Country Stores Located Within Distance Traveled By Mule Ride
By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone I hope you are having a good week. I didn’t hear of the death of Bill White until after I had sent in last week’s column so I’d like to extend my condolences to his family.
As I said last week, after giving some background about the country stores, I would like to mention the ones I remember. Due to the poor roads in the last half of the nineteenth century, country people needed a store nearby. Nearby usually meant the distance that could be traveled by a farmer on a mule.
The stores usually were located at crossroads or near the railroads, since transportation was always a problem. Most were plain little buildings although some sported false fronts that would have done credit to a store in Memphis or Jackson. One of the stores that I remember was Mr. Kimzey’s at O’Tuckalofa. Incidentally his daughter, Eva Kimzey-Williams, called me the other day after reading that I intended to feature stores in the area. She graciously offered to compile some stories about her Dad from over a 50-year period and I’ll include it later. I truly appreciate this.
She also sent me information several years ago about the murder of her great aunt by Ed Gammons, and she does an exceptional job of researching history. I shared a story of how I first met her dad and I’ll include it when I write the column.
East, a few miles just over the Lafayette County line, Mr. Hugh Hardy had a thriving business. When Yalobusha County voted out beer, Lafayette County voted it in and stores on the county line prospered accordingly.
On old Hwy. 7 just over the county line Elmer Hunt did the same thing. Just up Hwy. 7, Will Hardy bought the Springdale store that formerly was Watts’s grocery. During World War II, soldiers from Grenada Air Base and Camp McCain would come all the way there as it was one of a few places that they could buy beer.
I remember Mr. Watts from the time I was a kid. The store was a shabby looking affair with a gas pump in front and living quarters in the rear. Before there was beer in Lafayette county, Mr. Watts sold moonshine for many years until one day a revenue agent came in and arrested him. He served a couple of years in federal prison.
He told Papa Badley after he got out that he was through selling moonshine, although he said he would still drink some from time to time. He sold his store and moved to Oxford and had a small store with a gas pump in front near Kiami’s drive in.
I stopped by from time to time to chat with him as he was not only interesting, but was also friendly and outgoing. Once he said, “I sold my Springdale store too soon before they voted in beer and if I had stayed I could have gotten rich during the war legally.” However if he had any regrets he didn’t show it and never whined about what might have been.
Before my time, Elmer Higginbotham’s family had a store on the old Oxford road over in Lafayette County. For as long as I can remember it was one of the county polling places and was kept in good repair with all the old counters and shelves still inside.
Mother told me that before he moved his business to the Valley, Mr. Will Crews and his brother, Sam, had a small store on the Delay road in sight of Jumper’s Chapel Church. She said it wasn’t much bigger than a small room in a house but they ran it for many years.
The story was that the brothers were partners with only a hand shake and if they ever had cross words nobody ever knew about it. As I wrote years ago, Mr. Will had what was probably the first drive-in grocery. It was located where the BP station is now across from the Bank.
At the corner of Hwy. 7 and 32, a grocery and gas station operated for many years.
Earnest Berry left the Berry and Walker barber shop in the late 1930s and operated a store for many years just past Sylva Rena. He would only come into town to the barber on Saturdays.
I have some research material about the relationships between the wholesale house, the drummers and the country store operators that I think will be as interesting to all of you – as it was to me. In the meantime I welcome any input as some of the names I’ve forgotten.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189, Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.