Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Always the River, Mama, and Piggly Wiggly

There's always the River, Mama, and Piggly Wiggly.  No Greene County story is complete without one, two or all three of those mentioned.  Porches, front and back, and neighbors often make an appearance in each retelling but those first three - well, one of them is going to be here every story.

I can almost remember Piggly Wiggly's grand opening in this small community, key word being 'almost.'  I remember the building not being there and then it was, with Bill's Dollar Store at one end managed by Ms. Mildred and Piggly Wiggly at the other end.  Before the Pig (as we affectionately call it) was built, there were three or four small mom-and-pop operations:  real groceries stores, with a single cash register and bag boys to load the groceries in the car.  That used to be the premium summer job for the boys, the other high-demand summer employment being one of working for the County road crew, clearing ditches with a Kaiser blade and running from snakes.

In Mr. Luther Dearman's grocery store, the frozen section consisted of two humongous bigger-than-our-own-back-then-chest-type freezers.  The lids reached a critical mass point of solid ice right before defrosting and often required Mr. Luther's assistance to open.   At Mr. Maurice Turner's store Mama could shop for all seven of us and the farm critters all in the same building.  Mr. Maurice handled livestock and chicken feeds.  Mama tells me Mr. Luther handled it, too, but I don't remember the sweet feed smell in his store.  In the spring Mr. Maurice would have fertilizer and seeds too.  The corn seed had a pink tint to it, some sort of protective poison that worked marvelously well at keeping too many children from ingesting it.  Bitter as quinine, it was spit out almost as quickly as the dare to eat a kernel was whispered by the best tomboy friend another tomboy trouble-maker could ever have.  I need to call Sharon and see how she's doing; get caught up with her and filled in on the developmental exploits of her newest grandbaby.

Across the street from him was O & M Grocery.  O and M stood/stands for Oliver and Myrtis.  Mr. Oliver has a twin, Mr. Frank, married to Mrs. Betty.   The only way I can tell them apart is to see who's closer to Mrs. Myrtis - that'd be Oliver.  O & M was more than a grocery store.  It was a fabric store too, and Mrs. Myrtis and her sisters did their incredible seamstress and tailoring work to one side of the store there. At one point Mr. Ford had a grocery store, his son that's a pharmacist was the butcher.  It's an amusing thought, knowing the local legitimate pill pusher used to cut an amazing shoulder roast.

Mr. Luther was my favorite of them all.  He was an incredible dear man (PFFFFT!!!  Get it?  Dear man?  Dearman?? {I slay me sometimes}); one of those gentle souls that I've forgotten exactly what he looked like and the timbre of his voice but I've never forgotten his spirit.  Never.  One time when I was six years old (aaaawww, gimme a break, I remember what I was wearing that day and my first grade school picture was made in that dress so I was SIX, okay?), Mama had told me to stay in the car while she ran inside his store to pick up a few things.  Just  a few things.  Stay in the car; she'd be right back.  Stay in the car.  Well I don't know what possessed me to get out of the scuppernong-colored Chevrolet and go in. Those were the days of zero strangers in the community and on the streets so I wasn't scared.  It wasn't hot.   Not cold, either.  I got out of the car and went in the store. 

Mama heard me talking to Mr. Luther and spanked me all the way back to the car.  I took my punishment like the pro I was at taking punishment, mischief having always placed me in a position of needing it.  Mama went back in the store.  A few moments later Mr. Luther came out with a Hershey's bar with almonds for me.  To eat.  Without sharing.  That must have been the moment I became a chocoholic.  I remember the taste of the smooth milk chocolate, the velvetiness of it coating every taste bud.   Each roasted almond was carefully eaten around until only a single molecule of chocolate held it to the bar, to be individually consumed without complication of flavor.  Mama made a fuss over Mr. Luther making a fuss over me but it was worth it.  It'd be sick in a most carnal sort of way to say it about what I will and will not do today, but back then, I'd take a spanking for chocolate any day.

Now the only proper grocery store in town is Piggly Wiggly, in the new store built during the years that I wasn't here.  It has all the personality of any steel construction, the management always professionally polite, the checkers biding their time 'til the end of shift, and the stockboys peeking around the ends of aisles to see what hot babe just walked in.  It's okay as far as grocery stores go.  Mr. Richard makes sure it's exceptionally clean and they did open up right after Katrina came through, handing out flashlights and escorting folks through the store for cash or check purchases of whatever was on the shelves. 

There are no display windows or that sorghum-y sweet smell of horse-and-mule feed coming from the back of the store.  There are no bag boys to carry groceries out to cars, no hanging around the meat counter to see if you could get the tail of the bologna chub being sliced and no digging through the freezers (and almost standing on your head to get to the bottom) looking for the pot pies on sale that have the crust on the bottom, either.  Sadly, there's no store owner/butcher/cashier to tell a child she didn't do a great wrong by being sociable. 

But there's always the River, Mama, and Piggly Wiggly...

Chocolate really is probably my favorite flavor in the entire world.  And I like dark chocolate.  I don't think there's a more complete thing you can taste that compares to dark chocolate.  I have a few chocoholic cake clients and it looks like my best work is in chocolate - probably because I like it so well.  I hope to get y'all up a tutorial this weekend on how to do these chocolate curls but don't hold your breath - it might be late Saturday...


  1. Ahhh... We treasure the same sorts of memories, don't we? Looking forward to reading so much more on your blog! Thanks for this trip down memory lane. :)

  2. Ahhh... We treasure the same sorts of memories, don't we? Looking forward to reading so much more on your blog! Thanks for this trip down memory lane. :)