I am writing this sitting in the Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea. We left Atlanta at 12:20 PM on Saturday afternoon and arrived Seoul at 4:15 PM on Sunday. It is a long trip. We still have several more hours to go for the next leg. Even though everyone we stayed with in the States were quite accommodating, it will be good to sleep in my bed and get back to a routine again.
The first routine will be to start on the next novel. I want to be finished with it by the first of the year. I would say Christmas, but I think that it is a rather lofty goal. The next novel will be Obadiah: A Ghost’s Story. The story is a ghost story, set in Hahira in the early part of the twentieth century, told by the ghost. I had debated on whether to proceed with the sequel to Carnies and Wildcats, but this one is calling out for me to write it. I know that sounds crazy but consider the source.
I am going to make this column a little brief this week and give you a few stories from my dad’s first grocery store on Main Street.
Daddy hated salesmen who walked in off the street trying to peddle something. We had our regular salesmen from The A. S. Pendleton Company (wholesale grocery distributors in Valdosta), Roscoe Mullis with Valdosta Cigar and Tobacco, and the salesman from Adel Grocery Company—add to this group the soft drink truck drivers who delivered Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, and the cracker and potato chip salesmen.
This group was great friends with Mama and Daddy, and they were always welcomed. But occasionally we had the random, unsolicited peddler and Daddy had a unique way of handling them. The normal routine was they would walk in and approach Daddy and asked him if he was the owner. To which Daddy would always reply, “No sir. The owner left here about four weeks ago and went to Florida. He left me fifty dollars to run the business and I have spent all of that. If he don’t get back soon, I am going to have to shut this place down.”
If you knew my dad you know I have deleted a few choice expletives and colorful language in the telling of the story. Email me and I will give you the uncensored version if you are interested.
What People Don’t Know Can’t Hurt Them
At our little store we had a nice selection of meats and Daddy would cut meat to order. One day a lady from Hahira’s more social elite visited wandered across the tracks to our little store on West Main and asked Daddy to cut her some ham. Apparently she wanted some center-cut ham, and every few slices that Daddy showed to her just wasn’t good enough.
Daddy finally became tired of her requests and told her that he was not cutting any more ham for her. She begrudgingly accepted the last few slices he cut and then asked Daddy to also cut her a wedge of red-rind hoop cheese. He did and packaged everything separately in white butcher paper. She paid and left.
About fifteen minutes later she returned with the package of cheese. “Mr. Spearman,” she said. “I got home with this cheese and placed it on the counter in my kitchen. A few seconds later I watched a cockroach crawl across the package. Could you please exchange this and give me some new cheese and give this to another customer? You know, what people don’t know can’t hurt them.”
Daddy took the package from her and turned his back to her. He went through the motions of pretending to cut and package a new wedge of cheese for her. He gave her back the original package of cheese, smiled and said, “You know, you’re right. What people don’t know can’t hurt them.”
Mom and Dad always had a healthy credit business. People would come by and purchase their groceries on credit and paid when they sold crops, received their paychecks or their Social Security. My parents were fortunate in that most people paid their bills, and they did not get stuck very often with bad debt.
Often their credit customers would travel to Valdosta to purchase furniture or cars on credit. These credit customers would give Spearman’s Grocery as a credit reference and the credit department from the Valdosta retailer would call and ask Daddy to advise if the customer was a reliable credit customer.
Daddy’s response was always short and always the same to these credit inquiries, “I took a chance with ‘em, now you take one!”
Have a great week! We already miss you all!