I was making my way from Greenville, SC to Lincolnton, GA one Saturday afternoon. I had to take a back road, a blessing. The light was bad at 3:45 p.m. but I had to photograph this old store on Highway 101 near Hickory Tavern. I don’t know who owns it but I thank this kindred spirit for reminding us of days gone by.

On its right side are reminders of days past, including an icon of the South: the revered RC Cola Moon Pie combination, the workingman’s lunch. One ad is real but the others are painted onto the boards. Coca Cola has given us memorable images, and this pretty woman on a diving board doesn’t diminish that legacy. Red Man Chewing Tobacco, no doubt, gives politically correct, ultra-sensitive knee-jerk types a jolt. Well, get over it. Move on …

old timey gas station
Signs of bygone times

The front pairs Lucky Strike cigarettes with that old classic drink, Orange Crush. Lucky Strike came out in 1871 and took its name from the era’s gold prospectors. Peer through the windows into the past. Not too much to see in the shadows but vines have invaded the place. Nature reclaims all she can, including quaint reminders of the last century.

For some of us, country stores bring to mind memories such as pouring peanuts into a Coke bottle. As I say in my talks, “I can’t see my grandchildren many years from now moaning and groaning, ‘Man, they just don’t make stores like Walmart anymore.’ ” You can’t miss what you never had.

The store’s left side has ads that portray the soft drinks Seven Up, Coca Cola, and Pepsi. Note, I didn’t say “sodas.” That

bit of Northern nomenclature grates on my nerves. Down here some of use “Coke” to indicate we’re going to get a drink. “Hey, pull over to that store and let’s get a coke.” My Granddad Poland called Cokes “dopes,” and I’ve written that Coca Cola did indeed contain cocaine when it was in its infancy, shall we say its baby bottle stages.

Don’t you know that old Gulf Dealer sign comforted many a driver watching the needle hover over E. Easy to imagine an old wood-paneled Ford Wagon pulling in. Gulf Oil came to be in 1901. Red Man tobacco in 1904. Crush came out in 1911, and Moon Pies came out in 1917. Coca Cola, introduced in 1886, is the second oldest man in the room, second to Lucky Strike. These products bring to mind my grandparents’ heyday. If only they could have seen how stores would evolve, for what strikes me here is what you don’t see. No asphalt parking lot out back. Just a field of sheep sorrel and woods. Neither do you see mercury vapor lights. No rack for shopping carts. Paper, not plastic, bags worked just fine.

I am rambling on but some of you know of what I write. We’re circling the drain, as younger generations get all excited about the latest app on their phone. Yes, times change. The Gulf Oil sign rusts and vines invade the store. No greeter stood in the door, beneath which a stack of bricks served as steps. You had to open the door yourself. No automatic opening to welcome a swarm of flies winging its way through a fan’s downburst, which messes up your hair, ladies.

What you see here is destined for a place called “Obscurity.” But for now it’s here and it brings to mind an email a lady sent me about today’s kids.

“They miss so much with their faces glued to smart phones and such. Do they ever take notice of the world around them?” No, I doubt they do, and nary a one, I’d wager, realize that the old store would be much more authentic with a rusty tin roof, but, you know, I do love those red shingles.

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Image credit: the photo was taken by the author, © Tom Poland.

Tom Poland

Tom Poland, A Southern Writer – Tom Poland is the author of twelve books and more than 1,000 magazine features. A Southern writer, his work has appeared in magazines throughout the South. Tom grew up in Lincoln County, Georgia, where four wonderful English teachers gave him a love for language. People first came to know Tom’s work in South Carolina Wildlife magazine, where he wrote features and served as managing editor.Tom’s written over 1,000 columns and features and seven traditionally published books. Among his recent books are Classic Carolina Road Trips From Columbia, Georgialina, A Southland, As We Knew It, and his and Robert Clark’s latest volume of Reflections of South Carolina. Swamp Gravy, Georgia’s Official Folk Life Drama, staged his play, Solid Ground in 2011 and 2012.He writes a weekly column for newspapers and journals in Georgia and South Carolina about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and changing culture and speaks often to groups across South Carolina and Georgia.Tom earned a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Media at the University of Georgia. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina where he writes about Georgialina—his name for eastern Georgia and South Carolina. Visit my website at www.tompoland.net Email me at [email protected]