At one point, Climax had its own ‘rolling store’

Published 7:29 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This time of year puts one in the mind of times gone by and some simpler pleasures. As leaves begin to fall and the mornings become a little cooler. I love to drift along the roads of my memories to find a few of those simpler times and pleasures.

I do not remember much about what is called the “Great Depression,” because I was born during those years. But, I do remember my parents and others talking about the lean years. Some of the traditions of those years trickled down into the early 50s and those I do remember.

After the depression Daddy said there weren’t many cars except for folks who lived in the city. The country folks still had that horse or mule and some who were a little more able financially did have a farm truck.

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“Trips to town, (what the country folks called Climax) were few and far between,” Daddy would recall in one of his stories. “If you didn’t have a truck, going to Climax meant arranging transportation with a neighbor or riding the plow horse.”

That caused the birth of the “rolling store,” he said. It seems that some enterprising merchants got old trucks, or buses, then installed shelves and cubby holes and even some primitive ice chests on the back chassis of the vehicles. They also made a cover in case of rain, then they had a “rolling store” stocked with canned goods such as flour, sugar and other things the country folks would need. There were even cold drinks and some ice cream in the ice chest.

In Climax, one such rolling store was run by Mr. H.E. Grover out of his store on Main Street. I don’t remember if any other store had a rolling store. Maybe some of you will remember if Trulock Supply had one. I don’t think Mrs. Inez Allen’s store had one.

The rolling store had routes it followed — some weekly and some monthly. Daddy said life in the country then had little variation. Neighbors came by to swap work on the farms or if someone got sick or had some emergency. Transportation on the dirt roads was mostly by horse or mule and when they heard an engine he said one knew it was the rolling store and Mr. Grover.

This continued into the 50s when times began to improve, the roads became paved and travel was better for the traveling store. As a young child in the 50s, I do remember the rolling store coming down the road with the noise of pots and pans changing on the sides.

Mother did not buy much from the store. By then, Daddy had his truck, and she liked to visit with Mrs. Inez Allen at her mercantile store, but Grandmother still liked the rolling store. She could buy her railroad red bladder snuff from the rolling store, and no one would know she had a little dip.

My little sister and I were just big enough to know if Grandmother climbed the steps to the rolling store this meant candy for us, so we watched for the rolling store and knew the days it came. We were the alarm system to Grandmother that the store was on its way.

Inside the rolling store were all kinds of goodies, and Grandmother made a big production of what she would buy, but Myra and I knew the big red bladder was the most important. So we waited patiently for her to say, “Now girls, what do you like?”

Naturally we wanted everything, but settled for Mary Janes, Kits, or Squirrel Nuts or maybe a Sugar Daddy. A cold drink or ice cream was out of the question, as that wasn’t penny candy. Penny candy was the only thing Grandmother would buy.

Sometimes we heard chickens in a crate or saw eggs that Mr. Grover had traded for, with someone down the route. There were also medicines, such as rolls of adhesive tape and gauze, Vicks salve, white lineament, Watkins lineament — as well as the flavorings. Anything a child from the country could imagine was in that rolling store. There were different colors of thread to sew feed sack dresses and shirts, and flour sacks made like pillow cases or some with dish towels attached as a promotion.

The smells were different, too. The flavoring smells mixed with the medicine smells, then the fresh ground flour mixed with the sweet candy smells.

If Grandmother bought us a Sugar Daddy, it was so big it would last for several days. Have you seen a Sugar Daddy today? They call them Sugar Babies, and that is the best name — not big enough to last a few minutes!

Oh well — come out of the rolling store and back down memory lane to the ordinary life of your Climax correspondent.