Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Way Life Used to Be

To Whom It May Concern:

Charlie has been absent because he has company and had to stay home and help entertain them.



I found this small note in a country store that is easily one of the most fascinating places I’ve stumbled across recently.

My sister has told me about the many afternoons she and her housemate spent at a store called Ann and Tony’s. It was a gas station, a small market, a tackle shop, and a gathering place for the local folk. The owners, Ann and Tony, never cared if you grabbed a beer from the cooler and sat to chat for a while. Jeen reported that it was not uncommon for her and her housemate, Meg, to leave their car parked at the gas pump for close to three hours.

I’ve been in my fair share of small, country stores. There was one up the road from my grandmother’s house. When I was too young to make the trip on my own Granny would take my hand and lead me up the dirt lane and across the road to Palmer’s. The wooden porch out front was home to a huge plug-in cooler with a bright Coca-Cola insignia on the front. The screen door had a tin insert that proclaimed we should all be eating Sunbeam Bread.

My grandmother’s heels would click along the wide plank floors, stirring up the dust and dirt that had found its way through the front door. Mr. Palmer stood tall behind the counter that was lined with an assortment of items- everything from 3-in-1-ONE Oil and fly swatters to Red Hots and my favorite, Good and Plenty.

When I got older I was allowed to walk there on my own, often at the request of my grandmother who was in need of a little cream or a loaf of that soft Sunbeam bread.

Like my grandmother, the store is just a memory now. The last time I drove by that way there was nothing but a grassy piece of land where the store used to be. The memories of Palmer’s had slipped away into the recesses of my long-term memory…until a trip to Buzzy’s Country Store in Scotland, MD stirred them up.

It was Moe’s idea to stop in. She had been given an artist’s rendition of the small wooden shop by her in-laws and wanted to check it out; besides the sign out front advertised “tackle, liquor, beer and souvenirs” and we needed beer.

I smiled as I noticed the large Coca-Cola cooler on the front porch. By the time I heard the second little tap of the wooden screen door closing behind me I could feel my heartbeat speed up with excitement. All those memories of Palmer’s and shopping there with my grandmother came back to me. I stopped inside the front door and took it all in.

There was a small counter with a few bar stools sitting in front of the beer coolers.

“Looks like we need to have a beer here,” Julie remarked.

“Can we?” I asked.

An older gentleman behind the counter spoke right up. “Sure you can. Sit for a spell, grab a beer.”

It took a few minutes to wander the store. The souvenir section was small, but included a few Buzzy’s Country Store t-shirts and hats. The tackle section was a little larger with hooks, line and sinkers. There was some camping equipment and a variety of nets used for fishing and crabbing. Just like Palmer’s there was a long counter with an assortment of penny candy. Behind the counter was a small collection of wines and liquor.

We settled in at the Formica counter and watched the comings and goings of Buzzy’s. The event of the day was the Rockfish tournament going on. An older guy walked in and grabbed a piece of gum from the jar on the counter. He was there to set up for the post-tournament barbecue. Next in came a couple, Linda and Mike. They chatted a bit, asking about the barbecue and the karaoke that was due to start at 4:00. For a small store in a real small town there was a lot going on.

Over the course of an hour we drank our beer and learned a few things. The wide plank floors of the store came from the Confederate prison that was down the road. The building has been on the lot since the late 1800s. The current owner is J. Scott Ridgell; he bought the store from his father, Buzzy himself.

And then there was the note. According to the owner, Charlie is one of a group of regular guys that shows up every day around 4:00 to share some stories, laughs and drinks. After Charlie had missed a few days he presented the note that addressed his whereabouts. I’m sure there were a few more laughs about that.

The tagline at the bottom of the t-shirts sold at Buzzy’s reads, “The way things used to be.” Yeah it is.


  1. Oh yeah. I forgot it was Tuesday, In fact, it almost seems like Thursday.. LAST Thursday.

  2. But it was edited a little...today...TUESDAY

  3. I loved the way you found a new place that evoked that old place, nice how the brain works. Good intro, and then transition into the new, old place. When we travel, we're always looking for those places-always interesting to meet the people.

  4. Love it, Mary! You really captured a memorable day!

  5. Ahh, you made me remember the corner store in my neighborhood. My dad used to send me there to buy him a pack of cigarettes. And the owner would sell them to me without a blink. Great slice. I love the balance of dialogue mixed in with your memories and description.