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Stories Passed Down Help Preserve History

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  In spite of all the rain, spring is still my favorite season of the year.

The birds seem to be happy as they sing and build their nests, and the squirrels are making a nuisance of themselves as they always do.  Last year we had a solitary rabbit who came out late in the afternoon, but he has since disappeared – probably trying to find a mate.  

In my elementary years at Camp Ground there was always some hardy individual who would be the first to go barefooted – most years it was Ray Jones.  I can still see him walking across the rough playground, trying not to frown as his tender feet encountered a small pebble.  I think this practice was encouraged by parents as it meant less shoes to buy for a house full of kids.  

I was part of the barefoot crowd, and during the summer months James Avant and I went through brush and briar thickets. None of us ever got bitten by a snake, although we did get splinters and I even stuck a nail in my foot on more than one occasion.  

Testing A Theory

Jim Peacock called and asked why I didn’t tell why I was dropping corn to get the chickens to follow me as mentioned in a previous column.  It was a simple premise actually.  I had been told that ducks could swim but chickens did not.  I got all the chickens to follow me by dropping a few grains of corn  as I walked.  

When I got to the stock pond I had all the chickens behind me, and I would throw a hand full of corn in the pond to see if the chickens would go after it.  Chickens are supposed to be dumb, but they were smart enough not to follow the corn into the water.  

Someone told me a story about how they would put duck eggs under a hen.  When the ducks hatched, they thought the hen was their mother and followed her accordingly. It seems that these ducks found the stock pond and went straight into the water.  The hen squawked and ran up and down she bank until the ducks came out, and then she refused to have anything to do with them.  

The other day in Memphis I saw a pair of beautiful Canadian geese crossing the road with four little goslings following them.  Some of the geese had discovered that there is food around and they decided to forego all that flying and stick around.

Early Grocery Shopping

In these days of self service  we forget that before Clarence Saunders opened his first self service grocery store around 1916, a clerk waited on you as you did your shopping.  I can still remember when Peoples Wholesale operated that way.          A clerk would follow you around with a paper bag and as you selected your item, he would drop it in the bag and jot the price down on the side of the bag. When you finished, he would total it and you paid the cashier.  

Claude Wood had the first self service grocery in Water Valley called Jitney Jungle.  He also had a meat market, which the Peoples Wholesale did not in those days.  The dry goods stores still used clerks.

The upscale stores still use clerks today, although they don’t follow you around, but  are nearby if you need them.  The old time clerks were not sales people by any stretch. They would use such trite sayings as “My wife bought a dress like that the other day,” – pathetic.

 There was a story my grandparents told me about Miss Daisy Mason who spoke her mind regardless.  She went into this store and the clerk was bow legged and waddled as he walked.

She asked about something and he replied, “Walk this way.” She said, “why Mr. —-, I couldn’t walk that way if my life depended on it.”

Stories like these are the reason I ask all of you for your personal memories each week, even if they seem trivial.  I wish I had listened more carefully or made notes when I would hear the older folks talking.  So much of our heritage is lost forever.  That was the reason I originally started this  column, so my children and grandchildren would know something about their ancestors and the times in which they lived.  My email address is or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Ten 38101 and have a great week.

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