yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

Granddaddy’s Store

by Jerry Butler and his cousins

Granddaddy's Store

visiting Granddaddy

During our summers growing up in Decatur County, Tennessee, one of the special treats for my first cousins and I was to visit Granddaddy’s Store.  My grandfather, Oscar Montgomery operated a small country store on Highway 114 between Dunbar and Bath Springs just north of Nebo Hill.

The store was in a white frame building next door to his house.  He sold many of the staples required by his neighbors for their day to day needs including “coal oil” dispensed from a hand cranked pump on the front porch of the store.  Granddaddy had lived there since 1929, when he and my grandmother, Euda bought the land which included the Smith home place.

My grandmother, Euda, died at the young age of 31, leaving Granddaddy with five young children to raise.  He remarried in the 1930’s but things didn’t work out so Granddaddy had lived quite a while by himself with his youngest daughter living at home to care for him.

Granddaddy farmed and raised cotton, corn, hay, hogs and some cattle.  Granddaddy and Harvey Johnson were elected Decatur County Road Commissioners in 1942. The grocery store was opened some time later to provide a much needed “cash crop” for the farm.

I have 19 first cousins with a half dozen of them very near my age.  These first cousins were my “best friends” while growing up.  We spent a lot of time together and enjoyed visiting Granddaddy in order to be able to explore all of the various buildings and barns that were part of his farm.  The visit to Granddaddy’s store was always a highlight of our stay with Granddaddy.

Granddaddy always had special treats for us at the store.  We normally started with a chocolate dipped concoction that we weren’t allowed to say the name of in front of certain neighbors.  Granddaddy dispensed these individually from a large glass container on the counter near the metal cash till box – no fancy cash registers in this store.

We learned how to pour Tom’s peanuts into our bottled "pop" to turn it into a special fizzing treat.  If we needed something more substantial, Granddaddy would cut a thick piece of “rag baloney” and serve it up between two large “four square” saltine crackers.  This still beats any New York Deli that I have visited in my travels.

Granddaddy was a strict disciplinarian and kept us on our best behavior.  He would encourage us not to “tear up Jack.”  We had no idea who Jack was or how we would tear him but we sure watched ourselves when we received this admonishment from Granddaddy.

Tennessee summers were long and hot without air-conditioning in the large white house where Granddaddy lived.  On particularly hot nights, Granddaddy would sleep on the front porch to escape the heat trapped inside the house.  During the daytime, he would stretch out for his afternoon nap on old store counters that he had conveniently moved under the cool, thick shade of the cedar trees.  He would use a small block of wood for his pillow during these brief siestas.

When we left Granddaddy’s after our visits, we would make one last stop at the store for a “poke” of treats specially prepared for us.  This usually included our favorite chocolate dipped treat as well as Bazooka bubble gum and Kits candy squares.  Granddaddy’s Poke would tide us over until our next visit to Granddaddy and his store.

Granddaddy and Aunt Melba

Granddaddy and Aunt Melba inside the Montgomery Grocery

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