There was a time that most folks knew the name of the person who sold them their groceries. At that same time, most folks traveled on two-lane roads and bought their gasoline and “road food” from the people who actually owned the store or station. I remember those days and miss them. Now, we have a world of Walmarts and interstates. Just as Walmart killed most of the few remaining mom and pop groceries, the interstate killed the gas stations, mom and pop groceries and even the small communities along the two-lane roads.
Thirty-six years ago, I had a job delivering Red Rose Feed and related supplies to individuals and small stores around the back-roads of several surrounding counties. I rather enjoyed the work, though it was hard. It was nice to drive the back-roads and see the scenery, plus meet the owners of the little stores and farms along the way. One of those stores was owned by a couple named Kerr, who had a little garage/gas station/ grocery at Rockport, W.Va. I was already vaguely familiar with the store from passing it many times in my youth as we took Route 21 to Charleston to visit an uncle and aunt who lived there.
The Kerr’s were a nice old couple who’d had the store since sometime in the 30’s, probably. I say that because the old 1939 International pickup truck that he once used for deliveries still sat in his garage in the right side of their building. It still ran and was painted bright red, with a brush if I remember correctly. I think he told me that he bought it new. The only thing wrong with it was that the bed sagged horribly from where he used to deliver coal in the truck also. (I suppose the guy with the loader didn’t care if he ruined the guy’s truckbed.) Even in 1978, it would surprise many folks just how many people lived in the country that didn’t have a vehicle. His delivery service must have been a godsend for such folks. Most were older folks, of course, but not all.
Every week or two, I’d stop at Kerr’s and leave them some chicken feed, dog and cat food and maybe a little horse and cattle feed in 25 and 50 pound bags. I’d always buy a coke from the cooler or an ice cream bar from their freezer and talk to them a few minutes. I always enjoyed talking to old folks. From my youngest days, it seemed like I had more in common with old folks than young. My mom says that I was born old. You really don’t chat with the cashier at Walmart or the gas station these days, at least not for very long.
The Kerr’s are long gone, of course, as are most of the folks who I once talked to on my route. I miss most of those folks, even though I forget many of their names by now. I miss the slower times and the better world we lived in. (And I CERTAINLY miss the health and physique that I had back then!) Oh well, a few reminders, like you see in these photos still jog my memory at times. Besides, for those of us who trust in the Lord, we’ve got a better life coming. I imagine that I’ll get reacquainted with a lot of my old customers then. © 2014
The Kerr home sat on a slight rise to the left of their business, but you could have thrown a walnut and hit the store. It was a short commute for them. You can see the building on the far side of the spruce tree. (The tree was much smaller 36 years ago!) I don't think their house, built of vertical board and batten, was ever painted, but it was trimmed in red.
Since the sign painted on the right side of the building said "Kerr's Garage," I assume that he did some mechanic work, too. That sign is very faded and can't be seen in the photo.