Friday, May 12, 2006

Feed stores and egg cartons

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...

When I was in grade school, I made a little money selling egg cartons. They were worth a penny apiece at the feed store in Bassett, Nebraska. Mama didn't keep chickens, so we bought eggs from the store, and a stack of egg cartons would slowly accumulate. When at last I had 25, I would take them to the creamery, which was located in a special room at the front of the feed store.

The creamery bought cream from people who had milkcows and sold it to a dairy products company. My mother sometimes sold cream there. The creamery also bought eggs. I am not sure where the eggs went after the creamery bought them, but they needed egg cartons and were always happy to buy them.

With 25 cents of egg carton money in my pocket, I could go to the dime store and buy a fat comic book. Or, I could buy a skinny comic book for a dime, a soda for a dime, and a candy bar for a nickel.

But even without the joy of money, the visit to the feed store would have been interesting. Mountains of bagged grains and animal feeds and stacks of salt blocks filled the long room. A fine dust from the grinding of grain danced in the light and lay over every surface. Even the cobwebs were powdered. A sweet fragrance of molasses filled the air.

And there were cats everywhere. It was an old building, and the cats helped with rodent control. They probably did their best work at night when the people went home and the mice came out. During the daytime, they napped on the piles of empty gunny sacks and lounged on the counter tops. Kittens played hide and seek around the stacks. They were hard to catch, but their mothers graciously allowed customers like me to pet them.

By the mid-1960's, the creamery had closed. I am not sure why. It might have been because of food safety regulations. Not too long after that, the little feed store closed too. I don't know why it closed. It might have been the loss of the creamery combined with stiff competition from Bassett's other feed store which was much larger and more modern. Or maybe the owners just wanted to retire.

Nowadays, I sometimes have a reason to go to Southern States, a farm store in Hopkinsville. I always enjoy walking into the feed and seed area by the back loading docks. They mix custom livestock feeds back there, so the cobwebs are a little dusty. Bags of corn, pet food, chicken mash and all kinds of livestock feed are stacked high. There aren't any cats, but there's a familiar smell of ground grain and sweet molasses. It makes me think of egg cartons.


Alabama feed store, 1936

Photo: An Alabama feed store, about 1936. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF342-T01-008089-A DLC.

The feed store in the photo reminds me of the one that I remember in Bassett , even though the photo was taken 15 years before my birth. I remember the feed store as a a long narrow frame building that faced north, around the corner from the Ford garage and near the alley.

On the general topic of creameries:

A sale by the Stock Auction Company in April 2006 at Wolbach, Nebraska, included "Old Cowboy Gear, Quality Hand & Leather Tools, Sewing Machines or Antiques" (many interesting photos on the page.) Among the items auctioned were these cream cans.

The Stearns History Museum of St. Cloud, Minnesota, has a wonderful online exhibit titled "Bringing Home The Cows." If you remember milkstools and cream separators, you will enjoy the Catalog of Artifacts.

I well remember what a pain it was to wash the many parts of the cream separator, particularly a stack of about 20 disks that was in it.

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Trixie said...

Oh, I can smell it too!
I used to go out to the grain bin on my aunt and uncle's farm with my cousins and "swim" in the corn after harvest. That's one of those childhood joys that would probably be considered "way too dangerous" today. The barn cats always kept patrol. Now and then the girls would manage to tame a kitten or two to play with, but no one messed with the barn cats.

Wrkinprogress said...

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to Mr. Dubisson's Hardware and Feed Store in my hometown of Pensacola, FL with my grandfather. I loved this place because of the smell there, and the buckets of bright colored seeds that were in the front window. I'm sure the smell was of different kinds of fertilizers, and there is some recollection or association with ducks or geese there. Another vivid memory of that store was the Coke machine -- you know, the ones where you put in your nickel or dime and have to open the little door and pull the 10 oz. bottle out from the rack? Later he had a floor model, where you could reach in and get your bottle of soda out of the ice water in there.

Thanks for reminding me of simpler times, Genevieve. :)

Genevieve said...

It is amazing how smells are vividly remembered, as both WIP and Trixie have mentioned here. Several years ago, we visited the Shaker Museum east of Russellville, KY, and when I smelled the cellar there, it reminded me of my grandfather's potato cellar which I had not seen nor thought of for decades.

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