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A Gathering Place No More

By Tom Poland
web posted January 29, 2016
LIFE DOWN SOUTH-- Look closely. Long time since juice came out of that electric meter on the left and kerosene pump on the right. Been a long time, too, since that screen door slapped shut for good. A sepia-toned image from bygone days, lonely Monticello Mercantile reminds us of times when country stores sold joy. Half-gallon jars with red lids held cookies. Countertops glittered with penny candy, Mary Janes, Lifesavers, and Bazooka Joe bubblegum.

Coolers held water and huge chunks of ice. (Grabbing a Coca Cola from the bottom induced hypothermia. Old-timers would pour peanuts into “dopes.”) You could buy Nutty Buddy ice cream, Squirrel Nuts, BB Bats, Candy Cigarettes, Sugar Daddys, and Dreamsicles, an orange and white sherbet treat on a stick. The dry taste of dust fouled that sweetness.

The next time you pass a deserted country store, its planks snaggletoothed from wear and neglect and signage rusting, envision men in coveralls and ladies in floral prints who gathered there, old pocketknife whittlers, too.

Friends caught up in the gathering place, victim to that thing called progress. Modern times bring advances, but can you imagine today’s children longing for stores like Walmart as their life journey nears its final destination?

Neither can I.






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