By: Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
Thank you to all the folks who sent me information about some of the country stores that dotted the countryside in former days in Johnson County. Technology has advanced beyond anything I can imagine. It is especially interesting that those of us who are older have seen a great deal of that progress in our lifetime. I subscribe to a magazine called “Discover.” On its pages can be found some of the leading discoveries of our time as well as trends as to what may come in future years. “Popular Science” and “Popular Mechanics” are two other great magazines to read to keep up with some of what is going on in the scientific community.
One great innovation that has come about is the places country folks visited to buy groceries and other needs. In earlier days merchants may not have had a cash register and consequently kept up with sales by writing it down on paper. Most of the larger stores had a good line of products. Smaller ones carried mostly groceries. Now we have a great number of modern, well-stocked superstores with many choices of food and products. I have from my own memory and with the help of a number of other folks named several country stores that were in existence in my youth and even later. I was reminded of even more stores when I received recently an e-mail from Jim Wills whose father Earl Wills owned and operated a mill on Hwy. 421 North. He says in the e-mail that his father would take him and his older brother along with him to deliver cornmeal, flour and buckwheat flour that he ground in his mill. Some stores he delivered to included the Scott Gentry Store in Laurel Bloomery, the Bruce Arnold Store on Liberty Church Road, the W. E. McGlamery Store located on the corner of Pleasant Valley Road and 421 North where the county school bus garage is now. Jim says he remembers a couple of stores in the Neva area: a store located on Mill Creek, owned and operated by Paul Graybeal and Neva Hardware operated by Mr. Mahan. Jim also remembered the Ross Wilcox Store on Cold Springs Road across from what was then the Leco Factory.
Jim remembers, as do I that the country stores were where farm workers could go to find a little something to eat come dinner (lunch) time. This was especially true of the bean pickers during the era when Johnson County was called “the Green Bean Capital of the World.” Some folks with trucks would go by homes and pick up pickers and bring them home in the evening after work was done. When lunchtime came, he would always take the pickers who wanted to go to the closest store to buy food to tide them over until quitting time. White bread, crackers, bologna and cheese were some of the favorites. There were many other items as well. Of course a soft drink was part of the lunch for about a dime for a 16 oz.-bottle as I recall.