Surplus stores were unique places and when you walked in to one you could tell immediately you were in one just by the smell. It was a sort of musty-oily-dusty smell of old canvas, rubber made things, and a substance known as cosmoline. What could you buy? Wow! you could buy a world of stuff that any ten year old kid would die for. Helmets, C-Rations, Entrenching tools, ammo belts, cans of sterno, rafts, soap, camouflage nets, canteens, tents, rifles, ammo, clothing, back packs, and things that you had no idea what it was but you knew it was just great. You could buy dud hand grenades – try taking one of those to school now days. And all of it was cheap.
Back to the one that was in Delmar. In 1946 Charles Rickenbach (1912-1999) was released from military service and came to Delmar where his wife Kathleen Lillian Smithers was from. His wife’s family was William Ted Smithers and Lillie Smithers. He was a Railroad engineer and they lived on Chestnut street in Delmar Maryland. Charles opened an Army Navy surplus store over on Foskey Lane and his family lived in the brick house that is on the corner of Foskey Lane and Bi-State Boulevard.
He kept the store until sometime toward the end of the 1940’s. He sold to the store to Luther Mitchell, a drycleaning owner, in Delmar. Mr. Mitchell converted the store to apartments and they have remained so today. After the Army Navy store Charles Rickenbach ran a bar (Rick's Rathskeller) in the local area and about 1953 he moved to Melbourne, Florida where he became a Real Estate broker dealing in land. He was quite successful in business. He passed away at age 87 leaving his wife and five children.
Today Army Navy surplus stores are but a pale replica of what they use to be. Most of the stuff found in them is Chinese made knockoffs. There is a store in Delmar that is close to what an Army Navy store was and that is the Military Exchange out at State Line Plaza. Altho they do not have the range of material the old stores had they do have some items.