The old store is gone. The old man who ran the store, well, he’s gone too. The four-lane came through and a bull dozer pushed away a memory.
Garland Byrd owned a country store at McCall Creek. It wasn’t much on its best day. And, it’s best days were just after World War II. That’s when they paved the gravel road and the cars started coming along.
Garland’s place started out as a garage. Then he started selling gasoline.
Two gas pumps, back when gas cost a quarter a gallon for High Test and two cents less for regular. Sometimes, the air compressor sitting outside would start up with a racket. It made the free air they gave you back then.
Then he added a few snacks. Mainly, he was known for his ice cream.
He had a counter and a cash register just inside the door. Coke box on the left. It was full of Cokes, Nehi Oranges, Delaware Punch grape and a few RC Colas, all standing neck deep in ice cold water.
On top the counter, four glass jars with red tops, filled with cookies. They cost a penny a piece at first. Before he closed down, they went up to three for a nickel and finally a nickel a piece. Inflation.
Over on the other side of the store, one shelf for oil and transmission fluid, another shelf for sliced loaf bread from Holsum and Sunbeam. He always had a few cinnamon rolls and some honey buns. He also had cans of Vienna sausages. A convenience for customers.
There was a pot bellied stove and two rocking chairs. I was a kid, the chairs were for grownups, like my Grandfather and my Uncle. A spotted dog prowled the place like he owned it.
The magic was behind the counter. That’s where old Garland kept the ice cream. People drove miles to stop in and buy Garland’s Ice Cream. Of course, Bude and Meadville were miles to the west and Brookhaven was miles to the east. Garland had a monopoly.
He was old enough that he shuffled his feet. Hunched over, nodding his head as he walked. But, he had an arm that could move ice cream. For a nickel, you got three or four scoops. Yes sir. I don’t think he ever sold a dime’s worth. He didn’t need to.
He sold a lot of ice cream. Men and boys, moms and girls stopped at Garlands to order up cones of ice cream. Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry and Orange sherbet. That’s all he had back then. That’s all he needed. Demand and supply they say.
Nobody ever saw Garland wash his hands. He’d fill your car up, check your oil, give you some free air, then walk inside and sell you a nickel ice cream cone. Sometimes he’d pet the dog on the way in.
I miss that old store. I missed the stories it could tell.
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