Country Store Memories, Part II: Arthur’s Store

My grandmother’s house was on the main road in the Valley. I am sure it must have had a county or state route number, but I never knew what it was.  The main road came to a dead end at another road. Arthur’s house was at this intersection – a small white house with a poured concrete porch. It was Arthur’s house I wrote about in a post about taking solace from the storm.

Arthur’s store was about halfway between my grandfather’s house and his house. I can still see him leaving his house in his denim overalls and walking down the road to the store. The building’s exterior was covered with brown asphalt shingles. On the front facade was a large tin sign that read “Say Pepsi Please” and a large illustration of a Pepsi bottle. There were lots of those old tin signs gracing the front of the building.

I do not remember Arthur as a particularly kind man. When my brother was young, he used to ‘tease’ him by telling him he was going to cut his ears off. He would reach in the pocket of his overalls and pull out his pocket knife. I guess he thought it was funny that my brother would cover his ears and run. Looking back, it was a terribly cruel thing to say to a child. I think he did something similar to my father when he grew up there.

Like many country stores, they were opened only when convenient for the owner. Any other work, like farming or chores around the house came first. If someone desperately needed something and the store was not open, it was common to go to their house, knock on the door and ask if they would open the store for you. Imagine doing that today.

Arthur’s store was not large. It consisted of a small rectangular room with a counter behind which Arthur stood. His image fades in and out as I try to remember him. I am sure we kids might have been a nuisance to him running in and out to buy candy because he never seemed particularly happy. Along the counter were glass jars filled with rectangular shaped coconut cookies which I loved. I am sure they probably cost about 2¢ each.

Beside the counter, Arthur had a chest freezer. The lid was hinged on the back, facing the customers and opened toward him. This is where he kept frozen items and for me that meant ice cream – a Nutty Buddy, a Push-Up or a Fudgsicle. My most vivid memory of his store was the day I went in to buy an ice cream. I was so excited!

When Arthur opened the freezer, it created an opening along the lid. As I waited for him to retrieve my ice cream, I inadvertently put my fingers in the crack created when he opened the freezer. When he had my treat, he let the freezer door drop onto all eight of my fingers. I screamed until he opened the lid. No broken bones – perhaps there was insulation around the lid of the freezer that protected me somewhat. What a memory!

When Arthur closed the store, he used the building for storage. At one time I think they may have used it to hang tobacco to dry. It was still standing the last time I went home unlike Arthur’s house which was eventually torn down.

Tomorrow I will introduce you to Clarence and his store. It was the men’s social gathering spot and the store that stayed operational the longest.