July 24th, 2007
It is said that “everyone has a novel in them” and as much as I would love to write one, fiction is just not my cup of tea. Rather, my own life experiences could fill volumes that most people can relate to. Quite by accident I put together over 300 pages of stories with 200 photos about my family. The accident occurred when my brother’s two sons would beg us to tell them about where we lived and how we grew up and mostly asked how it was that we were so close and got along so well.
Since the boys lived in a neighboring state, I began to type stories that came to mind for our next visit and that is how it all began. One story led to another with photos to back up some experiences so the boys could put a pictured face with the name and story.
One of the treasured stories was about Mr. Bryan’s Store. The boys could not quite believe that directly across the street from our country home on Main Street was a general store where any and everything we could need was available to purchase from 6 a.m. to 6 pm six days a week and from 6 a.m. to noon on Sundays.
Mr. and Mrs. Bryan owned the store which included their residence encompassing the back of the first floor and the entire second floor. There was a large covered front porch the width of the building where daily and Sunday newspapers were displayed for quick ‘pick-up’ by the locals going to and from work or Church. People would stop to chat on the porch and have a ‘smoke’ or eat a big cone of ice cream that was purchased inside at the “fountain” area.
Immediately inside the door on the left was a large showcase, the counter where one put their purchases next to the register for payment and bagging. Inside the glass showcase, children could see many types of penny candy from which they could choose. Some were 2 for a penny. All candy bars were 5 cents. Continuing toward the back, still on the left side, you could buy cones of ice cream, popsicles, Dixie cups for 5 cents, while on the opposite side of the store was what we younger ones perceived as the ‘big kids’ counter to have Sundaes and Banana Splits that cost up to the lavish sum of 20 cents.
Any grocery item needed could be purchased, including fresh cut meat from the butcher block. Bottles of soda of all flavors were kept in the back refrigerated area of the store. And, I can’t forget the wall behind the front counter filled with cigarettes and cigars because we children were sent across the street to purchase them for the adults. The cigarettes were 15 cents a pack. A loaf of bread was also 15 cents.
As an adolescent, I bought my silk stockings right up to adulthood when I moved from my parents home and when I went to work I went through a pair a day at $1.00. I remember an uncle giving me a big lecture about that daily purchase. And so it went.
The personal relationship between the Bryans and my parents was very friendly and we visited them often. The Bryans owned the first television and we were invited there 2 and 3 times a week to watch the new invention. Incredible, warm memories.
After having moved away in 1975 I had not been in Bryan’s store until June of this year. My husband and I took an extended three-state east coast trip and naturally stopped by our home towns. I went to visit my parents’ gravesite and then decided to drive past my old house. There was “Bryans” only now I saw the sign “Luncheonette” on the building. We had to stop! We walked in and I was amazed at how the general store had been transformed into a really nice luncheonette with a very long, curved counter and several booths around the rest of the area. I sat down at the counter and I looked across the street through the window and gazed at my old home.
My husband called the waitress to tell her that, “My wife grew up in that house across the street which her parents built!” Linda went directly to the phone, dialed and began a short conversation, hung up and came around the counter. She took my hand saying “Come with me, my parents own that home now and I’m taking you there… and by the way, my brother owns this Luncheonette.” Wow!
I could not believe my feelings walking across a street that I had crossed a countless number of times from the age of three! I walked up the front porch steps and sure enough, the top step of the porch still had my handprint and the footprints of my two younger brothers embedded in the cement; faded but still visible. I leaned down to put my hand in what was left of my tiny hand print and I was momentarily transported back in time. The woman, Josephine, opened the door to me and hugged me immediately. I did not know her but I felt the warmth as I had my entire life going through that front door. So many memories. The home was just remodeled so well with conveniences for people who are now retired. Josephine and husband, David, are so obviously happy there and needless to say, Josephine had a lot of questions about the house that I was able to recall and answer for her. I looked all around and the most important thing I left with was seeing the grounds. Over an acre. My mother single-handedly planted every single tree, bush, hedge and blade of grass and it was absolutely beautiful. It was well kept and I know that my Mother and Father would be happy to know all their hard work was being enjoyed by very warm and loving people with their grown children and grandchildren.
So you see, sometimes you “can go home again.”
Mr. Bryan’s General Store
July 24th, 2007