Sentimental Journey Along Highway 25

Gulf Dealer 2

I was making my way from Greenville to Lincolnton one Saturday afternoon. I had to take a back road, a blessing. The light was bad at 3:45 p.m. but I had to photograph this old store on Highway 25 between Ware Shoals and Greenwood. I don’t know who owns it but I thank this kindred spirit for reminding us of days gone by.

On its right side are reminders of days past, including an icon of the South: the revered RC Cola Moonpie combination, the workingman’s lunch. One ad is real but the others are painted onto the boards. Coca Cola has given us memorable images, and this pretty woman on a diving board doesn’t diminish that legacy. Red Man Chewing Tobacco, no doubt, gives politically correct, ultra-sensitive kneejerk types a jolt. Well, get over it. Move on …

The front pairs Lucky Strike cigarettes with that old classic drink, Orange Crush. Lucky Strike came out in 1871 and took its name from the era’s gold prospectors. Peer through the windows into the past. Not too much to see in the shadows but vines have invaded the place. Nature reclaims all she can, including quaint reminders of the last century.

For some of us, country stores bring to mind memories such as pouring peanuts into a Coke bottle. As I say in my talks, “I can’t see my grandchildren many years from now moaning and groaning, ‘Man, they just don’t make stores like Walmart anymore.’ ” You can’t miss what you never had.

The store’s left side has ads that portray the soft drinks Seven Up, Coca Cola, and Pepsi. Note, I didn’t say “sodas.” That bit of Northern nomenclature grates on my nerves. Down here some of use “Coke” to indicate we’re going to get a drink. “Hey, pull over to that store and let’s get a coke.” My Granddad Poland called Cokes “dopes,” and I’ve written that Coca Cola did indeed contain cocaine when it was in its infancy, shall we say its baby bottle stages.

Don’t you know that old Gulf Dealer sign comforted many a driver watching the needle hover over E. Easy to imagine an old wood-paneled Ford Wagon pulling in. Gulf Oil came to be in 1901. Red Man tobacco in 1904. Crush came out in 1911, and Moon Pies came out in 1917. Coca Cola, introduced in 1886, is the second oldest man in the room, second to Lucky Strike. These products bring to mind my grandparents’ heyday. If only they could have seen how stores would evolve, for what strikes me here is what you don’t see. No asphalt parking lot out back. Just a field of sheep sorrel and woods. Neither do you see mercury vapor lights. No rack for shopping carts. Paper, not plastic, bags worked just fine.

I am rambling on but some of you know of what I write. We’re circling the drain, as younger generations get all excited about the latest app on their phone. Yes, times change. The Gulf Oil sign rusts and vines invade the store. No greeter stood in the door, beneath which a stack of bricks served as steps. You had to open the door yourself. No automatic opening to welcome a swarm of flies winging its way through a fan’s downburst, which messes up your hair, ladies.

What you see here is destined for a place called “Obscurity.” But for now it’s here and it brings to mind an email a lady sent me about today’s kids.

“They miss so much with their faces glued to smart phones and such. Do they ever take notice of the world around them?” No, I doubt they do, and nary a one, I’d wager, realize that the old store would be much more authentic with a rusty tin roof, but, you know, I do love those red shingles.

One thought on “Sentimental Journey Along Highway 25

  1. Another great story! I can relate to peanuts in a Coca Cola, RCs and Moon Pies and am familiar with the old brands. I don’t think I will ever want to travel the Interstates again! You find so much by taking the back roads that some people will never see or know about. Thank you for preserving memories for so many of us! AA

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