By Diane Forrest
My uncle loves history. He used to teach history to the 7th and 8th graders at the junior high school in his town. He has since retired, but still loves learning about history, and he is currently studying about the native americans in our area. Im not much of a fan of history, well not that kind. The history I like is history from the things I see around my town. I live in Natchez, probably one of the most historic places in the country. my town is full of antebellum (before the civil war) homes, antique store, and ghost stories. I recently took some family members to one of the homes that is currently on tour, and we heard stories about the building of the home, and the people who lived. there. As I stood in the rooms listening to the guide, and looking at the furniture and toys, I imagined what my life would be like had I lived during that time.
That may have been one of the reasons I was sad to learn this summer that the country's oldest general store was closing its doors after being in business for 224 years. Gray's General Store, located in Rhode Island had to close because business was not as good as it used to be, and customers were shopping at the big named places in town. As I was watching the news report on the closing, the owner was talking about all the pieces of history he had found while cleaning out the property. He was the 7th generation owner, and like him, all of the other family members before him were raised and worked in the store. At one time it even held the local post office, and it was still in the store, intact. Watching that story made me think back to the Mercantile on the show Little House on the Prairie, and Drucker's on the show Petticoat Junction. We also had little family owned stores where we could walk in, get some ice cream, and just ask them to charge it to our account.
My father worked at a family owned drug store when he was growing up. He did everything from deliver drugs on his bike to running the soda fountain, to wrapping gifts at christmas and diapering the owner's babies. The owner, who is still alive, still remembers with fondness all the work my father did for them, and loves to reminisce about the good ole days.
The decline of family owned business is being seen more frequently with the opening of big chain stores, like Walmart, home depot and Walgreens. Family owned restaurants are going under for places like Olive Garden, Red Lobster and McDonalds. A really good friend of mine owns a family run business. They just celebrated their 42nd year in business. He has raised his children there, and now his grandchildren. He works every day with his sons, and his daughters help out occasionally as well. He does a lot to keep up with the times, by setting up wi-fi and other electronic gadgets, but he also works hard to keep things like the food and prices low to allow more people to enjoy family entertainment. On Sunday mornings, he told me that he had considered stopping the breakfast he prepared weekly. I reminded him of the family traditions that he would be ending, not only for his family, but for all the kids that came in on Sundays for a memorable breakfast with dad.
That's the kind of history I like, the kind where you make memories and share stories with future generations. Keeping the Mom and Pop businesses open not only allow new memories for new generations, but also keeps the old memories alive in our minds and in our hearts. Today is National Mom and Pop Business Owner's Day. Why not visit some of your local family owned stores or restaurants, and show them your support today and keep the american dream alive and well.
(All images from Google)