Monday, October 15, 2007

Jake's

A pile of broken boards that once stood together as Jake's Country Store lie at the bottom of a hill next to a set of old railroad tracks and the Dan River.

Jake's was the only place within twenty miles of my Great Grandmother's house where a kid could load up on candy and soda.


The old, wooden porch featured a perpetual gathering of old men sitting and talking
in Jake's rickety rocking chairs.

To me, the men smelled like cigarette smoke and farm machinery.


All of them wore overalls and work boots. Their hats said "John Deere"
.

As they rocked and talked, the worn porch boards creaked in time with the chairs.


Behind them, the store's screen door exposed more and more of itself each year from underneath its chipping green paint.


Inside there was a room full of shelves filled with dusty items that never seemed to change,
merchandise meant for the country farmers that lived in the area.

There was a rack of hats just like the ones the old men on the porch wore.


There were also shoes that had long since gone out of style,
boxes of nails and canned goods that seemed to have been put up hundreds of years ago.

Rays of sunshine lit the store through small windows perched high in the rafters.

In my memory, one ethereal ray would invariably throw a spotlight on the long, glass candy counter.

Every sugary delight I could imagine was illuminated.

An old, wooden chair with a wicker seat stood near the counter so we could stand on it to
better review the candy selection.

Feverishly, we'd point in all directions and Jake would fill up small, brown, paper sacks for my cousins and me.


With our loot secured, we'd stomp across the bare floorboards to the drink cooler and grab cloudy, green bottles of Coca-Cola.


On our way out, my cousin Cary would look back at Jake and call,

"Put it on my Daddy's tab!"

Jake would smile, tip his hat, mark his ledger and return his thumb to its place under the strap of his overalls.


We'd bust through the aging screen door, scramble down the river bank and sit under the railroad tracks eating ourselves sick.


The next day we'd come down the hill and do it all over again.


All of my life this part of rural Virginia has seemed to exist far in the past, never changing.


There are scores of old log cabins, tobacco barns and hen houses still standing a hundred years after they were constructed.




I guess I believed Jake's store would be immortal too.

Since Jake passed away the building has been torn down and only a heap of wood and my childhood memories remain.



Jakes Country Store just before it was torn down.






This essay was written in 1986 as a college writing assignment. I found it in my Granny's papers last week. I took the photos around the same time.

65 comments:

Karen Forest said...

I love this.

You make my heart long for a memory that isn't even mine.

Theresa said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. What a wonderful memory.

Patience said...

Isn't it amazing the things we remember, how much larger we remember things being than they really were? Is it because we were smaller? Or is it because our lives were larger?

Bob said...

I wish I had pictures of my granddaddy's country store. I've written about it, it was a special place.

http://www.tiny.cc/D5FRf

thanks for sharing yours.

we_be_toys said...

So glad you're back - I missed reading your blog! I loved this article you wrote about the old country store. My town was once a small town, with many quirky and antiquated old places like Jake's. As I watch them tear it all down to make way for "progress", which is invariably in the form of another strip mall, I wish i had gone out and taken more pictures of the town that used to be. Thanks for taking me to your timeless-seeming old place.

Serina Hope said...

This reminds me so much of a piece of my own childhood. My Great Aunt Willie had the same kind of store. It was just soen the gravel road from my Grandaddy's house.
This paart of Virginia that wrote of sounds a lot like the part of Mississippi that my Daddy came from. Still, it is like time stands still there.
Thanks for bringing back a lot of great memories.

Kyla said...

Your voice was always your voice, wasn't it? I love it.

Ruth Dynamite said...

How incredibly cool, Jess.

I hope you find many more such treasures that evoke warm, happy memories for you and your family.

Thinking of you.

Bon said...

ah, those little pieces of the past that intersect with us, making us believe they're eternal.

i particularly loved coming to the end of this, bittersweet as it was, and discovering that the story itself was twenty years old. a bit of your history about your history.

thanks, Jess, for sharing it with us.

Maddy said...

Ooo how very disconcerting to come across it like that.
Best wishes

acumamakiki said...

thank you. xo

Above Average Joe said...

Hope all is well. Amazing how a simple essay can be so memorable. I'll bet your granny was proud.

SouthernBell said...

Awh, that's sad. Those were the days ...

Circus Kelli said...

Nicely written. You took me back there with you.

carrie said...

That is a beautiful glimpse of a treasured, treasured memory.

Thank you for sharing.

The Van Goat Ranch said...

You are such a talented writer. I feel sad just reading this, but at the same time I feel so good because I feel the same way about the way some things were when I was growing up and it's nice to know that other people have the same kind of memories. You're awesome! Take care.

Queen Karana said...

I cant' help but wonder what part (more specifically) of Virginia your gradparents lived in. I was thinking Danville? My husband grew up in Huddleston... have you ever heard of it? It's much like the place you described!

Poetic as always, Jess.

BOSSY said...

You make Bossy nostalgic for Jake's and she's never even had cloudy pop.

sweetney said...

great pictures, and a great memory for you to hold onto.

*~*Cece*~* said...

Great story. I could see it all.

furiousBall said...

why'd they tear that place down, old smelly guys with John Deere hats are probably out wandering the streets now.

JCK said...

Thanks so much for sharing. It brought back a lot of memories for me. We used to visit my Grandparents every summer in the "Northern Neck" of Virginia. They lived in a tiny little town called Heathsville. There was a little country store that the Dixon's ran and it was just called The Dixon's. We could walk to it from my Grandparent's farm house. My brother drove through recently and the store is gone, but those memories of walking to the Dixon's and getting all kinds of goodies will be there forever. Thanks for bringing those wonderful memories back!

JamesMommy said...

Lovely. Thanks for a walk down memory lane of my summer's at grandmama's in rural Alabama and visits to West Brothers...."Yes'm, I'd like a co-cola, please."

Amy said...

This was great and reminded me of some of my own small town fond memories. The pictures are great too.

Mimi aka pz5wjj said...

Beautiful.

dawn224 said...

I sat with my grandpa at a place like this. Ate the little debbie's chocolate pie.

Jackie said...

Your talent with words never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for sharing this.

Sunshine said...

There was a place like that in a tiny Iowa town that isn't even on most maps, except it was called "Bob's General Store". And you could put it on your grandpa's tab at Bob's too.

I miss those days.

Hetha said...

Loved this. Thanks for sharing.

Jen M. said...

I am so glad to see you're back. I hope your heart isn't as heavy with each passing day. Going through memories like you're doing is really hard (I liked you idea of burning them and sending them up to your grandma).

Be gentle with yourself.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Loved this.
You made me feel like I'd walked in there.
And you must have been so young when you wrote it.
Fantastic.

painted maypole said...

beautiful story. Thanks for sharing

slouching mom said...

Talented even then, you.

Such a poignant story.

Hol&J said...

I can picture everything.
Thanks for sharing such a great story.

Thinking of you today.

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

That was great J!

I remember all of my cousins riding in the back of PawPaw's pick up truck to haul off the trash, then always stop by our version of Jake's store for candy. We'd get candy cigarettes and those green bottles of coke.

Yes, those times are certainly long gone.

Thanks for making me remember them!

Jenn said...

It is immortal.

It's still there, within you, like it always was.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I had a similar place growing up. It was called Johnny Jack's and my great aunt took me to get candy. One of my fondest memories.

wordgirl said...

Places like this haunt me too. Why can't they stay around forever?

Misty said...

wow... that was really great, as were the photos... it fills my heart and thoughts with a sadness and slight resentment towards change.

Karen said...

Wow.... Powerful.

You can write girl, even from way back.

kittenpie said...

Beautiful. And that is the PERFECT country store.

I am so sorry that this is the circumstance for your finding these scraps of beauty and memory, J. But I am glad that they are there for you.

Omaha Mama said...

Lovely.

It makes me long for a store that was in my hometown G&U. It's long gone also.

My store had Playboy magazines on a bottom shelf. I peeked when I was but 5. Is that only me? No wonder I like the Girls Next Door on E!

flutter said...

I am just so sad that place isn't there anymore.
How sweet that your grandmother kept this essay

motherbumper said...

Wow, that is a beautiful memory to share - I'm sure you captured it perfectly because it sure did sound perfect.

And damn I miss those old candy counters - we'd get a quarter each and our bag would be full to the brim. Nice and simple times to remember.

steven wilson said...

The wonderful memory of time gone by.It sent me back to my childhood days visiting my grandparents in rural kentucky.

I would give anything to return for a day or three.

Take care
Steven

Becky said...

Your Granny was very proud of you. She & your Grandfather will always be with you, watching over you & your family, your own personal guardian angels. Thank you for giving us all a glimpse of the grand love that your family shares with each other.

heather said...

This is beautiful.

I hope you're doing well and feeling alright.

Remember that it's alright to cry, as long as you also smile.

moosh in indy. said...

Goosebumps.
For your past.
The love your Granny had for you.
For your memories.
For your future.

jen said...

oh honey.

Kellan said...

I love this too. This reminds me of where I came from.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I grew up in a very small town in Arkansas...and we had a store like this! It makes me think of walking there (imagine that...we actually walked places!) with friends as a child.

Sounds like a wonderful place!

~JJ! said...

Why aren't you a paid author yet?

It's a shame that you don't get published.

I just may boycott your blog until you get a writing deal.

Don't talk to me until you get a check for your work!

Anonymous said...

When your Granny read your essay, I'll bet she thought life had come full circle as she pictured you in her place at the candy counter.

Shannon said...

Anonymous was me.

Elizabeth said...

Beautifully evocative writing, Jess. I hope you got a 4.0 on that paper :)
I hope you are taking good care of yourself, getting enough rest and such. I'm thinking about you.

WILLIAM said...

That's a great piece.

pinks & Blues Girls said...

I have goosebumps. Wow, you have always written so powerfully.

Jane, Pinks & Blues

Pendullum said...

I could taste that Virginia air, just as I could inhale the scents of Jake's store...

Wishing you peace....

Victoria said...

Lovely captured memories. Welcome back. I'm sorry about your granny.

Diane said...

Very cool essay! My memory holds a dime store in much the same way. Prose 5 & Dime. 10 little boxes of candy for a dollar.

Mimi said...

What a lovely memory. I'd forgotten about the little brown paper bags they used to put the penny candy in. We had a little store just like this at the end of my street in my home town. You know, a *corner* store. God, I used to love going there ...

Thanks for sharing this.

Melina said...

Wow that was amazing, you have such a way with words.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

You are a great writer! I loved this. I forgot about the bottles of Coke.

I grew up in the country in Middle Tennessee and I can see so much of this in my mind. The old barns, country roads...what a nice memory.

Amanda said...

Oh to have sat, denim clad backsides matted with dirt, devouring candy under the railroad tracks and guzzling pop till our noses burned. Wishing you strong memories and carefree candy eating escapades with your own kids. Or maybe penny smashing train track adventures. Really it's just joy, wishing you much joy.

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

That place was called "Dawson's" for me growing up.