Brooks Blevins will be bringing a program about past and present country stores to Old Independence Regional Museum on Sunday, September 28 at 2 p.m. Through a series of many projected photographs, he will take the audience on an Ozark country store journey, focusing on the importance of such stores to rural communities.
“Daybooks and ledgers and other items tell us about life in the Ozarks in the 19th and early 20th centuries,” Blevins said. “ I will also discuss the decline of the country store, its survival and transformation, and the challenges that country stores face today.”
“The museum will place some local historical photos and ledgers on display for the program, too,” said Sharan Pittser, museum collections curator. “Older people from the region can recall “going to the store” on shopping trips from their rural homes to pick up some salt, spices or plug tobacco. Women looked for new bolts of cloth to make clothes for the family. Men hunted through the store’s stock for a new hoe or pick and shovel. Of course there was the candy counter for children to peer into with hope. Men could sit around inside or on a bench outside and argue about politics or tell hunting stories.”
“We still have a country store in Bethesda, now known as Taylor’s Grocery,” said Twyla Wright, museum exhibit curator. “It has changed over the 40 years that we have lived out there, but remains a center of the community. It’s there that we learn bits of what is going on around us, and we can buy some groceries and have them delivered to families in grief. We can stop in for a gallon of milk or over the counter medicine, or even a freshly made sandwich for lunch. It would be a terrible loss if the store closed.”
Program speaker Brooks Blevins is a native of Izard County, Arkansas, and is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University. He received the B.A. from Lyon College and the M.A. and Ph.D. in American history from Auburn University. Blevins is the author of five books, including Hill Folks: A History of Arkansas Ozarkers and Their Image, and Arkansas/Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol’Boys Defined a State. His most recent book, Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South, was released in 2012 by the University of Illinois Press.
The program will be free and open to the public. Normal museum hours are: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $3.00 for adults, $2.00 for seniors and $1.00 for children. The museum is located at 380 South 9th street, between Boswell and Vine Streets in Batesville.
Old Independence is a regional museum serving a 12-county area: Baxter, Cleburne, Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Marion, Poinsett, Sharp, Stone, White, and Woodruff. Parts of these present-day counties comprised the original Independence County in 1820’s Arkansas territory.
Don’t miss this opportunity to delve back into the history of all those old stores we see quite often and wonder, “What happened?” I have even stopped at some of them to “get a snack” only to discover I didn’t look really close, and they were closed up. This presentation explores and answers the unanswered questions travelers everywhere must ask. *Ginger