Grocery shopping in East Wilson.

From an interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001) by her granddaughter Lisa Y. Henderson, in which she responds to the question, “Where did y’all shop for groceries?”

“I went down on Nash Street down there to the A&P store when it first come about. Up there in back of Dickerson Grocery. Right up there on Pender Street. By First Baptist Church. That was the first A&P store. And then when they opened up the store up there on Nash Street. We had to go, like, living on Queen Street, we’d go out there to, there was two stores out there. Yeah, one right where the Elks Club is, and then the one down there where was in between there and a lady name Hattie something, she had a beauty parlor on the corner of East Street. East and Nash.

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“The one by the Elks Club,” formerly Cain’s Grocery, 911 East Nash Street.

“But when I was a little girl, the only place you could get milk was from the Vicks. It was a quarter. That was the only place we had to get the milk, if you got any. Unless you used canned milk. She had a back porch. Closed-in back porch. Screened in. Anyway, glass in it all around, there on the back porch, and tables out there. One of them things you churn, what I mean, a great, old big urn out there where the milk get too old, and then she’d have buttermilk. And she had a ‘frigerator sitting out there, where she’d taken the shelves out, look like where she’d made a big thing to put it in there. But she would get fresh milk everyday. The cows was somewhere out there, I don’t know where, I didn’t see ‘em in the yard. They wont nowhere up there. But somebody was working for them would go out and get the milk and bring it in these cans where you have, where got the churn in the top of it. And she would put them out there on the porch. Miz Annie [Vick] seemed to be pretty clean, and the house was clean. Didn’t nobody get sick.

“And there was a store down, right down the hill from the house. There was a store right down there. Old Man Bell, a white guy, had a store down there. And that’s where, we could go down there and get flour and everything, like meal and stuff, like, you know, just stock, but it was a small place.

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Old Man Bell’s store down the hill from the house at 303 Elba Street, 1922 Sanborn insurance map.

“They had a store right there on Green Street up there, on Green Street. That brick store right cross, like leaving Elba Street, and it’s on the right-hand side, going up. Well, that was open, doing pretty good. A white person built the building, and then he stocked it, and we went up there to buy stuff.

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Former Mercer’s Grocery, 513 East Green Street.

“And sometimes Old Man Langley, up there, the colored fellow on Viola Street. We went up there sometimes…. But they were mostly white. ‘Cause there wont no, black folks didn’t have no stores.

“The stores would do their own butchering. They’d have pork chops, they’d cut the whole thing. They had a nice size freezer.

“But the stores didn’t stay in place too long. And you had to get another one, go to another place. So we just followed ‘em until the A&P opened up there on Nash Street. That’s when you had to carry all the stuff. Mama’d have a bag, I’d have a bag. Bring ‘em from down there, and then she’d send us sometime to the store during the week. So we wouldn’t have so much to bring. ‘Cause they wouldn’t deliver. The A&P store won’t. But down the bottom, you were right there [near neighborhood corner stores.] But you had to pay so much more for it. So Papa, ‘fore he died, he had a place, say go down there and tell Old Man Bell to send me a plug of tobacco. And I’d go down there and tell him, and he’d let him have it. And put it on the bill. And I asked if I could get something. And he’d say, ‘Yeah,’ and he’d put it on the bill.”

——

  • Per the nomination form for the Wilson Central Business District-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, A&P was located at 561 East Nash Street in a commercial building erected by Camillus L. Darden in the 1920s. It operated until the 1940s.
  • As described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report, Dickerson Grocery, 622 East Nash Street, was a parapet-roofed grocery with one-bay facade and metal veneer. The building was demolished in the 1990s.
  • As described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report, Cain’s Grocery, a brick-veneered structure with parapet front built about 1930, was the district’s largest grocery. It now houses a church.
  • Marshall Lodge #297 of the International Protective Order of Elks occupied a lodge hall at the corner of Nash and Vick Streets erected in 1921. In 1954, it was replaced by a two-story cinder block building that was in use until about 1980.
  • Samuel H. and Annie Washington Vick lived at 622 East Green Street. Alongside her husband’s many business ventures, Annie Vick sold her neighbors farm-fresh milk.
  • I have not been able to identify “Old Man Bell,” though Gus A. Bell operated a grocery at Pine and Lee Streets in the 1920s, per city directories. The 1922 Wilson city directory lists Zadock D. Mumfort as the operator of a grocery at 317 Elba Street.
  • As described in the East Wilson Historic District nomination report, Mercer’s Grocery, a brick, parapet-fronted building built about 1908, was one of the major groceries in the neighborhood. The building still stands at the corner of Green and Pender Streets and was active as a grocery into the 1990s.
  • “Old Man Langley” — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 Viola Street, Jarette J. Langley, 51, grocery store merchant; wife Mary, 49; and children Ivary, 21, Esmond, 19, Ruttena, 16, Alcesta, 14, and Eunice, 8.

Oral interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved; photographs taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2017.

 

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