Time is fleeting as they say. Years go by so quickly when you reach a certain age and you start wishing there was a means to slow it down. I can’t believe that it’s been nearly a year since my last post and it’s now 2018. I’m not a natural-born writer where I post my first attempt. I have to mull over it a while and try out sentences in my head until I finally decide to type it out and then edit several times. Finally, I give up and select and hit the publish button.
The old store featured here is a happy part of my past. Because of where I grew up, the bus ride to school was long, over an hour each way. While my cousins( I was related to nearly everyone that rode the bus from the valley) were playing cards, sleeping or just doing nothing, I usually had my nose stuck in a book. It helped pass the time on what was a pretty boring ride. Sometimes, one of my cousins who shall go unnamed, would decide to bombard me with paper wads, shouting “Let’s bomb Pearl Harbor.” I eventually reciprocated by taking my Holly Hobby lunchbox upside the head of the wad throwing relative. He wasn’t knocked-out but it did leave a knot on his forehead and a lasting dent in my lunchbox. No one would mess with me after that and I could read in peace. A couple of times a week on the ride home, the bus driver would stop at the Tallassee General Store. We would all scramble off to buy Cokes, Fireballs, Ice Cream Sandwiches, and bubblegum. It was always such a treat to get off that bus for a little while, especially when we had to take kids to Calderwood (future posting). During the summer break, my mother would take my brother and I down to Tallassee to pick up a few items and get bologna sandwiches for lunch which is a standard food item in most country stores. I remember those Lays Bologna sandwiches with such fondness: A thick slice between two pieces of white bread, plain, no mustard or mayo. I don’t even think Lays Three Little Pigs is in existence any longer.
The store began in 1933 by the Lunsfords. A decade before in that community, a group of people tried to start a resort since it’s on the banks of the Little Tennessee River, now known as Tellico Lake, but it wasn’t successful. It was named after a Cherokee town that was located several miles upstream. It was a vital part of the area where people could hang out and visit. In the winter time, you would often find folks gathered around the wood burning stove while discussing a little of everything from politics to religion without ever raising their voices too much. If you needed milk or eggs or bait, you could buy it there and not have to run into Maryville which is 30 minutes away. I think that they even carried car parts and pretty sure they had camping equipment. General stores were a necessity in these rural communities but then came cheaper cars and Walmart and the general stores began disappearing. That trend is changing though with Dollar General opening stores in rural communities. It’s not just a matter of convenience but affordability now since more people are living paycheck to paycheck.
When you think about the size of typical general stores, Tallassee is much larger. The only general store that I’ve seen like this was near Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, CA. That store had been converted into not just a store but a restaurant and bar which also had entertainment on the weekends. Happy Valley, where I grew up, had a post office/store but it closed probably around the time that the Tallassee store opened. Tallassee became our post office and was for over 70 years until the store closed not too long ago.
There is another store next door now that caters to the drivers of the Tail of the Dragon, a stretch of Hwy. 129 that has over 300 curves in an 11- mile stretch and is famous amongst motorcycle and car enthusiasts. I’m sure the owners thought it would be too costly to restore which seems to be the fate of most old buildings…
Thank you for sharing your story. I have just recently purchased the property and I am trying to determine if restoration is possible. The roof is gone, the floor has caved into the basement. I hope there is a way to restore the building, I know the importance it has to this community that grew up in or around this community.
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