The Old Country Store

NC Minute Masthead

Although I grew up in an orphanage and was not exposed to the “country store”, I do remember back in the early 1940’s after I left the orphanage of visiting a country store at Delway, North Carolina. Visiting with my Uncle Graham in the summer he would take me with him when he needed something. There. just like all country stores they sold everything you can think of. There was hardware, clothing such as shoes, overalls and hats. You could purchase cooking utensils, yard goods and so on. Then there were bridles and other items for hitching up the mules. One of the first odors that you got a whiff of was the old salted herring in a barrel. There was staple groceries and who could ever forget the hoop of “rat cheese.” If you wanted a pound of cheese the man behind the counter would cut a slice and he was so good, rarely did he miss the correct weight.

Near the back of the store was a pot-belly stove where men gathered around and discussed anything and everything from A to Z. The stove sat in a sand-box so that the floor would not catch fire. Smoke was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The “spit box” was a sight to behold, as there was always several in the group that chewed tobacco rather than smoking it.

I can remember my first trip to the country store at Delway. It was near lunch time and Uncle Graham bought me a small can of potted meat, crackers and a pepsi cola. Brother, I was eating a real meal. (Have you ever read what was in potted meat? Ugh.)

An interesting part of the country store was the fact that they sold on credit. There were no credit cards, only your word of honor that you would pay your bill at harvest time. I remember reading some years ago that the owners of country stores
got 99% of the credit they gave. This is a far cry from today.

All in all, the old country store was a great part of the American culture. I consider myself lucky to have lived a small part of it.