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Meador's Old Country General Store
Just A Memory Now
Meador’s Country Store is just a memory now. All that remains is an old crumbling, weather-beaten abandoned shell of a building to testify it ever existed. It stood on Arkansas Hwy 71 North between the two small towns of Alma and Mountainburg where I spent part of my childhood with my grandparents.
My grandfather would usually stop by on the way home from Alma about 10 miles south. You could see the store at the bottom of a long hill from the crest of 71 where the turnoff to Rudy, AR was. That was a sight I remember well…the store on the left with a dirt road branching off leading to our farm a few miles down.
"How long ya been farm'in?"
Popular Meeting Spot
In the 1940’s it was a popular meeting spot for many old timers in Lancaster Township as well as a few drifting salesman canvassing the area. The salesmen were always welcome because they brought first hand news from surrounding bigger cities like Fort Smith, Springdale and Fayetteville. It didn’t matter how you were dressed. The farmers usually wore dusty overalls with a pocket watch stuffed into the front little pocket and their “engineer” caps. At one time or another many had worked with a railroad. Grandpa had been a welder on the well known “MKT” or “KATY LINE”.
Many locals had not as yet acquired a new fangled television set at that time, considered just a passing fad by country folk. Most of them were hard working farmers who didn’t have time to waste watching one.
Grandfather Told Me
The information from the 1940’s was passed on to me by my grandfather because I had not yet been born. It was about 1955 before I remembered him taking me there. What I recall is a classic “Norman Rockwell” type of setting which is why it stands out in my memory.
In those days I was about 4 years old and short. I still am at 5’4”. Grandpa would set me up on the counter top next to a window where I could watch trucks heading up the Boston Mountains, but I was more interested in what was going on inside the store. Grandpa would reach into a big jar on the counter and pull out a fat, juicy dill pickle for me. They were free for customers wishing to stay a while and “jaw” with their neighbors. He would also lay a Mercury head dime on the wooden counter and tell me to get a strawberry “pop” when I was ready. That was my favorite. Then he would light his corn cob pipe and jump into whatever conversation was going on.
Often, an aged, grizzled senior would stop and poke fun at how short I was to grandpa. “What’s he growing this year James…those miniature cherry tomaters”? And everybody would laugh good naturedly. They all knew my grandfather had built a little stool for me to reach things around our house.
So, there I would sit and watch the goings on of the old timers. There always seemed to be a game of checkers going on at a corner table with two, grey whiskered, overall clad farmers that never seemed to end. Conversation was normally about the weather and who was raising what crop that year.
Occasionally some of the other grandfathers would show up with their grandkids and we could go out front and play on my granddads’ old Ford pickup truck. He didn’t mind as long as we stayed within ear shot of the store.
The store was simply furnished. There was an old “Benjamin Franklin” type of wood burning stove close to the back wall. There was also a large bladed ceiling fan seemingly left on low speed which swirled the hot, humid summer air around. A few old painted milk cans served as extra seating when the small store got crowded. And someone had taken a bench seat out of an old truck, nailed it to a couple of 2x4’s and made a place to sit in front of the store. People didn’t waste anything back then as most vividly remembered “The Great Depression”.
Then, there was Mr. Meadors’ the proprietor, who had the inevitable straw stuck in the corner of his mouth and wearing a frayed straw hat always canted a little to the side. He seemed to listen a lot more than talk. I guess it was just good business practice. He would always be interrupted by the jangling of the antique phone hanging on the wall. It was usually somebody’s wife wanting to know if “their man” was hanging out there.
Mr. Meadors sold a lot of odds and ends in his store, but I think the bulk of his business was chewing tobacco, snuff, soda pop, seed and a few other convenience items. His family also owned the local “feed and seed” in Alma, so they had that market cornered.
Business at the country store slacked off a little during the cold Arkansas winters, but that didn’t put a damper on folks dropping by to visit. There was always room for one more to huddle around the wood burning stove, drink coffee and discuss whose grandkid was marrying who.
I guess those nostalgic days are gone now, but it’s nice to reminisce about them.