Hey mom, I’m goin’ up Markley’s

“Hey mom, I’m goin’ up Markley’s” was something heard quite often in our house. If one of my brothers or me didn’t say it, it was “Who’s goin’ up Markley’s for me?” from mom. Markely’s In-Between Store was a general mercantile I guess. It was the Walmart of our little town before we ever knew what Walmart was, or any chain store for that matter. And, we didn’t actually go up, because it was south of us. For some reason, we all referred to south as up and north as down. When we went up Markley’s, we just meant that we were going up to. I don’t know why we dropped the “to” either. It was our Appalachian shorthand I guess.
Like I said, they carried all general merchandise. We mostly went in for the pop and a candy bar, but dad bought more than one pair of work boots and coveralls from them over the years. We may have even ordered a wood stove from them. I don’t remember, but I know they had them. All that kind of stuff was in the back of the store and it was dark back there, so we stayed to the front where the good stuff was anyway.
When you walked up the wooden steps and onto the front porch of the store, you were greeted by a huge and heavy set of screen doors, followed by wood and glass double doors. If it was nice out or summertime, the wooden doors were propped open. The screen doors had big metal handles on them made by Sunbeam Bread or something like that. Every time we would come flying through the door, Mrs. Markley would say “Don’t let that door slam!”, just as it did just that. We’d reply “I’m sorry Mrs. Markley!” and keep on going.
There were coolers down the left-hand side of the store when you came in. In one of the coolers was always a big ole cloth bologna. If you wanted, they would cut off a thick piece with a butcher knife, grab a couple of slices of white bread, slather on some mayonnaise and there you had the best sandwich you ever tasted. They didn’t worry about putting on plastic gloves or even getting a clean knife to cut the bologna with. The best they could do was rip off a piece of wax paper and put it down on the counter. When they were done, they used that to wrap up your sandwich. We were probably barefooted to begin with, so germs were not a concern anyway.
The isles were not very long, but they were tall, and they were stocked to the gills. Although as a kid, it probably seemed bigger and more stocked than it probably was. I could look up and down those isles for hours I think. I would look over the Hershey bars, Sugar Daddys, Big Chew bubble gum, Tootsie Pops and penny candy in between. All it would take was .35 cents to get a pop and a piece of candy or two. They had a big chest freezer with sliding glass doors on top to hold the ice cream. Oh, on a hot day, an ice cold pop and a Nutty Buddy was pure heaven. There were also regular groceries, but I was not one bit concerned about something I had to prepare. I wanted something right then. I remember getting a bag of Bugles and a pop on Friday nights so I could watch Donnie & Marie and have a snack.
Mr. & Mrs. Markley ran it every day, all day long. I only remember a time or two that they had someone else mind the store. They eventually retired and their son and his wife took over. By then I was a teenager and I could drive. But up to that point, goin up Markley’s meant a walk about a mile away. That was nothing for us as kids. We did it all the time. We even did it for neighbors if they needed something. And, when we went for them, they usually paid for our pop and candy. By the way, if you have not figured out by now, a pop was any soda. It could have been a Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew or anything in a bottle. And as a kid, they all came in glass bottles which were returnable for a refund. That was another source of income for a pop. There was this one time that a neighbor told me that she had called Markley’s and had them put something at the counter for her. All I had to do was pay for it and bring it to her. When I got there, sure enough, there was a bag on the counter and they were waiting for me to pay. I got myself a little something, paid for what was in her bag and began walking back home. I, of course, got a little curious, so I looked in the bag. It was a box of feminine products. I knew what they were by looking at the box because there was a box just like it in the linen closet at home. I just didn’t know what feminine products were for. I didn’t care. I had what I wanted too.
When we walked, we had two routes to take. One was the road. We lived just off the main road that connected all of the towns around us. There was a sidewalk for part of the walk, but that didn’t start until you actually got into town. Lots of times, though, we would take the alternate route, which was the railroad tracks. That was the real scenic route. The tracks ran right behind our house. They actually touched our backyard. We pretty much knew when the train would be running, so we knew if it was safe to walk the tracks. And, if our calculations were off, there was usually enough room to get off the tracks if the train came rolling on by. I didn’t care for being that close to the train, ever. I didn’t really like it being that close to our house. My brothers would try to scare me with stories of Dracula and The Werewolf getting off they train at night and coming to the house, but I’ll leave my daily torments from my brothers for another post… or several.
Markley’s In-Between Store has been closed for a couple of decades now I think. It served it’s purpose well when it was open. The store had actually been there for about a hundreds years before they bought it I believe. It was called Clem’s Store then. I had even read once that the store used to set on the hill behind where it was when we knew it. It had apparently been moved on logs down the hill. Which is pretty amazing when you think of the size of the two-story building and the steepness of the hill. Today it would not be moved unless a dump truck took care of it.

Markley’s In-Between Store as it looks today. I would say the building is about 150 or more years old. It served it’s community well. In its heyday, it was one of three stores in a row, on what was thought of as Main Street.

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The Appalachian Tale

Memories, recipes, and Tales of an Appalachian Boy.

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