August 13, 2008 Edition

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'Rolling store' remembrances

D.C. Rowlett
Guest Writer

I am sure that about everyone from the country who is 60 years old or older can remember the "rolling stores."

These were mostly just a pickup truck with an enclosed box over the truck bed. The canned goods were arranged on shelves and perishables were kept in an ice chest.

They ran the old gravel roads and folks would flock from the cotton fields to get some "special treats for lunch."

These wonderful enterprises created by free-thinking businessmen operated mostly in the spring, while we were chopping cotton, and in the fall, when we were picking cotton.

Actually that was the only time of the year any of us had the money to buy the extra "store bought" things.

A loaf of bread, a carton of soft drinks, potted meat, mayonnaise, and ~ oh yeah, those little individual size cakes ~ my favorite was the banana flip. Mmmmmm, excuse me for just a second, I am drooling...

There were a few movies back then that attempted to depict life on a cotton farm, but I never did see one that accurately captured that lifestyle to any satisfactory degree.

It is a shame they didn't get some of us good old Arkansas boys to act as consultant ~ any movie producers reading this?

Life in the '30s through the '50s in rural communities on the little 100-acre (or less) cotton farms was an era that in my opinion helped form the strong backbone of this great nation.

The rolling store is an example of the rugged individualism that seems to be so scarce in today's world. I believe that farm people's hard work opened the door to this type of enterprise ~ yep, folks, it is true ~ hard work produces good things in a lot of different ways.

Cotton chopping and cotton picking and the rolling stores are things of the past long forgotten, and I am certainly not saying I want to return to that hard lifestyle.

However, I would like for our youth to at least know about those days, and I challenge you grandparents to tell the story, not the Hollywood version but rather from the viewpoint of us old-timers who lived it.

Dewitt Rowlett of Vilonia is a native of Possum Trot Community, five miles west of Swifton. He writes of his life in rural Arkansas and is gaining quite a fan club of people who are of the nostalgic persuasion. Comments can be sent to him through e-mail at

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