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Stores of Yesteryear in Johnson Co.

By Jack Swift

I remember the old general stores that were in existence in my younger days, and I believe some of my readers do too. In fact, a few years ago, I wrote a series of columns on them and asked folks to send me some names of stores that they remember, along with information about them.
I remembered several of the stores, but the stores I remember best were the stores that were close to my home. Two stores stand out in my memory. They were located in and around the Dewey Community, which was about three miles from Mountain City on Highway 67.
The store I remember most was the S. L. Harbin Store that was located at the junction of Highway 67 and Harbin Hill Road near the Dewey Christian Church. Mr. Stacy Harbin and his wife operated it for many years. Their home was adjacent to the store. Following his death, others I remember as proprietors of the store were Worth Wilson and his wife and Glenn Ward and his wife. I remember Mr. Harbin stocked several items that were needed in that farming community. In the back of the grocery section in another room were some hardware items such as stovepipe etc. Light items I remember, such as cereal, were on high shelves on the wall behind the counter. Harbin had a long wooden stick with a hook on one end, and when a customer asked for one of those items, he would use the stick to let it fall into his hands. He sold gasoline, and the price was about 30 cents per gallon. Candy and some other items were also loose and sold by the pound.
The other store I remember was the Dayton Fenner Store, just a short distance on Highway 67 west of the S. L. Harbin Store. It was owned and operated by Dayton Fenner and his wife. Besides groceries, the Fenners stocked some animal feed and also sold gasoline. Both the Harbin and the Fenner stores served at various times as stops for school children to change busses. Unlike the trip to the supermarket with the use of shopping carts and going up the aisle and choosing each item, in the country stores of yesteryear, the customer would ask for the product, and the clerk would get it and put it on the counter. In that day, saltine crackers were in a barrel and were sold by the pound. Candy and some other items were also sold by the pound.
So, there was a vast difference in the way things were done then than now. Who knows what changes will take place in the future to make it easier to shop for products?