Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mamma Ferguson's Store

My grandmother Ferguson owned an old general store in Townley, Alabama. It was an one story weather worn clapboard building that sat close to the southern railway line. On the outside of the old store was a round Coke sign as big as a satellite dish. The five steps to the store were foot worn from years of patronage by the folks of Townley. The inside walls were covered in old advertising from seed and feed companies and calendars from years past that no one bothered to take down. The old store smelled of heart pine, popcorn and Meritta loaf bread. She had an old cash register that made a loud CHING-CHING sound when she rang up a sale. On the counters were glass jars that contained cookies, candy and peanuts. She sold hoop cheese that she kept in a glass front cabinet. When the grandkids visited, most would head straight for the penny candy and bubble gum, but I loved that cheese. She'd cut me off a big ol' hunk and open up a fresh pack of Saltine Crackers. In the corner was an old drink cooler from which she'd let me pick out a soft drink. This was a difficult decision for me because she sold all my favorites. I often settled on a Nehi Peach that went down well with the cheese and crackers. In the back room she kept the feed. Most people kept chickens, and other critters in those days and they got the feed from her. Often when you'd go back into the feed room you would hear rats scurry for cover. I'm not talking about mice....I mean rats....gopher rats as big as a full grown Chihuahua. As you may have guessed, we didn't spend a great deal of time in the back room.
Mamma Ferguson had thirteen kids. She lost one of her sons, Marvin Lee at Pearl Harbor in the first few moments of the attack that put America into World War II. My mother was the middle child and she said Marvin Lee’s death hit Mamma Ferguson hard.
She passed away in the late 60’s and the store closed. Thinking back of all the old fixtures, signs, pictures, and containers I have wondered what happened to all that stuff when the store closed. I’m guessing most of it was thrown away or hauled off long after the rats left. That stuff would bring a small fortune today on Ebay. There was one thing in there that I would have loved to have had and that was a bubble gum machine shaped like a rocket ship. I had never seen one before or since.
I drove through Townley a while back by where the old store once stood. It has long since been torn down to make room for newer buildings. I rarely see stores like hers these days but when I do pass one that has survived the steady march of progress, I always try to stop to soak up the sights, sounds and smells. I keep thinking that one day I’ll get lucky and find one that sells hoop cheese and Peach Nehi’s.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:54 PM

    Back in the fifties Palmer's Merchantile had a big hoop of cheese. My Grand dad would get them to slice off a big wedge of it for him. We would return to his home and have a feast. I really enjoyed Dora and my wonderful Grand Parents.


Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required