One of Webster’s definitions of a landmark is “a structure (as a building) of unusual historical and usually aesthetic interest.” During the 115 years that Dean’s Store has stood in the middle of Woodstock’s business district on Main Street, folks probably did not refer to it as a landmark.
But with the passage of time, it has slowly turned into such. It marks a special storefront on Main Street, and an even more special spot in the memories of its citizens, and in the very heart of our culture. Its founding held no hint of its eventual prominence.
Linton Dean, at age 20, opened a drug store there in April of 1906 with his father, Dr. Will Dean. The doctor was not well, troubled with stomach ailments. He had sent Linton, his oldest son, to business school to learn the basics of operating a store. The doctor died in October, short months after the store opened, and Linton was left with a drug store that had neither a druggist nor a doctor. Although townspeople continued to call it “the drug store” since they could find Black Draught and Carter’s Little Liver Pills there, it eventually became just Dean’s Store. After all, you could purchase, with cash or credit, lots of other items, such as cigars, Dental snuff, baby dolls, spices, a fan belt for your Ford, ice cream, guitar picks, and, of course, that popular commodity, Coca-Cola. In fact, for a few years, Linton served as a Coca-Cola distributor. Red Rock Cola was popular as well. There was a soda fountain, which would qualify as vintage were it still there. An iconic black-and-white photograph of the fountain is on display at the store, and in books and magazines and online. Thought to have been photographed around 1910, it features Linton and his brother, William Hugh Dean. At some point Linton chose to sell that fountain and install a new one which would remain in use until the mid-1950s.
Linton died at age 95 in 1981. He had outlived his six siblings. Some of them had families, and a few still live in the area today. William Hugh, the brother in the photo, had settled in Cobb County. He was the third generation Willliam. His father, the doctor who founded the store, was William Lemuel Dean, called Willie by his father, William Hiram Dean, a doctor and a minister who settled in Woodstock in the early 1850s. The name would be passed down to yet another generation when William Hugh “Bill” Dean, Jr. was born in 1920.
Bill Dean died on Christmas Day at age 100. He can tell us his own story through an oral interview conducted in June of 2019 by Cherokee County Historical Society and Preservation Woodstock. He was born in Woodstock on Sept. 3, 1920, at his father’s farm just south of the little town’s center. After the house was destroyed by fire when Bill was a toddler, they moved to Marietta. But their ties to Woodstock were strong, and Bill was a regular visitor here for all of his life. He tells many stories about Dean’s Store and the men who gathered there regularly. In his words, “Uncle Linton was into everything. He had a gas tank out in front … could sell gas. Then inside he had medicines. He had a beautiful marble fountain and they’d make milkshakes and things like that. Had a round Co-Cola table about so big. Had wrought iron, just pipe legs, you know and four chairs. In the back of the store was his little office. And he did about everything he could get a little bit of money out of. He was a bus agent. There was a bus from Canton to Marietta and they’d stop there, and people would come in and wait for the bus. That’s where you’d buy tickets. And he collected for the city taxes, and for any utilities that they had at that time. The men around town would congregate in the back, and there was always a checker game going, all the time. And if there was a baseball game on, he had a radio … and they would listen to the ballgame. Woodstock had a very unusual and talented pitcher, Lewis Carpenter. He pitched for the Atlanta Crackers and everybody was rooting for Lewis… Uncle Linton kept a scorecard on the games and it tells who he pitched to, what the guy did, and if a question came up (among the men), like, ‘Remember that game two years ago when Lewis did so and so’ Uncle Linton would reach in and pull out a card two years old.” The score card didn’t lie.
During my years there as docent, beginning in 2001 when it became the location of the Woodstock Visitor Center, Bill was a frequent visitor. He loved to browse through the shelves and read the old store ledgers, and talk about the good times and his Uncle Linton. I wish I had listened more closely. Perhaps this is better. His sharp, vivid memories are preserved in his voice and transcribed for all of us to read. The stories are priceless, painting a vivid picture of Woodstock and its people, and of a family grounded in its heritage.
As a young man, Bill served five years in the U.S. Army during the Second World War. He later touched many lives as a devoted insurance agent, and shared his lifelong woodworking talent to leave a tangible legacy for future generations. We grieve with the Dean family and with others who were blessed in knowing Bill Dean.