By Frances Garner
As a child of the post-depression era and beginning my first year in school during World War II, my childhood was nothing akin to that of my children and grandchildren.
There were not of luxuries in those days, but people worried about necessities, not luxuries.
Most families did not own a vehicle, not even a tractor, just a good pair of mules and a wagon.
A trip to town, some 15-20 miles away on a dirt road, had to be planned in advance.
Usually all the men folk made the all day trip which sometimes resulted in an overnight stay due to inclement weather.
Consequently, a lot of planning went into stocking the pantry shelves with home canned meats and vegetables.
This would include 100 pound sacks of flour, kerosene for the lamps, lard cans of fresh ground corn meal, and enough lard to last from one hog killing until the next.
Waste was out of the question, even a bar of bath soap was used down to the last little sliver, and the slivers were put together until the last lather was gone.
Nevertheless, many times there would be a shortage of one thing or another and your neighbor living a mile or so away could not always be counted on to be well supplied either.
It was during this period of time that the “rolling store” made its debut, allowing the man of the house to make fewer trips to town and the lady of the house to “shop” with her apron on.
For the youngsters, it meant a piece of bubblegum or a stick of striped candy if a penny was available.
“Uncle Joe”, as he was called by numerous relatives in the area, would bring his rolling store through our community every other Tuesday.
The rolling store was a subsidiary of his J.A. Johnson merchandise store in south Butler County in the Industry community.
Uncle Joe would bring his merchandise to the people in a custom made store on wheels.
The long aluminum colored sides would let up like our modern garages less the remote controls.
A stick was used to prop up the sides to display all the wares on the many shelves.
There were also pullout drawers to accommodate the smaller merchandise like wooden spools of thread, needles, patented medicines, and such.
Bolts of material were neatly stacked as well as rick rack, buttons, and other needed items like Octagon soap for the rub-boards and the ever present cure-all, Castor Oil.
Farmers had very little money but most families had eggs, homemade syrup, sometimes pecans, and even chickens to trade.
The chickens could be put up in a coop located under the chassis of the truck at the rear end.
Sometimes the coop might be full but usually someone would need a chicken to fry especially if Sunday company was expected.
The bright lettering on the sides of the store, “The Golden Rule Store,” probably made the trading more successful.
“The Golden Rule Store” was classy, complete with a chauffeur named “Channie.”
When a stop was made for trading, Uncle Joe could be heard saying to the black man, “Alright Channie, let’s open up now.”
While the trading was in progress Uncle Joe would inquire about the family, the whereabouts of the boys and other kin, while passing on news of his own.
This news gathering would go into a column of the Butler County News called “Trip Notes.”
These trip notes would circulate the county and would give our modern telephones a run for the money.
“Uncle Joe” was quite an entrepreneur. In his younger days he was a teacher by trade before becoming a merchant.
His Sundays were spent alternating between the Baptist Church and the Methodist Church.
Since his wife, whom he lovingly called “Mama,” was a devout Methodist he would teach Sunday School at her church every other Sunday (most rural churches were only half-time then), and the next Sunday he would teach at the Baptist Church.
He believed strongly in the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist and would challenge the congregation to give as much as he did while jingling the coins in his pockets.
At every opportunity, he would request his favorite song to be sung, “Amazing Grace.”
I can see him now, standing front and center, singing and crying with those gold capped teeth gleaming.
The days of the rolling store became fewer and fewer after the war ended.
As the boys began to come home, the rural folks began to get cars and Greenville and Georgiana became a lot closer.
Beeland Brothers Wholesale, Planters Mercantile, and V.J. Elmore’s five and dime were too much competition.
Ill health finally forced the closing of the community store also, and “Uncle Joe” and “Mama” have been laid to rest.
All that remains of the once well-kept grounds of a general store and a lovely white country home is a piece of the old windmill, still standing high but broken, reminding us of a bygone era.