Thirty years in the making, the Dry Pond Jot'Em Down Store on Will Proctor Road, between N.C. 16 and Slanting Bridge Road, is now open for business, in a manner of speaking.
Visitors to the store will find a one-seat barber shop, a small post office, a Phillips 66 gas pump and countless dry goods, many of which haven't been seen in years. Just don't expect to buy anything while there.
The store, brainchild of proprietor Terry "Bubo" Brotherton, 64, has been open to visitors for a year. His intention was to recreate a replica of one of the many country stores and filling stations that dotted the local countryside until modern times caught up with them in the 1960s. Brotherton (Bubo was a childhood nickname) describes them as "more than a fillin' station but somewhat short of a general store."
A Lincoln County Commissioner from 1996-2000, Brotherton grew up next door to just such a store, owned by his uncle Tull, in Ringdom, at the corner of Webbs Chapel Road and Burton Lane.
"People who hung out at the stores were called loafers," he recalls. "Once farmers were done with the harvest, they had time for repairs and loafing, sitting around a pot-bellied stove nightly at the country store, to get the latest in news and local gossip."
In addition to dry goods and sundries, gossip and news, some of the stores, Brotherton says, "offered from under the counter corn by the quart instead of by the pound." He adds, "It was a common sight to see one or more of the 'good ol' boys' passed out in the grass behind the store."
The store inventory has been collected by Brotherton over the past 30 years from "just about every antique store within 200 miles of Denver." The Phillips 66 gas pump, which Terry restored himself, was donated by Junior Howard. It came from his late father Harold Howard's Phillips 66 station, which was about two miles south of Denver, on N.C. 16. Many other artifacts also came from the station, retrieved nearly 20 years after it closed.
Formerly a resident of Westport. Brotherton bought the property where the store now stands from Jerry Mundy. "It took me five years to convince him to sell, but I was determined," he says. The store was built by Calvin Adams.
Brotherton recalls that he picked cotton as a young boy on his grandfather's 62-acre farm, land that was acquired by Duke Energy and used as the site for the Sailview development.
Sounding like a classic loafer himself, Brotherton says with a touch of irony, "I ain't never had a real job in my life, I've always been involved in things. Racetracks, donkey basketball, driving a dump truck and mowing the side of the road for the Department of Transportation at Huntersville." Another interest of his is the historic Rock Springs Campground, a stone's throw from the Jot' Em Down Store. The unofficial historian of Rock Springs, he has written and published two books detailing the history of the campground going back to its inception in 1794. The campground, organized as a religious camp meeting by Methodists, follows a Southern tradition of summer religious gatherings with housing in "tents," or small rough cabins.
The phrase, "Jot' Em Down Store," Brotherton says, comes from an old syndicated radio show, much like a soap opera, broadcast from Arkansas with Lum Edwards and Abner Peabody. Several locations in Georgia and elsewhere bear the same name.
Although the merchandise is not for sale, the store has been open to visitors for a year. A regular group of loafers, often including Lincoln County commissioners, gather every Tuesday night. Some will play cards at the small card table in the barber shop at the back, while others just sit around and, well, loaf.
A sign on the front door reads, "This store is closed on Sunday in observance of the Lord's Day." A meticulously restored 1930 Ford Model A is parked out front, and a few rocking chairs adorn the front porch. Antique signs line the outside of the store, readily visible to passersby on Will Proctor Road.
Inside, visitors can find on display Pepsi Cola (5 cents, or 6-bottle carton for 25 cents), Brisk Toothpaste (2 for 69 cents), Wildroot Hair Cream, Jim Dandy Pet Food, and Seibert Poison Fly Paper, among hundreds of other items, some familiar but most unfamiliar. To complete the picture, an old outhouse sits behind the store. It was originally located at the Dutch Deitz neighborhood grocery in Lincolnton.
We may need our Food Lions and our Harris Teeters, but if you want to find car batteries for $9.95, snow tires (two for $25), Resto Foot Cream, and Goody's Headache Powder, get on down to the Dry Pond Jot' Em Down Store, Barber Shop and Post Office. And be sure to tell Bubo that I sent you.