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IBC Root Beer, Bologna Sandwiches and Finally Ice!

The market carried quite a selection of items. The deli case contained all kinds of lunch meats such as bologna, ham, turkey, roast beef, pickle and pimento loaf, livercheese, ham and cheese loaf and pickled bologna and pickled eggs. Milk, bacon, eggs, sausage, hamburger, and some produce was also offered for sale. We also carried dog food, all kinds of cleaning supplies, and detergents, bread, cereal, canned foods, chips, candy, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, snuff, cold and flu medicines, cough syrup, ice cream by the box and on the stick, nails, caps, bandannas,
sunglasses, bb’s, some small toys, and oil, gas, kerosene, and feed. I had jawbreakers, every kind of candy bar imaginable, Little Debbie cakes, and the best delivery men you could find.
I ordered from several different wholesale houses in surrounding areas. Madison Wholesale out of Richmond would send a representative to the store on Mondays and then deliver on Tuesday or Wednesday. There was a milkman, breadman, pepsi man, coke man, rc cola man, ice man, chip man, and several other wholesale houses that delivered their goods. They often left samples of their products and also gave my girls boxes of candy at Christmas.
The state would send around people ever so often to check out my meat scales and the gas pumps to make sure they were set correctly and no one was getting cheated. There was even a guy that came from the state to check my eggs! He would put a small light on an egg and would be able to see inside. I, often thought, what a job to have! One where you are furnished a car to drive and all you do is check eggs in grocery stores. Most of my delivery people and the state guys would always sit for a spell and chat, and if it was near lunchtime, they would have a sandwich and a cold soda pop.
The Health Department would send a health inspector once a year to check out the store. I never knew when or what time this person would show up. I don’t think I ever fell below a grade ninty-eight during inspection. Once they marked me down a point for having a bag of dogfood sitting on the floor. It could not be touching the floor! Another time they took a point off for a mop sitting on the floor. It was supposed to be hanging upside down on the wall. It was never anything big just little petty stuff.

I really had a time getting an ice machine for the place. The ice house in Danville would not deliver to me because it was so far out in the country and twenty some miles. I had an old Chevy wagon and I would go to Danville once a week, get twenty five bags of ice and cover it with blankets, haul it to the store, and put it in a freezer, just so my customers could have ice.
They finally realized that I was selling enough ice to pay them to deliver to me and to furnish me with an ice machine. Sometimes, during the summer months, they would have to deliver to me more than once because I sold so much ice for beer and soft drinks to the farmers and field hands. I never put a lock on that ice machine and I don’t think I ever had any ice stolen from me. Many a time after the store closed I would look out and someone was getting ice but they always came in the next day and paid for it. The same thing with the bags of feed I kept on the front porch. There may be a bag missing when I opened in the morning but it was paid for by closing time.

Many was the time, someone would pay me for so much gas, go out and pump it and come back to give me three or four cents where they ran over the amount.
I owned the store for a little over seven years and in all that time I had one cold check that I did not collect on and it was for thirty-five dollars. That sure says a lot about the kind of people living in the Forkland area. (To be continued)


Growing Up, Ghosts, Swimming Holes, Frogs, and Good Ole Boys

Peg always wore bibbed overalls. In the summer, he wore bibbed overalls, brogans, and a white t-shirt. In the winter, he wore bibbed overalls, brogans, and a plaid long-sleeved shirt. Peg wore bibbed overalls and a white shirt when he went to the funeral home or needed to get dressed up for some special event.

One day, Peg told me about Marian. Marian was a ghost that haunted the people on the road where Peg lived. She would appear outside his house and once she came into the stripping room while he and some relatives was stripping tobacco and turned off the radio. These stories would always make me go into fits of laughter. I told Peg I was coming down to his place and wait for her to appear. He said, “She will not come around if you come down there because you are a stranger.” I would laugh even harder and ask him how she knew who I was. He always had an answer for me.

My twins, Anne and Leigh, loved the Fork and the lifestyle of running free around the community. They would jump on their bikes early in the morning and visit with friends and neighbors for most of the day. The girls knew everyone in the area and I was never worried about them when they were watching movies at Maggie’s house, riding bikes with Pattie, playing in the creek near Stacy’s or just hanging out at some friend’s place.

The creek was like a playground for both children and adults in this area. There was a huge area of water about two miles from Judy’s Market called, “The Swimming Hole” or “The Penn Hole”. Old and young people alike went there to swim, picnic, go four wheeling, party and have a good time. The Penn Hole was surrounded by large rocks that made diving easy, flat rocks great for lying in the sun, and running water for small children to wade and play. Nothing could compare to a cool dip on a lazy, summer day. The outside world would just fade away while listening to the sounds of the babbling creek around you.

The same creek twisted and turned and flowed under the old, iron bridge and made it’s way from Minor’s Branch running behind the store on its journey through Forkland.
Anne and Leigh loved swimming, being outdoors, exploring and skipping rocks in the water. One day, they brought in a frog they caught and said they were naming it Hubert after an older member of the community. Hubert was also one of my dearest friends and spent a lot of time loafing in the store with Peg. The girls went outside the store, found a bucket, filled it with water, and this was to be Huberts new home. Three days passed and the real Hubert was loafing in the store. I told him about his namesake and asked if he would like to see him. I took him into the girl’s room and there was the frog floating in this bucket of water sitting by the door. Hubert began laughing and said, “this poor frog has been floating for days and he is not a water dwelling frog”. I, immediately, let him go to the girls dismay. He was so tired but happy to get out of his old bucket and back to nature where he belonged. Twins can work together like one person to accomplish anything. Once they hid a whole litter of kittens in their room and left the house. I kept hearing noises and found one in a shoebox, one in the closet, one under the bed, and one in the clothes hamper. I never knew what to expect. Today, they will tell you, how much they loved the Fork, the lifestyle, the people, the store and all the great times they had when growing up in Forkland in “mom’s store”.

The selection of lunchmeat, pop, moonpies, cookies, chips, IBC rootbeer, gatoraid, and coffee drew quite a crowd during tobacco cutting, setting, and stripping time on the Fork. The tobacco hands liked playing poker after a quick lunch consisting of a sandwich, chips, drink, and some kind of cookie or cake. I have fed up to as many as forty hands during tobacco cutting and housing. I would make all kinds of sandwiches before they arrived, put them in bags and label each bag as to the meat such as bologna, ham, pickle loaf, etc. This made lunch go faster and gave them more time to play cards and relax either around the card table or hang out on the porch. I found out that men are not choosy as to what they eat just as long as it is quick and filling. (To be continued)

Groceries, Gas, and Good Hearted People

The preacher’s wife, Arvalene, was working with me in the store one day when an older gentleman came in, walked up to the counter, and told me he wanted $10 worth of gas. I took his money, rang up the sale, and told him to help himself to the gas. He stood there for a minute, went outside and put the gas in his car. I heard this laugh from behind the meat counter. I asked if I had done something wrong. Arvalene said this man had never pumped his own gas in all the time they had been running the store. He must have learned that day because all my customers pumped their own gas except for one elderly lady, Margaret, and a gentleman by the name of Thomas. Margaret had arthritis and it was very difficult for her to handle the pump and Thomas had memory lapses and could not remember how much gas he put into his tank. I started pumping gas for Thomas when he drove up to the pumps, got gas, came in to pay for it and told me he could not remember how much he put in his car. I went out to check the pumps and they had been cleared. Thomas opened his wallet and told me to take whatever I needed or thought was fair. I took $20 and pumped his gas from that day forward. Each time, I saw Thomas at the pumps I went outside, had him show me how much money he had in his wallet, (my idea was he might forget how much cash he had on him) and did the pumping for him. Thomas often forgot where he was going and where he lived but kept right on driving around the community.

Margaret was one of my best customers the entire time I ran the store. She came every Saturday and bought all her groceries for the week. She ran a tab and paid me faithfully. One particular Saturday, Margaret was walking around in the store talking to me and all of a sudden I saw her go down behind the pop machine. I thought she had passed out or fainted or something even worse. I ran over to see what happened and Margaret had fallen right through
the floor! Totally panicked, with thoughts of lawsuits running amok in my head, scared I could not get her out, I offerred to call 911 or whatever she wanted me to do. Margaret was sticking out of the old wood floor from the waist up and said she was fine! It seems the cooler was leaking and had caused the floor to rot in that area. Once she was out, we looked her over. She had some scratches and bruises on her legs. Margaret just laughed and said she should not be so fat!!! God, did I love that woman at that moment.

Another time, Margaret came to the store on a Saturday morning to do her weekly shopping. I had the day off and Carolyn was minding the store. I kept a 38 Smith and Wesson snubnosed pistol under the counter in the store for safety purposes and was a pretty good shot with a gun in those days. On this particular morning, I had decided to do a little target practicing and along with Carolyn’s husband had stepped outside to take a few shots across the road at the stump of a big, old, tree with a red sign tacked on its trunk where we had drawn a bullseye. I took pride in knowing I was as good a shot as most of the men and it was not a bad thing for people to know being a woman running a store by myself. Not that I expected to be robbed but even back then there was a few I did not trust. Carolyn came outside and told me that Margaret had finished her grocery list, paid for her purchases but would not leave the store because she was afraid we would accidentally shoot her. I, immediately, laid down my arms and proceeded inside to assure Margaret that she was safe and escorted her and the groceries to her car. Never again, did I get out the guns when Margaret was around!

I guess I should say at one point that the store was built in 1950 by W.T. Gorley. WT used to come by once in a while and tell me stories about the place or the Fork in general. WT said some of the boards used to build the store came out of an old house on the Fork that was used as a confederate army hospital during the Civil War. He said there was still blood stains on several pieces of the wood. WT and several of the men that hung around the store during the day loved to tell ghost stories. I think they thought they were scaring me and some of the stuff that was told around that wood stove would scare anyone.

My favorite loafer was Peg. He spent most of his days in my store. More than anyone else. He was a retired farmer and his wife, Lola, still worked as a nurse, giving Peg lots of loafing time. They were good people. The salt of the earth but Peg was scared of his shadow. He, also, had just one leg. This handicap did not slow him down in any way and he could get up the steps leading into the market with one leg faster than I could with two. He lost his leg in an accident when he was just a young boy. Peg was afraid of robbers, ghosts, rising water, some people in the area, and just about anything else you can think of. He would come to the store in the mornings to drink coffee and go home. He would come back about noon, have lunch, go home, and be there again before the day was over. He drove and old, red, rusted out pickup truck that I could hear coming when he crossed the big iron bridge. Peg was a lot older than me but we became great friends and shared many a story and experience. If it started raining, Peg left because he was afraid of the creeks rising. One day, I needed to go to Mitchellsburg (another tiny community in the area) to vote. I did not want to close the store because it would not take me but about 15 minutes. Peg was sitting in his chair by the wood stove. I asked him to watch the store until I got back. All he had to do was just take the money if someone came in or ask them to wait. He agreed he would do this for me but was grumbling to himself.

Peg went home! He locked the store and went home and left the gas pumps on outside. There was a switch inside you had to flip to turn the pumps off. Peg knew where the switch was but I guess he just forgot. Anyone could have filled up their tank and drove off. Later that afternoon he came back. I asked him what happened and he said he was afraid he would not be able to handle running the place. (To be continued)

Across the Bridge on Minor’s Branch Road

I spent seven and a half years of my life running a small country store nestled in the hills of Kentucky known as the Rolling Fork area. I never want to forget the little store and house that sat on the banks of a creek, just off the main highway and across a large iron bridge. The store that became known as “Judy’s Market” was approximately twenty miles from Danville in the southwest corner of Boyle County situated on a small blacktopped road that looped through the Forkland countryside. This area of Kentucky is a cornucopia of wild flowers, streams, fertile fields and pastures and rolling hills and knobs. This was an education very few people experience in a lifetime. Some of the names will be changed and some variances from actual facts now and then, but mostly this will be a running account of days gone by and memories I shall cherish until the end of my time on this earth.

Judy’s Market was bought in 1986 for $27,000. I paid $7,000 down and borrowed $20,000. This left me exactly $8,000 in the bank to buy stock and run the place. I remember going to the bank to try and borrow the money. The banker told me my payments would be around $225 a month. I had no experience in business. My working life consisted of state government employment for 11 years, and part-time jobs as a sales clerk while still in school. I told the banker I might not be able to pay that much monthly. He told me if I could not sell $225 a month, I did not need the place. This made sense to me. I got the loan, bought the store, and began a new life.
A life that was different from anything I had ever experienced before in a community where things were a little more laid back, people cared about people, and believed in helping their neighbors. In this rural area, framed by scenic knobs, the people remembered their heritage. They remembered how hard their ancestors had worked to provide a better life and the one room schoolhouse. They appreciated the simpler things and they worked together almost like a large family for the betterment of their community.

There was a three bedroom, one bath house attached to the store. I could walk from my living room into my place of employment. The county school bus stopped at the front door. This was great for my twin daughters, Anne and Leigh, but they had to be on the bus at least an hour each way to get to school. The building was rundown and the market was poorly stocked. The wooden floors in the store had wide cracks between the boards. The parking lot was large and in need of gravel. A huge, upright, black scale to the right of the front door was used to weigh feed, people, pets, deer, turkey, and anything else that might need to be weighed. Next to the scales stood a round, rusty, black barrel with a hand pump on top filled with kerosene. A red, leaky, air tank provided air to anyone with a low tire on a car, truck, bike, or tractor. There was no ice machine. A concrete pad to the right of the building gave me a place to park my car, the local children a place to play basketball, and doubled as a dance floor once a year when I had my “outside jam” for the community. A garage on the other side of the concrete pad had three large double doors once used as repair stations for vehicles. A small building on the left side of the house was used as a church in earlier years. The ancient gas pumps stood like soldiers guarding the place. There was a small barn that still had a few bales of hay in the loft. Two outhouses marked “men” and “women” were actually used once in a while by customers and came in handy at the “jam” because I closed the store and only opened for a few minutes during the evening to sell cigarettes, rolling papers, candy, chips and pop. A metal, yellow sign across the road from the market could be used for advertising, or whatever I chose to say to the public. The previous owner, Ray Arnold, (better known as RayBoy) was a preacher and used the sign to post bible verses each day. A shoebox kept under the store counter full of plastic letters provided me with the alphabet. I chose to acknowledge my customers by keeping a calendar and each day providing the names of those people in the community with a birthday. All this was spread out on about an acre of land.

A neighbor, Billy Gorley, helped me move my furniture and belongings in a gooseneck trailer. RayBoy told me one of the biggest days they had in the store was the day I moved into the adjoining house. The residents of the community kept coming in the store to buy items thinking they might catch a look at the new “woman” owner! I worked there several days before taking over to get some idea of how to run the place. (To be continued)