By Jerry Eltzroth
CV&T Guest Columnist
Bonnie and I recently attended an auction at Wayne Long’s Auction House on Mule Shed Lane in Madison County. We have attended so many of the auctions held there that many of the regular attendees feel like family. Wayne Long and his staff run an auction like a well-oiled machine. The auction dates are advertised in the Citizen’s Voice & Times and the Richmond Register, as well as on the web.
A particular event in January which brought back some memories was the Charles and Geneva Ray estate auction. Most of the items being sold were from the old Ray General Store that once existed in southern Madison County. If you are into old collectibles and did not attend this auction, you missed a good one. These items were reeking of middle 1900’s history.
There were two items of special interest to me that inspired me to write this story. They were the actual screen doors that once hung on the entrance to the general store. One door was very weathered from years of use and had the original Kerns bread push bar still attached. The other screen door was very elaborate and fairly new looking. It was adorned with the Rainbo bread push bar and signage silk screened onto the door. One of my fondest memories was of going into the Wolfinbarger store run by Hubert and Dora Wolfinbarger with my Grandpa Bill Dickerson. The vision of that Rainbo Bread push bar on the screen door will forever be etched in my mind.
I wanted to bid on the Rainbo bread door being sold at the auction, but it was soon obvious that it was beyond my financial reach. Many of the Ray family members were in attendance and they had a great sense of nostalgia for these screen doors and other items from the old store. The beautiful Rainbo bread door fetched over $1000 and was bought by a grandson of the Rays. That is a fitting buyer for such a treasured family heirloom. I know the man who purchased the door will take excellent care of it and pass it on to his sons. The Kerns Bread door did not receive the same attention, but still sold for close to $200.
Any mention of Rainbo bread brings to mind my wife’s brother, Donnie Kearns, who was once a long time resident of Estill County. When he worked at Rockwell in Winchester someone hung him with the nickname ‘Rainbo.’ I suppose they thought Rainbo was better bread than Kerns. Many people who worked at Rockwell with Donnie only knew him as Rainbo, and to this day they address him by that nickname.
In the spring of 2015, I wrote a story for the Citizen’s Voice & Times about George Witt’s General Store in Witt Springs. From the early 1900’s and for almost the next hundred years there were several old-time general stores dotting the Sand Hill/Witt Springs communities. I personally remember three because my Grandpa Bill Dickerson believed in patronizing all of them. As I tagged along with Grandpa, it was a wondrous experience for a young city kid who was used to super markets.
The three stores I remember was George Witt’s store in Witt Springs, the Wolfinbarger store at the foot of Sand Hill Road, and the Stacy’s store on the corner of Possum Run Road and Sand Hill Road. After talking to Agnes Moore, she explained that there were other general stores in this area.
At 91 years of age Agnes is probably the oldest person living in our community and has a vast knowledge of the Sand Hill/Witt Springs/Lower Bend community’s history. There is one store for which even Agnes has no first hand memory—the Sid Richardson store on Webb Road across from where the Witt Springs School was located. I’ll try to relate some information about each of these establishments starting with the store at the foot of Sand Hill Road.
Ilene Wolfinbarger shared an artist’s rendering by Judy Arvin of the Wolfinbarger Store with me which is pictured with this article. The photograph picturing the store just prior to its final demise was taken by Jimmy Smithers.
Jimmy had these comments about the store, “Besides groceries, we got our feed for the cows there. Doug Henry always delivered on Saturday’s. That was a great store and the Wolfinbargers were fine people. I remember going to that store when Dora Wolfinbarger was running the store. Then Bill and Alvie (Rose) White had the store for a short time. I do not remember when the store closed, but that spot seems so empty now.”
One factor that led to the closing of the store was when KY 52 was moved to its present location in the early 1970’s. This caused the traffic flow to decrease dramatically. Prior to that, old KY 52 ran on the lower side of the store and Sand Hill Road was located on the upper side with the store sandwiched in between. As Doug Moore mentioned, “The parking lot around the store was mostly on the state right of way.”
When I came here to live in 1984 the vacant store building was still standing. Shortly afterwards the old store burned. I think the county fire department used it for a practice burn.
Jerry Rose has a new book titled “Estill County’s Cedar Grove: A Kentucky Community and Its People.” I’m awaiting the arrival of my copy to see if Jerry is claiming that this store is within the boundaries of Cedar Grove.
Agnes Moore told me that Tom Blackwell had a small store in the garage next to his house. The house later inhabited by Betty Crawford’s family and garage is still located next to the Lutes Cemetery. I have no memory of that store, but I’m sure some of the older ‘old-timers’ of our area remember it. Agnes said there was also a store located next to the former Tracy Warner farm across from and near the Sand Hill Church. The house or building it occupied is no longer there. Agnes further remembers thatWillie Lutes had a store at one time near the Sand Hill Church.
The next store as we travel down Sand Hill Road is the Stacy store at the corner of Possum Run and Sand Hill Road. There were many owners of the store over the years, but the Stacy family was the last proprietors. Some of the other store owners were Joe Tipton; Bob Dunaway; Minnie Lou and Willard Withers; Oliver and Alta Stacy; and finally Dennis and Helen Stacy after Oliver passed away in 1971. Jen Stacy said she worked in the store in 1973 before she graduated from high school. A member of the Stacy family said the store was closed for good sometime in the early 1980’s. The store building was remodeled and turned into 2 apartments many years ago. There were steps at Sand Hill Road leading up to the front entrance of the store. The back entrance was nearly at ground level.
I was told a story about two elderly sisters who patronized the store. They were embarrassed to say the words for a certain item they wanted. They would point to the can or write the words on a note—“fruit cocktail.”
The Stacy store was originally built by Joe Tipton after he acquired the lot from the Sand Hill Christian Church. Joseph Tipton purchased the lot from the Sand Hill Christian Church Trustees (J.M. Elliot, Harry Horn, and Jim Hardy) for $1 and other considerations on June 9, 1948. Possum Run Road (previously referred to as the Irvine/ Richmond Road) did not intersect Sand Hill Road as it does today. The old road was located on the upper side of the church and intersected Sand Hill Road at the point of the cemetery. When Possum Run Road was extended to its present intersection with Sand Hill Road a portion of the Sand Hill Church property was separated. That may be why the church trustees decided to sell the lot to Joe Tipton.
A vacant concrete block building sits where George Witt’s store was located. My story from the spring of 2015 extensively covered the history of this store. I will mention that Lloyd and Maefrey Hall bought George’s store in 1965. The old wooden structure was soon razed and the concrete building took its place. Maefrey ran the store for many years until 1986 when it was sold. The store struggled to remain open under the proprietorship of several owners. About the year 2000 it no longer existed as a general store.
The earliest general store in this area would probably be forgotten except for a comment my Grandma Ruby (Smithers) Dickerson made. I remember her telling me that folks would sit on the porch of Sid Richardson’s store and watch the ball games being played at the Witt Springs School across the road—now Webb Road. Sarah Ann (Floyd) Richardson bought the land, (about 30 acres) where Sid and Sarah’s house was built, from William Gould in 1900 for $94. They sold the same parcel in 1913 for $700. Sid and Sarah must have built the house that still stands there today for the property value to have increased so dramatically. My grandmother attended Witt Springs School during the early 1900’s; thus, she remembered her aunt and uncle’s house and store very well.
Jake Rose and Agnes Moore remember stories about the Sid Richardson store as well. Jake said he believed the store that Sid ran was on the side of the house. Jake remembers that Jeff Garrett may have run the store for a time. Agnes Moore lived in the Richardson house when her mother and father, Charlie and Gussie Thomas, bought the property. Agnes said her father remodeled the house extensively and added more rooms. There were about a dozen different owners of Sid and Sarah’s place from 1913 until R.C. and Iva Lee Winkle sold the house and a one acre lot to Charlie and Anna Lay in 1972. It has remained in the Lay family since that date. R.C. Winkle had the partial basement dug that is under the house.
I am part of the ‘lucky’ generation. Our generation’s parents were described as the ‘greatest generation.’ My lucky generation can still remember the old time general stores that were run by our neighbors where the store was also the community center.
Today we have Walmart, Dollar General, Super Markets and the like where you had better have cash or a credit card, because the proprietor will not accept eggs, chickens or other bartered goods. You certainly do not personally know today’s store owners. The main-road gas/convenience stores have replaced the old general stores. Many of the proprietors of these stores can barely speak English. For certain you will not hear that Rainbo bread screen door shut behind you.