“When I started I didn’t have very much. Didn’t need very much, didn’t have many customers. Course I would see them go into the store across the street. I worked over there at one time and at the building that burned down. I’ve been fooling with [the grocery business] all my life. Before we came here, my uncle had a store in Hineytown. He had a little old store there. It was just along the road there. It was on a big farm and we’d go out and work. When a customer came he’d ring a dinner bell or blow a horn. I’d be away up on top of a hill a’hoeing corn and I’d have to go down and wash, sometimes I’d forget to wash, just go in and wait on them.
“We’ve given credit. That’s a great ____. But a lot of headaches. People move away or just don’t pay and there is no way you can make them pay. It used to be that you could mark up merchandise month after month and prices would be about the same. Very little variance. I have never seen them like they are today. Seasonal stuff would sometimes be a bit out.
“Lots of the distributors, a lot of the merchandise come out of Baltimore. I took to the dry goods line. Groceries were from all different places. Some I bought from wholesale grocers in Stanton. Some from different places in this state, grocery houses, one or two. Of course we had salesmen, plenty of them. Elkins had two or three wholesale houses and their salesmen came here on that Western Maryland train.
“That was the only way to get here unless they drove all the way over the mountains. They would get their horses at the livery stable here and their vehicles, that is the grocery people. The dry goods and notions people located in Baltimore, they had their own outfit, but it was done by horse and hack. Until they got, one time they had a dry goods company, Treek, Ellis, Hertel & Company, in Baltimore, had an old chain model drive truck. First one we ever had. It just excited people to death to see that fellow coming in that. His baggages, his samples they just covered it with something to keep it dry.
“We’d laugh when we saw him come into town. Sometimes he couldn’t get it started and he’d lay over a day or two. Nobody understood them very well around here. Finally it would start and he would take off. Just like an old traption engine going up the road.”
Mr. Matheny (b. 1885)
interviewed at his grocery store
in Bartow, WV, summer of 1975
related posts: “Mom & Pop meet the Supermarket”