My earliest memory is of my grandfather (PawPaw) Hogan, a store on wheels, a nickel, and a 3 Musketeers candy bar.
I was about three years old and my dad was off in Germany fighting World War II. While Dad was helping win the war, I spent mountains of time with PawPaw, the kindest, most gentle person I’ve ever known.
I followed PawPaw as he chopped weeds in the garden, fed the hogs, the chickens, and the horse. I watched as he milked the cow and drew water from the well. I observed as he gently and lovingly cared for my grandmother, who was often ill and died too young.
It was a challenge to scratch out a living in those days. The country had just gone through the Great Depression and now there was a world war, and PawPaw had sent his youngest son to risk his life and help win that war.
But PawPaw never complained. He always maintained a sweet and even disposition. I never saw him angry or speak ill of anyone. And the closest he came to profanity was the occasional “dadgummit!” Though he only had about a sixth-grade education, he possessed great wisdom. Oftentimes, folks in the community came to him for advice.
Now, to that earliest memory. It was the day for Elmer’s Rolling Store to come through Hogan Holler. The Rolling Store was just that: a store on wheels, a truck or converted bus stocked with staples such as flour, bread, canned goods, lard, and kerosene, as well as treats like crackers, peanuts, and candy.
On this particular day, PawPaw told me he was going to give me a nickel for helping him gather the eggs, and I could buy a candy bar off the Rolling Store!
PawPaw and I sat in the shade of a big tree and excitedly awaited the arrival of the Rolling Store. It seemed like an eternity to a three-year-old, but finally, Elmer and his store came chugging around the curve and came to a stop in front of PawPaw’s house.
I remember PawPaw pressing a nickel into my hand and lifting me up into the back of the truck.
He told Mr. Elmer I wanted the biggest candy bar a nickel would buy. Mr. Elmer said that would be a 3 Musketeers. He handed me the bar and I handed him the nickel.
Indeed, the 3 Musketeers was the biggest candy bar at that time. I later learned that the bar was named for the Alexander Dumas novel and was called 3 Musketeers because, originally, it was three mini bars in one package: chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla (covering fluffy nougat.) But due to rising costs and wartime restrictions on sugar, strawberry and vanilla were phased out, leaving only the more popular chocolate.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t blessed with PawPaw’s character and good nature. I’m sometimes quick to anger, can be very impatient, complain too much, often speak before thinking, and fall short of PawPaw’s example in many other ways.
But if it weren’t for PawPaw’s standards and the role model he was, I would be much less of a man. Down through the years, when I’ve found myself in situations I shouldn’t be, I rein myself in by invoking his memory.
And when I want to re-establish that link with PawPaw, I buy a 3 Musketeers bar, find a quiet place, slowly eat the bar, and meditate on the examples set by the one of the greatest people I’ve ever known.
Today, a 3 Musketeers candy bar costs me many times more than a nickel, but it’s a small price to pay for such a sweet memory.
What is your very first memory?
Author’s Note: By the mid 1950s, rolling stores had virtually disappeared from the American scene. However…not in Washington County! I moved to Johnson City in 1977 and told a version of this story on my WJCW radio show. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from Paul Good of Jonesborough, who informed me that he still operated a rolling store. Jon Ruetz, a neighbor of Mr. Good, tells me that sometime prior to 1980, Mr. Good discontinued his rolling store (which was a converted school bus) due to health reasons. I’m sure Washington County had the distinction of having one of the last rolling stores in the country.
After 57 years in the radio industry, Dave Hogan is enjoying his retirement in North Carolina. He’d love for you to say ‘howdy’ to him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.