“There is no fence or hedge around Time that has gone. You can go back and have what you like if you remember it well enough.”
Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley
A trip to the grocery store today is usually a hurried one – a lot to remember to get, hoping the lines won’t be too long – and then on our way home again. Avon used to have several community stores. And no one was in a hurry. In fact, people would hang out at these stores, to pass the time, to get the latest news, to have a bottle of Coke and a pack of Nabs.
Anderson Meekins built one of these community stores in the late 1940’s. It’s now owned by Dallas and Lois Miller and is called Country Elegance. But “Ander’s store”, as it was called, was originally built to be a hang out. It had booths to sit in, a small dance floor and a jukebox. The teenagers of the village spent a lot of their time there. Ander’s also sold gas and meats,and the adults kept a tab for their purchases. Kinnakeet teenagers loved that. And parents had many a surprise each time their bill was presented for payment. The teen who had run up his or her parent’s bill with purchases of Cokes or Pepsi, Nabs, candy and hot sausage usually got in trouble. But a lot of fun made up for a little trouble.
The music played on the jukebox was either country – Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb, or popular – the Platters and the Four Ace’s, as well as others. The girls would dance with the other girls because they couldn’t get the boys to dance.
The teens would also play cards there – that is, until they saw Preacher Porter heading up the steps with his tell-tale hat. Then the cards “would go a-flyin’” as they scrambled to hide these “devil’s playthings”. Cards were associated with gambling by both the church and their families and so were not allowed.
Anders himself is remembered fondly by all those who used his place as a hang-out. He was a confidante to the girls and often gassed up his car and lent it to them to drive to Buxton for hamburgers. He gave away a lot of drinks and snacks until he realized the kids would eat him out of his business. The jukebox was often opened up and songs played for free by Anders when teenage change ran out.
Anders was often just the first stop of the evening. From there, both boys and girls caught rides down to Tandy’s. Tandy’s was a dance hall that was located in Frisco in what is now the Quarterdeck Restaurant. Of course, most of the kids weren’t allowed there, but that didn’t stop them. After they got there, the band would warm up and play its first song of the evening. But 9:00 was the curfew in most of their homes, so the first song was often their last song and they headed back home.
The standard of behavior expected by the villagers was much the same in every home. It was strict and perhaps sometimes too rigid. But everyone’s parents had the same rules and that helped.
Anders sold his store in the 1950’s to Erskin F. Scarborough. We called it “Erk’s”. Erk sold groceries, meats, gas and household items. He kept journal books with a page for each customer so they could run a tab. The men would hang out on the front porch, watching their neighbors go by. Erk’s was just a few houses down from my grandfather’s house. In the hot summers of the late 1960’s, I can remember rummaging through my grandfather’s kitchen for empty soft drink bottles. I’d run down the hot black road, barefoot, of course, and cash them in for a drink. A lot of my summer memories are based on hot roads, dirty-black feet and mosquito bites. It was a glorious time!
Sometimes you had to go fetch Erk from his house when you wanted something, as he had closed up and gone home to eat. The boys often teased Erk mercilessly, and he would shoo them off like pesky flies, but they’d return again and again. Some of the best times I spent with my grandfather were on Erk’s porch. This was after I’d moved back home as an adult. Granddaddy spent most of his day on that porch; other men, a little younger, would come and go. They’d sit there talking and would often get in arguments. An argument could result in someone staying away for a few days until they forgot what the argument was about. I’d drive to Erk’s and get a drink and candy bar and sit there on the porch with those old men. I didn’t say much, just listened and watched the cars go by. These are simple memories of community, connection and familiarity.
Dallas and Lois Miller bought Erk’s store in 1990. It is now called Country Elegance. They sell crafts, lace, and gifts and have kept much of the original items of Erk’s store. Along the walls are shelves with displays of old flit guns (pump guns used between 1928 and the 50’s to squirt mosquito spray), liniments, large jars that used to hold pickles and cookies and hot sausages. Canvas decoys are for sale, these have been constructed by Dallas and patterned after those of his father, grandfather and great-uncle, used by hunters in the 1920’s.
They have an old wringer style washing machine and a coal stove. There was a desk on display that came off of the shipwreck of the G.A. Kohler(but has since been donated to the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum). This ship wrecked off the island on August 19, 1933. The items were sold off of the ship and Charles Williams bought some of them; the desk exchanged hands a few times until it ended up in Erk’s store.
The floors of the store are the original wood. The storage room once held one of the village’s few telephones. People would come to the store to make calls and often carved phone numbers and names into the wood wall (the wall has since been replaced).
Perhaps you have your own memories of local hang-outs and stores. During my summers spent in Avon, my memories also include Pritchard’s store – where I would go some mornings for a honey-bun. In the city, my memories include the 7-11, where my dad would take us for candy and Slurpee’s. No matter where we live, the memories of these places live on.