Packaging At A Minimum In Old Country Store
By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. This was a quiet Fourth for me as Lupe, Shelby, and Elizabeth were visiting Virginia and I stayed home.
The History Channel had some reruns of The American Revolution and I had a couple of good books and plenty of time to do an outline of this column in my mind. Over the years I’ve always asked for your input and Eva Kimzey-Williams came through with a great collection of stories that were so good, I decided to do a profile of what was a family operation.
The house, store and farmland belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Forrest Barber. They had two daughters, Myra and Delma. On March 16, 1942, a devastating tornado destroyed the store, O’Tucklalofa school, the Baptist Church and created death and destruction up the entire Valley. Among the dead was school principal Ferrell and his infant daughter. Mrs. Barber was seriously injured and Mr. Barber was on crutches for some time.
There were at least seven deaths in this community alone. In spite of being on crutches, Mr. Barber was able to rebuild his house and store with help of relatives and friends. The store was a shotgun type affair, with a dirt front porch and a small porch in back where wooden cold drink cases were stacked.
There were no “throw away” bottles in those days. They were picked up by the bottler and full bottles left in their place. The bottler sterilized the bottles and they were used again. Eva’s dad. Carlton B. Kimzey and her mother, Frances bought the store in February, 1943 and moved from Taylor to the O’Tuckla-lofa community, remaining there for the rest of their lives.
Like all country stores there was a gas pump in front – one choice, regular. C. B. added a “lean-to” the entire length of the building to store livestock, hog feed and a grist mill. Eva recalled that some of the feed would be in colorful flowery sacks and she would pick out a design she liked. Her mother, a good seamstress, would make blouses and skirts for her.
People from Yalobusha, Lafayette and Calhoun counties would stop by and leave a sack of corn to be ground, and maybe have a R.C. Cola. They would stop by later to pick up their meal. C. B would take a one pound coffee can full of corn as his pay. The store had all the staples of life – 25 or 50 pound sacks of flour, meal; five, 10, and 25 pound bags of sugar; lard; Vienna sausage; sardines; pork and beans; coffee; cigarettes; chewing tobacco and cigars.
The snuff offered was Red Rooster and Garrett. The Garrett had one, two, or three dots on the bottles. In my research on Dr. Thomas D. Clark’s book about southern country stores, he mentioned how important the dots were to consumers. You lost a sale if you didn’t have the customer’s choice.
Prior to World War II, flour came in 24 or 48 pound sacks and I asked Papa Badley about this and he explained that once flour came in barrels which was 196 pounds, a half barrel was 96 pounds a quarter barrel 48 pounds and so on.
Crackers came in a barrel and customers would ask for a nickel’s worth of cheese and crackers. Most stores kept a block of “hoop cheese” and a slice of cheese and a handful of crackers was a nickel. And, yes, the clerk dipped his hand in the barrel. Of course, this was before C.B.’s time.
In the early 1950s, the highway was to be paved and the store had to be moved back so many feet. A new building with concrete porch and floor was constructed, minus the grist mill. Also, a cooler was added and then milk, oleo, bologna, and cheese was offered.
I realized when I got this wealth of material from Eva that I wouldn’t be able to do it justice in one column, so we’ll pick up next week.
Eva, again my thanks and any of you who would like to share your memories with us, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.