What does the term “country store” bring to mind? For most, if we go back in time far enough, we will have flashbacks of the country store. Unfortunately, most have to go back to a bygone era of Currier and Ives or Norman Rockwell to remember the country store.
In my childhood, it would have been either a simplified “Dobbin’s Grocery” on Swauger, or the real thing in downtown Minford called Pflegher’s General Store. They had grocery, furniture and hardware. They had everything from cement mixers to a hard country Christmas.
The business is gone, but the store still stands, and memories of Ralph and Floyd Pfleger, Sam Stapleton, Zeke Lundy, the Carter Boys, Don and Curt Conkle will always be there.
Sadly enough, the commercialized version of “Cracker Barrel Country Restaurants” are about all that remain to remind us of those wonderful “Mom and Pop” businesses they called country stores.
Gone are the days of Lum and Abner and the jot-em-down store, but as long as there’s a pot-bellied stove and checker board on a nail keg, there’s potential. Cracker Barrel has all this and rockin’ chairs, but it’s just a cheap imitation of the atmosphere they’re trying to duplicate. At least, they’re trying.
It’s those notions, potions and elixirs of the past that really take us all back about a century. That would be just about the picture painted in The Waltons and Ike Gotzie’s General Store.
When you step into a place like that, you truly step back in time, to simplicity and ingenuity. It was a time when Americans prided themselves in “Yankee Ingenuity” and being “self-sufficient.” If they didn’t have it in the bathroom or barn, they could get it at the General Store and mix it up in the sink or a 5-gallon bucket.
In those days, elixirs weren’t patented. The 1907 Food and Drug Act put many a self-proclaimed doctor who wanted to see their picture on the bottle label out of business. The truth is that most elixirs brought relief to the sufferer because it had a strong slug of whiskey or morphine in it. That will work for most of us, for a while.
Some classic country store items might be bag balm, Chapstick, Burt’s Bees, Coca-Cola, Dr. Scholls, freckle cream, Johnson Baby Powder, Frownies, Listerine, Prince Albert Tobacco, Smith Brothers cough medicine, horehound candy, Vaseline, Vicks Vapo-rub, Cracker Jacks, Sears and Roebuck catalog, Farmer’s Almanac, Grit newspaper, Chiclets, Popsicle, Hershey Kisses, Life Savers, Juicy Fruit gum, Milk Duds, Milky Way, Moon Pie, Little Debbie, licorice, M&M, Tootsie Roll Pop, Balsa wood planes, Crayola crayons, erector set, Lincoln Logs, kites, string, Radio Flyer wagons, Lionel Trains, marbles, Roadmaster bicycles, Raggedy Ann doll, Scrabble, Teddy Bear, Tinker Toy, yo-yo, can openers, cast iron sink hand pump, Radio Shack and Crosley radios, paper cups and plates, toaster, vacuum cleaner, whistling tea kettle, zippers, candles, pot-bellied stoves, Rock City birdhouses, Ivory and Lifebouy soaps, perfume, Old Spice, Barbasol, Gillette razors, Animal Crackers, Campbell’s soups, Clabber Girl Baking Soda, rolling pins, Dazey Butter Churns, crank-type ice cream makers,ice boxes, maple syrup, Oreo cookies, Quaker Oats, Bon-Ami Soap, starch, irons, suspenders, belts, boots, hats, bolt cloth, wash boards, Burpee and Stark Seeds, Oxydol, sewing machine, concrete mixer, carpentry tools, crosscut saws, saddle soap, Borax, vaporizers and tallow, just to name a few items in the American general store in the 1930s.
As was previously stated, the General Store supplied rural America well prior to WWII. It would have been the 1950s that brought America to the thoughts of plastic, nothing is big enough and “progress” leaves “Americana” in the dust.
The General Store and Detroit did OK through the four following decades, but too much radical “global” thinking allowed Chinese toys, Japanese cars and plastic money to undermine the American economy. This also eroded the American worker and his/her personal pride and self-esteem.
If you can have it made in Asia and buy it at Walmart on Sunday, who needs a general store to sell you ingredients to make it yourself? Certainly not the modern American — wrong!!
What really needs to happen here is to go back to the simpler times of the General Store. Make it in America. Make it yourself, if it’s not too late for you to learn to sweat.
It was that WWII generation in the ’40s who brought America together on a united front. As Tom Brokaw terms it, that was “America’s Greatest Generation.”
That was when we made our own cars, trucks, steel and toys. We had pride and self-sufficiency. We didn’t go in debt or go hungry. We did it the old-fashioned way with our minds, back, hands and self-motivation.
They call those simpler times, but it may be just as simple as go down to the General Store, get a bolt of cloth, “get down to the brass tacks,” on the counter and make your own. We can do it. We can make America Great Again. It just has to come from within.
If you need it, just call the General Store. That’s one long and two shorts. Ask for Lum or Abner.
Dudley Wooten was the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery.