Old photographs shared on social media during this time of pandemic have stirred some memories in individuals, including me, that were dormant for some time. There was a photo I shared recently of an old- fashioned bookmobile, which caused close to a hundred individuals to respond favorably and comment.
In today’s world, most folks have an automobile, and in many families, there are several automobiles. Not so during the days of my childhood. Like the bookmobile that brought wonderful books to so many of us in highly rural areas, there were other individuals who provided needed services for individuals without a vehicle.
I remember Mr. Hall operating the “Rolling Store” out of Jasper, Florida. The “Rolling Store” was a big van-like vehicle that resembled today’s UPS trucks and was stocked with all kinds of goods for sale. Mr. Hall drove from Jasper southeast down Road 6 and on to the Woodpecker Route. The “Rolling Store” stocked staple goods such as sugar, flour, corn meal, dried beans and peas, as well as canned goods, and they offered “cold soft drinks,” chewing gum and an assortment of candies. At times the operator of the “Rolling Store” bartered with his customers. A couple of dozen eggs or jars of homemade jams or jellies or maybe even live chickens were “swapped” for goods available on the “Rolling Store.”
Folks on far flung farms and in rural areas looked forward to the day when the “Rolling Store” arrived and many had their list made out, as well as the items they would trade. Before my time, Mr. Charles Levin operated a “Rolling Store” from his store, A. Levin and Sons in Jasper, Florida, and he offered clothes, shoes and other dry goods for sale in addition to other needed items. Before my time, the late Mr. Leonard Newsome, African American businessman, operated a similar business out in the Black Bay area near White Springs.
Watkins products are still sold today. In fact, Cheek and Scott Drugs offers some Watkins products, and I have seen other local businesses that offer Watkins products. We looked forward to the day the lady who sold Watkins products came driving up to our house. We would yell to Mama “Here’s the Watkins lady!”
Mama swore by Watkins pure vanilla extract and other extracts, their liniment, camphorated salve, very much like Vick’s, as well as their pie fillings, and we loved the Kool-Aid concentrate sold in small bottles. When mixed with water and lots of sugar, it made a refreshing drink. One lady who sold Watkins products was a minister, a wonderful lady, Sister King, and many times, my cousin and I would sing, a gospel song or two for her, and she would give us a bottle of that coveted grape or strawberry flavored Kool-Aid concentrate.
In certain parts of the South, the school buses would go out into the country and provide adults and children a ride to school for special carnivals and programs. This was a much-needed service, again, as many people didn’t have transportation.
Lake City Laundry Company out of Lake City, Florida, operated six or eight delivery trucks with a regular delivery route to White Springs. Later, the late Buck and Mae Sistrunk, opened a dry cleaner in White Springs, and this operated for a number of years.
Neighbors helped each other with transportation. An elderly lady who lived near my grandmother in White Springs didn’t have a car, and my mother and aunt checked on her regularly. She often rode with them to Lake City, and my mother always said, “It was a privilege, as she was a true lady, and always, always had something uplifting and encouraging, though her financial situation was certainly one that was reduced.
My grandmother always let us know that money didn’t make an individual. She said “Honey, you can have plenty one day, and the next be flat broke. I know what I am talking about. I lived it during the Depression, and so did a lot of folks. I was thankful I never went hungry. I was more fortunate in that way than many people. Folks on farms fared a lot better in those days than a lot of the people who lived in town. People depended on each other, and the churches were much more in tune to helping those in need who lived in their own communities, and there were many. There wasn’t a lot of shipping money nor collections across the pond, as the need was here, and I have nothing against mission work. I think it’s wonderful, but I also believe charity begins at home and then spreads abroad.”
She also told me once that if she had a nice beef roast, and some lesser cuts of beef, and she had company coming that the company would be served the lesser cuts of beef, and her family would be served the best she had.
I have watched people who lined up to receive food and needed assistance during these days of pandemic. There are folks who will say: “There are people who go and pick that stuff up driving a better car than I drive, and they give it away.” That may be true, but there are also a lot of proud people who are at the end of their tether who need that food, and I am glad and thankful there are those who care enough to provide it.
I give kudos, once again, to our School Food and Nutrition Service workers for delivering meals to our students in Hamilton County, and I know the same has happened in other counties. Children didn’t ask to come into this world, and they are not responsible for the choices made by their parents, good, bad, or in between, but childhood hunger and poverty is real, and thank God for those who are, in my opinion, providing a needed service for so many.
Difficult times such as the ones we find ourselves at present offer golden opportunities and blessings. So many folks who owned and operated those “Rolling Stores” had hearts that were as big as Alaska, and so did many area merchants, and the bookmobile staff.
There was a lot we didn’t have in our part of the world. We didn’t have museums around the corner, and we didn’t have symphony orchestras, and we didn’t have a lot of the material goods that others had. What we did have we appreciated and valued. Some folks develop what I call selective amnesia. They forget kindness, and I don’t usually write my absolute beliefs in this column, but I believe that to forget kindness is a HUGE mistake. You should always remember and be thankful to those who are kind to you, and let them know you appreciate them.
The Bookmobile, the “Rolling Store,” a ride with a neighbor to town or to a doctor’s appointment, a smile, a memory, and sharing of someone’s life. I am so blessed to have shared riches given to me in the way of wisdom, laugher, sharing, and kindness, and I am eternally humbled by it. I prize these far above any earthly treasures, and I thank God I grew up at a time and in a community where these were prized and valued. An African American colleague, an educator, who I respect and value, said “Mr. Bullard, I remember folks at my church who would slip me a little money when I got ready to leave to go back to Tallahassee to college on Sunday afternoon, and I remember, too, those little ladies, who would fry a chicken for me and wrap it up, and those who would slip me some of their homemade pie, and those who would write a Bible verse on a piece of paper and give it to me and say “Baby you going to make it. I love you. I am praying for you.” I’ll never forget them nor their kindness. My friend knew and appreciated the value of one of life’s most glorious gifts, LOVE.
During these troubled days, do let those you love know you love them. Someone today needs to hear three words “I love you”, and they need to hear them from you. Don’t use that “I love you” loosely. Mean it when you say it, but if you do mean it, say it. Tomorrow might be too late. Remember “Love wasn’t put in your heart just to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.” To all those who have gifted me with kindness, compassion, and love, thank you. God Bless you.
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, and remember if you are riding a horse and on the right hand side you have a cold draft blowing on you and on the left you have a lion nipping at your heels, what do you need to do? You probably need to get off that merry go round, you may have over imbibed in something that is making your judgment a little fuzzy. (My neighbor John Lakefield share this with me.” In the words of the late Congressman Adam Clayton Powell: “Keep the Faith Baby” and Don’t lose HOPE.