Liberty County native T.C. Stevens was enjoying a pipe after supper in his yard a few nights ago when his mind rambled back to an old store in Riceboro, a once-booming town that was the county seat before Hinesville was. Gen. Daniel Stewart laid out the town and had a home there.
T.C. had not thought of that store in years. It faced Highway 17 and was owned by Skinny Way. (I’m almost certain Skinny was a nickname!) The following is his very pleasant recollection.
"When I was a boy, we used to go there all the time. The store itself was just an old wooden-framed building, and it had settled in place so much that there probably wasn’t a square corner in it. When you stepped inside, the wooden floor would give everywhere but over the floor joists and if it had ever been painted or finished in any way, you couldn’t tell it. The sand brought in by customers in the course of a day seemed to give the floor a perpetual sanding, as it looked exactly the same the last time I saw it as the first time. In the middle of the store hung an old ceiling fan that was on all the time. In the summer, it provided a cool breeze and in the winter, it circulated the heat around the heater.
"Across the back of the store were the meat coolers, and the meats he sold were special. You knew they were fresh and first-quality. In addition to the fresh meats, there were wondrous sausages in long links. There were fresh pork sausages and smoked sausages with lots of sage and pepper in them, as well as ground sausage for patties and pork chops to die for. Mr. Way had sides of smoked bacon and country-cured hams hanging from the ceiling beams. That made the whole store smell smoky and wonderful. …
"The drink box was filled with ice and all kinds of Cokes, Pepsis, Orange Crush, Root Beer, RC Cola, NuGrapes and Pop Colas in glass bottles. There were plenty of penny candy, nickel candy bars and Moon Pies.
"He sold everything from groceries and hardware, and anything in between. My mother would buy things like rice in a 20-pound sack, huge cans of black pepper, big chunks of hoop cheese with the red rind on it and all sorts of stuff that you don’t see anymore.
"Mr. Skinny had a ready-made customer source, as the store set right in front of Mr. John Frank Browning’s big sawmill that employed many people. When the men were paid off for the week, they almost always stopped by the store on their way home to settle their weekly credit accounts and maybe pick up a few items … before they came back with their wives for the weekly shopping. The store was an institution of which Riceboro could be proud, and I miss it every time I pass through there. I would love to find another store like this one. Heck with the malls!"