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By John Pierce

Word out of Catoosa County, Ga., is that Carlock’s Food King is closing. If you’ve never lived around there that news is irrelevant.

But those of us who consider the Boynton Community to be home are feeling a sense of loss.

The Boynton of my childhood didn’t have much to lose (by traditional measurements): the school where we attended the first eight grades, the Methodist and Baptist churches, a rickety old gym, a baseball field — and just over the creek: a church camp, Boy Scout hut and Carlock Brothers Grocery (as it was known then).

Over the years the gym was replaced by a new community building, more ball fields were added, the blue-ribbon school started sending students off after the fifth grade, and a volunteer fire hall replaced the scout hut where my friends and I had spent many all-nighters playing ping-pong and listening to Red Foxx and George Carlin albums that we could not have played at home.

Losing Carlock’s store comes as no big surprise really. There’s a gigantic Walmart on nearby Battlefield Parkway along with Bi-Lo and other food providers. Shopping on the four-lane that connects Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold is more convenient than the curvy two-lane Boynton Drive that lost its designation as a state highway many years ago.

But it is a loss indeed — for those of us who consider the small grocery store (especially the previous building) to be a station along the way to adulthood.

Carlock’s is where my friends and I turned in Coke (that’s any soft drink for you Yankees) bottles for two cents each. Five empties, no matter how dirty, provided a free snack.

Free was good. An “allowance” for me was having permission to go to Carlock’s, not money doled out each week.

For families like mine, the Carlocks provided needed credit before credit cards were in vogue.

“Put $10 on my bill,” my dad would say to Mrs. Evelyn Carlock as he handed over some hard-earned cash.

She’d pull the pad with “Pierce” written atop it from the alphabetized collection of familiar names under the old cash register that required math. Then they’d talk about church, the LIONS Club horse show or the last time Peavine Creek got out of its banks.

Other memories of Carlock’s come rushing back:

Mr. Delmont Carlock, who owned and ran the store for decades with his brother Joe, once paid for me to attend nearby Camp Scott Patterson when my parents didn’t have the money to send me. I was always grateful for his kindness and investment in me.

One hot summer day, when I was very young, my parents were shopping at Carlock’s. After paying the bill (or probably putting it on the credit pad) they noticed I was missing. But I was soon found — asleep on the cold tile floor beside the dairy cooler. I could only dream back then of such summertime comfort at home.

Carlock’s is where I bought some of the baseball cards and marbles still in my possession — if I found enough Coke bottles or had a few coins in my pocket from odd jobs.

Usually, Carlock’s stuck to the basic, small grocery fare. Except when our little part of world got broader attention with the release of Billy Walker and Brenda Kaye Perry’s song, “Who do you know in Ringgold Georgia?” The 45-rpm records could be picked up at Carlock’s along with pork chops and potatoes.

Time moved on. So did I.

But memories sure do last — even of a grocery store where the chapters of life were marked by good people with whom simple experiences were shared. Ones that seemed so insignificant at the time, but now mean a lot.

 

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