Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Peddler and the Rolling Store



Rolling Stores were common in the rural South in the early 20th century. These box-type vehicles, often reconfigured buses, provided a useful service to families without access to stores in town.

A typical Rolling Store. Photo credit: Wikipedia


Most people referred to these Rolling Stores as “The Peddler.” In most, if not all cases, they were owned and operated by a store in a nearby community. There were two that operated in this area: Carlocks Rolling Store and McMeans Rolling Store, both of which operated stores in our nearest town.

The Peddler had specific routes for each day of the week, so you always knew when he’d be by your house. The supplies he carried were limited to staple items: flour, sugar, coffee, baking powder, soap, tobacco, snuff, thread and bolts of fabric used for sewing. I think bananas and apples, and perhaps oranges around Christmas, were available. I remember that the big galvanized tubs and brooms and mops were mounted to the exterior of the vehicle.

Photo credit: Wikimedia


The Rolling Store featured a special section where chicken coops were installed and their purpose was to store the fowl taken in trade. Eggs also could be exchanged for needed goods.

My cousin loves to tell the story of how once, when five or six of us were visiting our grandmother, each was given an egg to trade for candy with the Peddler. As she tells it, we were running toward the Rolling Store as he approached and I fell down and broke my egg. I began to cry, and to appease me, she gave me her egg. I don’t know if she returned to the house for another egg for herself but I hope she did! Thanking her after all these years for humoring her younger cousin!



My mother’s father owned a little store near their house and also had a Rolling Store beginning in the early 1920s. She remembers occasionally being allowed to accompany him on Saturdays to the nearest town to sell the eggs and chickens he’d collected during the week, as well as to replenish his store stock. One of my uncles operated the Rolling Store for his father, first via horse and wagon and later in a motor vehicle.

Sometimes the Peddler’s merchandise was sketchy, and there was a story my grandmother used to tell of bringing out a chicken to the Peddler one day and asking to trade it for a bag of sugar. “I’m sorry, ma’am, I don’t have any sugar today.” Then she told him she’d take cocoa instead and again he said he didn't have any of that today. “Well, just give me two spools of thread,” to which he shook his head and replied that he didn't have any thread either.  “Alright, just give me some candy for the children,” she said. “Sorry, but I’m all out of candy.”


“Well, in that case just open the coop and let the chicken go,” she said.

We would laugh so hard when she told that story!

I believe Rolling Stores had disappeared by the mid-to-late 1950s. By that time, people were more well-to-do and had available transportation to visit the stores.

But I’m glad I got to experience this little piece of rural history.

How about you? Did you live in an area that had Rolling Stores? If you're not old enough, have you read about them?

16 comments:

  1. We looked forward to meeting the peddler! When at Mommie's house we would wait out by the edge of the road as he always arrived pretty close to the same time each week. I remember the opertor of the rolling store so well, the overalls he wore and the snuff! I remember the candy he carried - sometimes it was old and dried out but we got it anyway - also remember the bubblegum.
    At this point, I wish we had peddlers running thru neighborhoods to save on gas and getting dressed to go to the big box stores.

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    Replies
    1. I'm with you
      1 Let's bring back Rolling Stores.

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  2. Amazing, I have never heard of Rolling Stores, but it sounds like a brilliant idea. However, when I was very little, after we left the old farm, my father was a pedlar for a few years travelling around the rural community. He sold patent medicines, cleaning products, basic pantry supplies like spices and essences, and make-up, of all things! It took him 3 months to visit all his customers, so they all had 4 visits per year. He says he made a good living from it, but later he began establishing businesses in the town and had a series of shops. Great memories Sanda!

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    1. Interesting that it took your dad 3 months to make the rounds. In addition to local Rolling Stores, we also had the "Stanley Man," who offered coffee/spices/other things; "Fuller Brush Man"; and the "Avon Lady," for cosmetics and fragrance. Seems there were a couple more, but I cannot remember the names/products.

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  3. I only remember see stores like these in Western movies, but they were pulled by horses. Very interesting that they still were around when you were little.

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    1. I suppose they still existed because there was a "need" for them. Lots of folks lived in very remote areas.

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  4. Hello Sanda

    I do remember "the travelling shop" coming to our farm in rural Co Galway Ireland. We lived about five miles from the local village and each Saturday the lorry arrived with supplies. As our farm was on a island connected to the mainland by a causeway, we could see the truck travel down the mountains from a great distance and we would dance and sing and announce his location as he winded his way to us.

    I had not heard the term "rolling stone" Thanks for enlightening me


    Helenx

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    Replies
    1. Interesting the different names given this service! It's fun to remember these things of a bygone era.

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  5. Nothing like the Rolling Store over here, but I did enjoy your story.
    Thank you!

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  6. Have never heard of the Rolling Stores, what a good idea for the rural community,maybe a forerunner of the supermarket vans that deliver to homes now.Ida

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Wow, I don't think we have supermarket vans here, or at least I don't know of them; perhaps they have them in large cities for elderly/disabled and I suppose one telephones order in and it's delivered? Do you ever use the supermarket van for convenience sake?

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  7. Have heard of peddlers but not actual rolling stores. So interesting. Even when I was a young married lots of things were delivered to the door - milk and bread come to mind. Like you, I recall the Fuller Brush Man, Avon Lady, and I think Watkins Spices sold door to door too.

    Darla

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  8. The Watkins Man! That was the other one I was trying to remember as selling door to door. And I think Raleigh products also were sold door to door. Milk delivered in towns but not out here; most folks went to barn and milked their cow. Don't recall that bread was delivered to homes around here. thanks for your comments!

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    Replies
    1. That's what my Dad was - The Watkins Man!

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  9. IN 1946 I WAS 8 YEARS OLD AND WORKED ON A ROLLING STORE
    SIX DAYS WEEK FOR $3.00 A DAY. IT WAS AN OLD SCHOOL BUS
    CONVERTED TO STORE. WE COVERED ALL THE DIRT ROADS UN WALKER COUNTY, ALABAMA. WE SOLD EVERY THING FROM CHEESE TO OVERALLS. WE SWAPED FOR EGGS, LIVE CHICKENS. MOST OF OUR SALES WERE ON CREDIT, WE HAD A NICKLE NOTE BOOK TO RECORD SALES AND PAYMENTS FOR EVERY CUSTOMER, THEY PAID EACH MONTH, WHEN THEY WERE PAIDED, MOSTLY WELFARE CHECK. SOME COULDN'T WRITE THEIR NAME I WOULD SIGN THE CHECK, BUT THRY HAD TOUCH THE PENCIL, TO THEM THAT MADE IT LEGAL.
    THEY TAUGHT ME HOW TO HAVE COMPASSION FOR ALL PEOPLE. I AM ALMOST 80 YEARS OLD. I RETIRED AFTER 45 YEARS OF WHOLESALE GROCERY BUSINESS. I RETIRED IN 2004 AND HAD A STROKE IN 2005. I HAVE TO TYPE WITH ONE HAND, THATS
    WHY ALL CAPS. THE ROLLING STORE WAS A SERVICE TO THE RURAL FOLKS, MOST HAD NO CAR. WE WOULD PICK UP THEIR
    OTHER NEEDS AND DELIVER THEM THE NEXT WEEK. WE WOULD
    EVEN GO IN A PICK UP AND CARRY THEM TO THE DOCTOR AND THEM BACK HOME I OMLY WISH WE COULD RELIVE, THOSE DAYS. THE OWNER WAS GIVEN THE SAME RESPECT AS PREACHER. THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
    KEN WEST

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