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Oaklin: One of the Last Peddlers of the Southern Rolling Stores Era

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

The south saw many of these rolling stores who went from home-to-home selling most any goods that the families needed.

The south saw many of these rolling stores who went from home-to-home selling most any goods that the families needed.

Writer's note: the terms, 'dipping snuff,' and 'snuff' are used in this hub, but not for a promotional segment, but to add color to its proper use. (Thanks, K.A.)

These 'Guru's of Grocery Delivery'

were certainly not a fancy lot. Or a man to be celebrated. I refer to the rural peddler and his rolling store that kept on a tight schedule on a weekday or monthly time to keep his customers from facing starvation. This was a time in the early south when America's economy was not friendly. Jobs were tagged as scarce. Check with us tomorrow. Don't call us, we'll call you. I can just hear the power brokers grinding their molars together.

Would I be safe in saying that times were being built on greed. Sad, stomach-turning, but very true. By way of explasation, in the early 1800's, when the early south was being settled and farming fanilies began to take root, these families with good hearts soon learned that life in this area of the nation was tough. Very tough. But nevertheless, they were tough enough to endure.

I confess right-up. My headline at the top doesn't say, 'Southern Rolling Stones,' but Southern Rolling Stores,' and I have to know that I have a small amount of the time that I spent with this rural peddler. I was seven. We were having a terribly-hot summer. I had to stay with my "Gramps" James Avery and Ida Belle Avery, dad's parents. Fact: grandma liked me in a moderate way, but "Gramps" could not stand me. To be honest with you. I had no choice but to stay with them duirng our school's summer vacation and both my parents working, so I was stuck.

This peddling man was so patient in helping his clients who many were elderly.

This peddling man was so patient in helping his clients who many were elderly.

His Name Was Oaklin

pronounced "Oakling," but people just called him the Oaklin moniker. A little bit about Oaklin. I know. You have already caught a glaring typo by not listing his last name. There is a reason. I am afraid that although he is deceased. a few of his friends just might see (this) hub and there I'd be. Hung on a tall tree limb by my thumbs. Actually. I do not think that he had any friends to speak of. Not that he was a bad man, no. He had a soft heart and a mathematical whiz. I witnessed his selling first-hand when he would stop at my grandparents' home every Tuesday morning to see if the items that he peddled would interest t

Mind you, my grandparents were cheap. Seen from the eyes of a seven-year-old kid, the word, cheap, fits. And if I were to use the word, thrifty, that would be an insult. My grandparents both lived on a fixed-income, so their household incomes were nothing to write home about.

Besides being a rural peddler, Oaklin would buy available scrap iron from around our area and travel to Jasper, Ala., a good two-hour drive, and sell it for a lot of scratch. Was it tough collecting the scrap iron? That question can be answered this way: Oaklin stood a good six-foot two and knew the value of talking when he was talking a sharp scrap iron deal because as he would say, it takes a real man to load and unload scrap iron. Of all the year that my wife and daughter lived beside Oaklin, he worked alone. Scrap iron, peddling, even driving a school bus, he worked. Yes, alone.

Evans Trailer hauled fruit from Florida.

Evans Trailer hauled fruit from Florida.

The One Real Vice That Oaklin Enjoyed

was dipping snuff. Not the English type of long ago, but the American brand that was sold in nice little jars and another fact, Oaklin was passionate about his love for snuff was so passionate, that he went to bed with a dip of snuff in his jaw. These snuff-dipping facts are, in my estimation, stranger than (a) National Enquirer.
Oaklin did not drink or smoke cigarettes. But he did love his snuff to death--round the clock, day and night, but would you believe that no one ever saw him spit. And listen. Anyone who has been around those senior citizens from the south, spit as they dip their snuff while relaxing. Just the way things are.

If The Snuff Facts Don't Shock You
this fact will. I could say that what you are about to read will astonish you. Oaklin was not what you call a Don Juan, but he did have a mild attraction for the ladies. One lady in particular, who's name was "Jean," we'll call her because I do not want to bring her name out in a shameful light. In the beginning of their marriage, "Jean" and Oakin were rocking-along and doing great. The loving-couple would sit around their home and talk. Then eat their dinner and go to bed. To Oaklin, this was a pretty wild night. He was gone most of the day collecting scrap iron.

But, and you have heard this before, when women are left alone, completely abandoned, something's going to happen. And that pop was "Jean" One day, a friend of Oaklin dropped on the happy couple only to find Oaklin gone to get scrap iron , so this guy seen an opportunity to talk to "Jean" because she looked sad and completely out of sync.

One thing led to five and suddenly the two were hot for each other and let Nature do her best work. Time and time again, week-after-week. And in no moment in these weeks of forbidden love did Oaklin ever think to ask "Jean" why she always looked pale and tired when he returned home for work. As long as she had a good meal, he was okay.

Advantages That Rolling Stores (Peddlers) Had Over City Stores

⦁ Most peddlers did not pay taxes, which helped him with repeat customers.
⦁ Peddlers did not "up "their prices. They gave their faithful-customers a break.
⦁ Selection was competitive for the peddling stores because the peddlers knew where to buy their "stores"/stock in wholesale markets due to peddlers being a "little" businessman.
⦁ Most times when items such as ice was melting, this was sold for little of nothing for customers.
⦁ In tough times, when customers couldn't pay, they bartered which worked out fine.
⦁ A peddling truck helped famlies save gas in their car or truck because the families did their shopping with the rolling stores.

Then Suddenly Sheets Were Split

as "that" dark, fateful day came to reality. I remember the aftermath of this scary time when Oaklin and "Jean" were busted and I do mean red handed, caught in the throws of hot, passionate love. No Hollywood scriptwriter could come near this event. Not even Loni Anderson and the late Burt Reynolds when Reynolds got caught loving his young female fan when Anderson walked in and to save time, everything went south. Burt was taken to court, Loni got 88% of the community property and poor Burt. All that Loni didn't seize was his cheaply-did facelift. When he would walk on the set of a talk show, he could hardly take long steps because the wrong length of step would bring everything falling down and Humpty Dumpty couldn't put things all together again.

The facts are these: Oaklin drove-up to his parking space. He did notice that a later-model car was sitting there and a stroke of curiosity ran over his backbone. Wonder who's in my house? He thought outloud.
With one swing of the door, Oaklin's wonder was fulfilled when his eyes met with the scene of "Jean" and her warm-hearted sensitive male friend were in the very act of comforting each other and from all indications, they had been comforting each other all day long.

Oaklin would have made a great Clint Eastwood as he slowly reached for his go-to item, a snuff box and filled his jaw with fresh snuff and with one gesture of his right hand, "Jean" was told to scram along with her sensitive male friend. Oh, at first the two argued their case and try as they may, could never not be doing what Oaklin caught them doing. The two failed to realize that Oklin had a super-level of common sense which told him that their "relationship" was going to end in less than 15 minutes or less. And Oaklin, a born southern gentleman, even helped "Jean," place her clothes, dishes and furniture on their front yard and for her sensitve male friend was told to load everything that he owned (which wasn't that much) in his car and take it and her to somewhere, Oaklin didn't care just as long as it was away from here. Oaklin never begged for her to ever reurn. I did hear that her sensitive male friend also left her and ended-up somewhere in a nursing facility.

As the daylight started to fade. Oaklin was now completely-alone. So what was left for him to do? If you've read this piece this far, then you will know. Oaklin walked back inside to the house, removed his shoes, sat in his favorite chair and pulled his favorite snuff box from his pants pocket, filled his jaw again of fresh snuff, closed his eyes with a sigh of relief and fell peacefully off to sleep.
December 21, 2020________________________________________________

Writer's Summary
this was a true account of my friend, Oaklin and his somewhat quiet-but-adventurous life. I did not use Oaklin or his ex-wife's real name because both of them are now deceased and I do not want to speak ill of the dead. I still miss Oaklin. I sure do.

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© 2021 Kenneth Avery