New name, service stays the same at local gun shop
HUGHESVILLE – It’s often been said, “In spring young men’s fancies turn to love.” It could be equally true that during the fall season, most men’s fancies turn to hunting. Nowhere is that more evident than at a local gun shop which recently had a change in ownership. Known for decades as Dugan’s Gun Shop, the Hughesville business has been part of the landscape since 1972 along Route 220 near the intersection of Route 405.
Its founder, the late Russell Dugan, began much earlier serving needs of his sportsman friends. A Lairdsville native living near the hub of the village close to the former Ruyan store, made it a convenient place for cronies to gather.
“We all liked to hunt, fish and even trap” said Dale Lunger remembering some who made up the young men who gathered then including LaRue Arthur, Phil O’Conner, Ralph Spring, Jim Houseknecht and Ed Budman.
“He taught me how to trap and often I walked the lines with him,” Lunger who’d moved to Lairdsville in 1944 as a teen said. He recalled another of Russell’s talents which was a plus for the future businessman. “He could add rows of figures in his head and when school contests put him up against other students from the surrounding area, Russell finished in first place with LaRue Arthur second. My dad was their teacher and proud his students did so well,” Lunger said.
The guys had nicknames. Lunger was “Pee Wee,” Arthur was “Baldy and Dugan was “Dixie.” According to Lunger, a comic strip of the times had a character named Dixie Dugan, and though Dixie was female, the guys began calling Dugan Dixie.
Another take on the nickname came from daughter, Sherry Fiegles who’d been told the gang made trips to Hughesville to view movies and shoot pool at Chet Boyer’s hall. A favorite treat for her dad was ice cream in a Dixie Cup. Regardless of the origin, Dugan was known to family and friends as Dixie.
It was during these trips and at high school in Hughesville that he met and married Shirley Andrews. They moved from their first home in Lairdsville, as a difficult pregnancy necessitated a move to Hughesville to be close to a doctor. Eventually along came Sherry, and with Pamela, the family was complete.
In 1955 while holding a full time job at Modecraft, Dugan opened a shop in his back yard with evening and weekend hours. “We must give mom a lot of credit, she was very supportive of dad and the business,” both daughters Sherry Fiegles and Pam Aderhold agreed. Pam went on to say, “We liked the opportunity to play with the clients’ children.”
When Modecraft closed in the early 1970s, a decision to build a shop and work full time at his hobby was realized. Eventually the growing business brought son-in-law Jim Fiegles on board.
“If only these walls could talk,” Jim said during a recent interview at the shop. He and a part-timer said Dugan set the example on how to treat customers. One incident recalled was when a boy came in with an inoperable fishing reel. It had a missing piece so Dugan exchanged it saying he would order the part and fix it later. The boy was off to a fishing hole without delay. “He had a soft heart, especially for kids,” Jim said.
Dugan was open the first day of deer season saying he just knew some hunter was going to need something. “Dad would hunt the second day, and be back with his buck in a couple hours,” Sherry said.
Services to equipment was done in-house when possible, with scope mountings sent out to Tony Hopkins and the late Clarence Wheal.
The business is continuing under the next generation. “I’m the silent partner,” Pam said while Sherry performs bookkeeping duties. Jim is full time at the counter giving clients the same service they’ve received for decades.
To satisfy government paperwork, the business name has been changed. After pondering several possibilities, the new sign will read, Dixie’s Gun Shop, in tribute to founder, former owner and dad, Russell Dugan.