From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Country Store at Honey Grove, Kentucky

The Rural Life... Life in Christian County Kentucky... And What I Think About It...

Honey Grove KY
The little country store at Honey Grove, Kentucky, was still open when we moved to Christian County, but it has been closed for about five years now and the building stands empty.

As I drive the roads of the county, I see many old buildings that used to be stores. Within five miles of our home, I know four old store buildings and another newer one. Their histories are probably much like the history of the store at Honey Grove: business dwindled to the point where the store could no longer operate.

The little store at Honey Grove was once a thriving grocery. It served a farm community that was separated from town by a dozen miles of dirt road and several streams.

The building itself is about a hundred years old. It was built by its first storekeeper, a Mr. Harned. It originally stood on the opposite side of the road, and its front door was once its backdoor. It has one large room below and an attic above.

The store had a long church pew and rocking chairs both inside and outside, so folks could rest, visit and eat a snack. A long counter ran halfway down one side of the room. The cash register, two glass-topped showcases, and the meat cutter were lined up on the counter top.

A small kitchen sink at the back of the store provided a place for the storekeeper to wash utensils and for farmers to wash the soil from their hands. Customers were welcome to use the outhouse behind the store.

Miss Eva Shanklin, a widow lady, was the storekeeper for over 50 years, and under her ownership, the store reached its zenith after World War II and then went into a long slow decline. She stocked all the staples of kitchen and home and many things for the farm -- flour, sugar, laundry bluing, washboards, hairpins, quilting thread, motor oil, school tablets, nails, and much more. The grocery truck made a big delivery every week, and she sent to Hopkinsville for the things it didn't bring.

Senior citizens around here remember when Shanklin Grocery had a jukebox and young people met at Honey Grove on Saturday nights to visit and dance. Some walked for miles to get there because they didn't have a car or a bicycle, or even a horse or a mule.

For decades, travelers and locals alike stopped at Honey Grove for an ice-cold drink and a good balogna sandwich. Honey Grove was well known to have the coldest soda chest on this side of the county.

Even in its last few years, the grocery did a considerable business in lunch meat sold by the pound and and in lunch meat sandwiches made to order and eaten within the store.

In the late 1990's, it became impossible to find the traditional 4-square crackers for the balogna sandwiches, and the old chest cooler suddenly quit working one day and had to be hauled out of the building. Looking back, those little tragedies seem to be omens of impending demise.

Times have changed in ways that make it very difficult for country stores nowadays. Good blacktop roads crisscross the county, and many country women go to town daily because they have jobs there. After work, it's easier for them to shop in town than to go to an expensive little country store that may not even have what they want.

Through the years, the grocery at Honey Grove became a convenience store, and finally went out of business entirely. Perhaps beer and lottery tickets could have saved it, but Miss Eva would never have considered it and after Miss Eva's retirement, her daughter would not have allowed it in the the building. It's probably just as well. Honey Grove is an isolated settlement on a little-traveled road and a little store with beer and lottery-tickets would have been a sitting duck for robbers.

I know quite a bit about the store at Honey Grove because I worked there for several years before it closed. I lettered the "Fresh Produce" sign that is hanging above the bench in the photo above.

Over the counters of Shanklin Grocery, I became much better acquainted with the neighbors who stopped in to drink a soda, eat a sandwich, or buy a pack of smokes. I spent a lot of time sitting with the regulars and listening to them talk. That was part of the job, and I learned a lot of local history doing it.

At the time I worked there, Miss Eva had retired, and the store was operated by Mr. B.B. Bradley, an old gentleman who lived in Honey Grove. He ran the store for about six years because he could not bear to see its doors closed. After B.B. passed away, the store closed within six months.

I look back at my three years of working in Shanklin Grocery as a time of bonding with the community, and I'm thankful I had that opportunity. I'm thankful too that I had the opportunity to be one of the last storekeepers at Honey Grove (though a minor one.) It makes me feel that I am a little part of the history there.

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3 comments:

LittleOne said...

I was once in a 5K bike race in Hopkinsville (about 16 years ago, and I believe we passed this store , if not one very similar. I think we may have stopped there to get a pop. I remember thinking what a great little store it was. It's sad to see these kinds of things end. But, as gas prices go up, we may see little stores like this come back. People may want to ride their bikes to the local store to save on a little gas. Wouldn't be ironic if our dependence on man-made machines brings us right back to living without them?

Genevieve said...

You may have passed the little country store at Square Deal which is west of Hopkinsville but not so very far from the city limits. It's a little white store too. It is still open. Part of the reason it has hung on is that it sells gasoline. That helps. Obviously they made a decision to upgrade their tanks to EPA standards and keep their gas pumps.

I don't think Honey Grove ever had gasoline, but they did sell kerosene at one time.

But yes, I agree that neighborhood stores may make a comeback. I think that would be great.

KennethF said...

Hey Gene:
Story telling is an art form. In ways, like a photo. The contrast of a little black and a little bit of white
result in high definition of the in between context. Style and grace push this balance point left or right. This is what makes your's the best! All you need to do is show and tell them what you know? It's a true pleasure, sincerely, KennethF

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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