Days of the rolling storePublished 1:38pm Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Back in the days when motor vehicles were seldom seen on the dirt roads of rural Alabama, the rolling store had an appeal to the farm family equal to the oasis for a desert traveler.
Our family managed quite well to grow the food we ate, the grain and hay we fed our livestock and the cotton to keep clothes on our backs; however, there were a few staples we needed that had to come from another source.
In our case, that source was a big, tall square box sitting on a one-ton truck chassis.
It had doors in front and back with steps leading to the rear entrance. A kerosene tank with pump protruded from the back and chicken cages were attached to the sides. Inside, shelves from top to bottom were stocked with merchandise ranging from baking powder to sewing needles.
Since cash was hard to come by for most families, the peddler (rolling store driver) accepted chickens and eggs in trade for the merchandise he offered. That being the case, my bothers and I kept a close watch on our stray hens and would follow them to their nests any time we thought they were going to lay an egg. It was our privilege to keep the eggs and swap them for candy the next time the peddler came around.
Nothing was left to chance when it came to anticipating the arrival of the rolling store.
An hour before its expected arrival, we’d stand watch. Sometimes, we’d climb a big oak tree in the front yard to get a better view. Keeping our eyes glued to an opening on a hilltop a mile southeast of our house, we could easily see the rolling store top the hill and approach its last stop before reaching our house.
We’d be standing by the road when the rolling store stopped. Our mother was first in line with her list in hand while us four boys stood behind peering around with an egg in each hand. After the peddler had filled our mother’s order for baking powder, a gallon of kerosene, a bottle of vanilla flavoring, a box of matches and a card of white buttons, we’d ask him, “how much candy can we buy for two eggs?”
He’d oblige by pulling three or four boxes of candy from his shelves and sit them down in front of us.
“Eggs are worth two pennies a piece,” he’d say. BB Bats and suckers are five for a penny and a candy bar is four cents.”
We’d usually choose more is better and walk away with enough candy to last for two or three days.
Back then us kids thought goodies from the rolling store were the best thing for which we could hope. Little did we realize that we already had the best things money couldn’t buy—tea cakes filled with made-from-scratch chocolate frosting, fresh fruit cobbler pies and four-layer real coconut cakes.
Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.