Store Closed Since ’52 a Time Capsule of Americana
The Fifth Avenue Grocery in Roundup closed its doors in 1952, and they stayed closed until late last year. Thousands of items, most of them in mint condition, were locked up for 50 years.
They range from the mundane -- bars of soap, tubs of honey and packs of cigarettes -- to the rare and valuable -- an American Flyer miniature train set with a wind-up locomotive, a souvenir scorecard from the 1929 World Series and an antique Coca-Cola display that hadn’t even been taken out of its wrapper.
Starting Wednesday at an auction house in Billings, the store’s contents will go on sale.
The grocery was owned by Martin and Anna Pluth and eventually was run by Anna and two of her children, Louis and Ann. When their mother died in 1952, Louis and Ann closed the store. Both now have died, and the old grocery finally opened to inspection last year.
Frank Braun, Louis Pluth’s personal representative, didn’t really understand how valuable the merchandise was at first. He had been thinking of having a regular estate sale until a friend who knew antiques advised him to contact an auction house.
Longhorn Auction owner Dan Tryan, who saw the collection for the first time only a couple of weeks ago, was amazed. He’d seen some good estates before, but this one was unusual for variety and volume, he said.
As in many small towns, the Fifth Avenue Grocery was also a mercantile store selling a little bit of everything. And beneath the store, under big cellar doors, was a small tavern with a bar and six homemade stools. Other property included the Pluth family home and three outbuildings, as well as two small miners’ houses owned by the family.
All of them were full of belongings, artifacts and merchandise.
“One of the problems was that they had so much stuff gathered around them,” Braun said of Louis and Ann Pluth. “They apparently didn’t throw anything away.”
The Longhorn Auction Center will be selling off the Pluth family estate, including everything preserved for 50 years in the Fifth Avenue Grocery.
Items on the block include an unused Ultratone record player and radio; a Shinola shoe shine kit with a can of polish, brush and buffer; Kool-Aid packets in an original display case; an old set of golf clubs made in Scotland; and two large oil-cloth posters of cowgirls holding cans of Golden West coffee.
There are Depression-glass pitchers, hurricane lamps, two player pianos and rolls of music, three boxes of jewelry, thousands of old magazines, a Roy Rogers songbook, antique wind-up toys, religious curios, wooden egg crates and hundreds of packages of food, spices and condiments that look as though they were just put on the shelf.