" The bench labeled Republican will have: "In Memory of Stuart Conrad" "Donated by Jim & Louise Conrad"
“We are all thrilled to have them back,” Wells said. “It brings back all of our childhood memories. People remember the simple things; like sitting on these benches and buying candy at the store. They could chat with their friends.”