Walking into The Old Country Store in Jackson, Tennessee, I am immediately greeted by the warm scent of vanilla and chocolate chips baking in the oven in the Ice Cream Parlour, but the scent quickly mixes with a stale mothball-like musk that must be coming from the antiques hanging from the ceiling. I don’t mind, though. It’s exactly how my house smells, or so I’ve been told. The floors creak with every step we take and they look almost as old as I am.
The Bluegrass playing on the XM radio competes with a music box sounding from the corner of the store. When I go to investigate I see that it is an Old Porter Music player, but what is that song playing on it now? I should know it because it played in my wedding but that was over forty years ago. It’s on the tip of my tongue now…Cannon in D, that’s it.
I am overwhelmed with the amount of items this store sells, varying between scarves, t-shirts, home accessories, homemade fudge and candy items. But the store is most known for their candy, and that is why I knew my grandchildren would love this place as soon as my friend Irma brought me last Thursday for the store’s weekly Bluegrass concert hosted by Jackson’s Plectral Society.
I drop my gaze back down to my grandchildren as I watch their eyes light up at the sight of lollipops the size of softballs, rows and rows of rock candy, and jellybeans. Other goodies like malt balls and chocolate-covered peanuts fill the shelves on either side of them. Past these shelves are about fifteen or so barrels of candy that the children immediately run toward. I watch as they dig their hands into the candy as if they were playing with sand in a sandbox.
“Ew…YaYa, this taffy is sticky!” Amy, my five-year-old granddaughter, says as she puts her hands out toward me. I pull a wet wipe from my purse, un-stick the taffy, and wipe away the pink and orange residue from her tiny fingers. All the while she is giggling as she watches her older brother shake his hands attempting to throw off a piece of taffy from his finger. Yes, the taffy is wrapped but with the heat index of 120 degrees and the air conditioning not working to its fullest potential in an old building, the taffy is bound to melt a little in the barrels.
Amy’s laughter is contagious, and I can’t help but chuckle a little when I remember how I was at that age.
“Daddy, can we go down to Mr. Percy’s? I swept the front porch for Momma and she gave me two whole nickels and I really want to get an ice cream cone or a candy bar or a Bubble Up! Please?” I smile up at my Daddy, staring into his twinkling blue eyes and I know he is about to say yes when his almost forced frown breaks into a grin. He walks his bicycle to the sidewalk and sets it against the light pole.
“Yes. I just need to stop off at the hardware store real quick. Okay, Elsie?” He says as he pulls out a comb from his pant’s pocket and smooths out the windblown look from his chestnut colored hair. My Daddy’s clothes are always covered in oil and dirt, but just because he is a mechanic doesn’t mean his face and hair have to look like it. Or, at least that’s what he always tells momma when she teases him for worrying over his hair.
“Okay,” I say as I hold my two nickels in the palm of my right hand and with my left I hold my Daddy’s hand as we walk down the street to Mac’s Hardware store. My Daddy loves the hardware store and after what seems like days, I gently tug on his oil stained pants, reminding him that it’s time to go.
“Alright, Elsie let’s go.” He takes my hand, leaves the store and crosses the street to Mr. Percy’s General Store.
This is my favorite store in the whole wide world. There are jars of Jelly Belly beans lining the back wall, candy sticks in every flavor, barrels and barrels of candy, and a lollipop tree stands beside the candy sticks.
“Well hello there Elsie! How’s my favorite six-year-old?”
I look up and see Mr. Percy standing behind the counter in the Gift Shop. “Hi, Mr. Percy. Momma gave me two whole nickels for helping her sweep the porch.” I giggled a little after saying that because Mr. Percy is twirling the ends of his long, dark brown mustache; he knows it always makes me laugh.
“Oh well isn’t that a treat. Do you know what you’re going to get yet?”
“Um…” I shift from side to side, holding the skirt of my pale yellow dress, as I think. “I either want a Bubble Up, or a Double Cola, or a Stage Plank, or um…some Mary Janes.”
Mr. Percy just laughs as he watches my eyes wander around the store. There’s just so much candy.
“Come on, Elsie, I’m giving you one more minute and then we are going to go. You know your Momma likes us to be home at five on the dot.”
I run around the store and grab a Stage Plank and a Double Cola. I couldn’t decide which one to get and I was almost on the verge of tears when my Daddy says, “How about I get you the Stage Plank and you pay for the Double Cola?”
“Really? Thanks Daddy.”
“Alright Mr. Percy, we’re ready.”
“Let’s see what you’ve got here. one Peach Nehi, one Stage Plank, three Mary Janes, and one Coconut Bar, anything else?”
“Nope that about does it.”
“Alright, Mr. Burnett, including tax your total is 83 cents.”
“Thank you, Mr. Percy. Alright Elsie, show him what you’ve got.”
“One Double Cola. It’s going to be 10 cents.”
We leave the store and my Daddy straps me into the yellow seat behind him on his bicycle and we are on our way home. As soon as dinner is over, I can eat my Stage Plank and drink my Double Cola.
“YaYa, What’s this?” Alex, my seven-year-old grandson asks me as he holds up a tiny bar wrapped in yellow about the size of my pinkie finger.
“Oh, that’s a Mary Jane. Don’t tell me you’ve never had a Mary Jane before.”
“YaYa, I’ve never even heard of a Mary Sue. Are they any good?”
“It’s Mary Jane, dear not Mary Sue. And yes, they are best candy you’ll ever put in your mouth. I’ll buy you a couple and you can eat them for me since I can’t with these dentures in my mouth.”
“YaYa, what are these?” Amy asks me as she waves a piece of candy up at me.
“Well, hold it still. Oh, that’s a peanut butter bar. You’ll like that. Since your parents didn’t teach you anything about candy, I’m going to buy you a little bit of all my favorite candies and we are going to sit in the Ice Cream Parlour and eat them. Okay kids?”
“Alright!” they say in unison, and Alex hands me a brown bag to fill with candy.
As soon as I manage to find all of my favorite goodies in the store, I walk up to the counter and set it all down. I pull out my pocket book and wait for the total to flash across the screen.
“Your total is $16.49.”
My heart rate increases so fast that I nearly have a heart attack right then and there. “Never in all my life have I ever paid so much for candy. You know when I was a little girl I could buy this here Stage Plank for ten cents?”
“No, Ma’am I didn’t know that.”
“Well, I guess you wouldn’t know that would you?” I hand her my twenty-dollar bill and after getting my change, we go to the Ice Cream Parlour.
“Sweetie, do you mind if we sit here and eat our candy?” I ask the girl behind the counter.
“No Ma’am, go right ahead. Do y’all need anything to drink with your candy? We have fountain drinks and glass bottle drinks.”
“Well, let’s see what you’ve got, IBC cream soda, Frostie Root Beer, Dr. Enuf, Coke, Sprite, and Cheerwine. Kids what do y’all want?”
“YaYa, what’s a Double Cola?” Alex asks me as he points ahead of me at the brown glass bottle on the counter above the cooler.
“Oh, my dear Lord. I thought they stopped making these. I’ll take three.”
“Alright, it’s going to be $5.62.”
“That’s ridiculous, but I’m going to pay for it anyway. Did you know this is the first time I’ve seen a Double Cola in almost forty years?”
The girl looks astonished and hands me my change. “Well, Ma’am, I hope you enjoy it.” She smiles and walks away.
I hand the drinks to Alex and I steer the children to a nearby table.
“Alright kids, you ready to try the best candy in all your life?”
They both bounce a little in their seats with excitement.
I open the Stage Plank, take a bite and wash it down with my Double Cola and suddenly I am six years old again wearing my pale yellow dress with matching bows in my dirty blonde hair and standing beside my Daddy at Mr. Percy’s General Store.
Rebekah Anderson was born and raised in Jackson, Tennessee. She has been writing short fiction for four years. Currently, she is a Union University student majoring in History and English with an emphasis on Creative Writing. She is pursuing a career in the publishing/editing industry.