Rockport Merchants-Mid 20th
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Mrs. Kevil's General Merchandise.
Please see Part 1 for some pertinent information concerning pictures and other information of this series. In particular,
please be advised that the following is not a factual presentation of occurrence or events from the small town of
Rockport. Please note also, that the above picture is not of Mrs. Kevil's General Merchandise Store.
The middle part of the twentieth century and the small town of Rockport is seeing growth in some ways and progress in
other ways. Yet, it was still a fine place for a kid to grow up. We had the Green River to swim and fish in, woods
and fields to romp and hunt in, and most of the town to play in, as there are very few properties that were off limits
to a pre-teen youngster. The old livery and General Merchandise Stores were starting to evolve into a self-service type
grocery store, but this is only a start.
James J. (Jamie) Reid has become a full fledged grocer and as he grows, "Shim" or "Shim Bob" is nearing retirement and
is slowing. Thelma's Market, out on the main highway, is growing and doing well. A new market is about to open near the
Highway Bridge, but that is another story. Customers are beginning to see shopping carts in the larger towns like Central
City and Beaver Dam, but it will be a few more years before the local shoppers will be able to push a cart around and
through any of the small stores in Rockport. Customers are beginning to shop though, and will call out to the grocery
clerk what they want as they look around the store and pick out some of the items. Merchandising, or the placement of
certain grocery items in key locations is about to start. Now customers are picking up extra items that was not on their
Early fifties and Jamie Reid is now in control of his store. Non-grocery items are being dropped and more and better
grocery items are being stocked. The old store is becoming more of a place for food buying than of general merchandise.
While fresh meat and vegetables are not plentiful, the shopper does have a choice, if they get to the store early
enough. "What's for Dinner", now is becoming more of a choice for the family, than of the grocer.
Some of the local residents have discovered that if their gardens are productive enough, any excess of produce can be
sold to the local grocers and especially to Jamie Reid. Thus, for a few years, I became a "Wholesaler" to Jamie and at
times, the other grocers. Spring planting would find me helping in the garden and looking forward to the "Cash Sells"
for any excess crop from the garden. Tomatoes was always a fine item and never failed me. I could just pick a half
bushel of tomatoes and take them to Jamie. No questions asked as he weighed them and gave me a fair price. Green Beans
and corn were as easy to sell as simply taking them to the store. I would always have to ask if he needed any squash,
okra, turnips and other type vegetables.
The "Checker Board" story about Jamie providing materials, for the making of the board, and bottle tops for the checkers
has been told. Other donations or gifts from Jamie to the town and the kids were many. One particular project that Jamie
funded was the "River Projects". We soon learned that if we wanted a place to play and swim on the Green River, then we
would have to be the builders and keepers of any of the projects. These projects included diving boards, rope swings,
high dive platforms, some sand, a place to get out of the water and dry your feet, and other similar projects. Wood was
free from the river and post was as simple to get as cutting down a maple tree. Any board that came floating down the
river was captured and saved for later. It is rumored that some of the locals actually went up river and found a
special oak board that made us a fine diving board for years to come. The main problem was that it was attached to
another town's diving platform. This is only a rumor, but one day we were using a "rinky-dinky" type board and the
next day we had a fine diving board that had a nice bounce to it. Provisions for any of these projects that we could
not readily procure was provided by Jamie. The list was almost endless as Jamie gave us nails, an ax or two, other tools,
mats, wire, sand, hinges and other hardware. While Jamie enjoyed the river and many trips to it, and got a lot of joy
from swimming and diving, he equally enjoyed seeing the fun and excitement of the young residents. Most of us will
Jamie, by now, was now married to a Gaither from Beaver Dam. How he got by all of those Gaither boys to court Loraine
is still a mystery! Their marriage produced two fine children. The older son helped his father out in the store and was
becoming another Jamie. Like father, like son and Jimmy Reid certainly had the potential to become another great grocer.
Instead, he became an EMT, and guess that he settled into a regular type job, instead of a commitment to a store. Now
married and living in Centertown, with his wife, who is also an EMT. Jamie and Loraine's daughter, Cindy, was certainly
a joy to be around. She would have made a great grocer. Instead, she became a nurse and then a Nurse Practitioner and now
seeing patients under the guidance of a doctor. Cindy is now married and continues to be a joy to be around.
Sometime around the early or mid sixties, the old Kevil Store Building was about like the song-"This Old House". It had
seen too many winters and more rain and weather than it needed. The old "Feed and Seed" part of the store was either
torn down by this time or needed to be torn down. Time for a move and Jamie and Company moved the store a block down
the street to the old Redman Building. Now, a more modern means of shopping for groceries was about to begin. Better
lighting, more room, refrigerated display cases and even a freezer without a lid was now the norm and the customer
had the run of the store. Some adjustment time was need though, as some of the customers preferred to hand their list
to the clerk.
Do want to mention the clerks before closing, as without them, a grocery had no room to grow. Do not remember very many
clerks that worked for Shim. Roberta Smith clerked for him for a period of time. I am sure there were others, but just
can't recall for the time being. I don't remember very many clerks that worked for Jamie either. My sister-in-law, Karen,
worked for Jamie after Jamie's star clerk retired. Of course, Jimmy was a big help and did a lot of clerking, but there
was one particular clerk that worked for Jamie for about as long as he operated the store. Does anyone come to mind?
Roberta Smith was just a part of the store and when one though of Jamie's store, Roberta, as a clerk, certainly came to
mind. I have in mind that Roberta was a tall, thin, redhead. My wife agrees with exception of the hair color. Would
anyone care to offer an opinion?
Stay tuned and look for the third episode of James J. Reid Merchandising. Again, if you see something that needs
corrected, please let me know.
Thanks for any help you can offer.
Thanks for looking.