Forest City Grocery Stores
Horn’s Cash Store
Although there were other grocery Stores in Forest City, a number of neighborhood groceries, and other smaller stores that sold a few groceries, the two most patronized grocery stores in Forest City in the 1940s were Horn’s Cash Store and Blanton’s Grocery.
From the name of the store, one might assume that Horn’s required cash for purchases, but both stores had charge accounts for their customers. The cost of any purchases made during the week were recorded on the customer’s account slip, and when the family came in for their weekly supply of groceries on Saturday morning, all the purchases were totaled up, and the bill paid. During lean times, if the mill was not running full time, Horn’s was reputed to be more likely to allow a partial payment with the customer paying a little extra during the following weeks until he caught up. Because of this, I would guess that Horn’s had more Florence “Mill Hill” customers than Blanton’s.
Horn’s was located in a three story red brick building on the South side of Main Street. I believe I recall reading that the Horn family purchased the building about 1919 after it had been used as some sort of hospital or military treatment center, and that it was the oldest store in Forest City. An alley ran between Horn’s and the building to its west, which housed several businesses over the years, including Dalton’s Department Store and an antique store. The alley, little wider than the width of a medium size car, connected Main Street to the little service road running parallel to Main Street behind the stores located between Cherry Mountain Street and Powell Street.
Inside, Horn’s was similar in many ways to present day (2012) Washburn’s General Store on the Bostic-Sunshine Highway, although Horn’s was larger and more organized. I believe the upstairs floors were used for storage, but am not sure. Some stores along Main Street had recessed doorways leading up to beauty shops or professional offices on their upper floors, but I do not recall there being any above Horn’s.
Everything one could conceivably need was in stock, with a shoe section, a clothing section with lots of overalls stacked on the counters, a hardware section, a fresh vegetable section, and a canned goods section. In the very back right corner was the meat market section. It was enclosed by the big cooler at the back, a wall on one side and a counter on the other. It was fronted by a glass case where various cuts of meat were displayed. One could see exactly what was available and could point out which piece of meat they wanted (If they had enough points left on their meat ration card). A big roll of white butcher paper sat on the metal dispenser attached to the counter sitting against the right wall. When the desired piece of meat was pointed out, a practiced hand reached for the paper, grasped a corner, pulled out the proper length, and with a flick of the wrist, cut the paper against the sharp metal blade of the dispenser. It was placed on the scales, the chosen meat placed on it and weighed, the paper folded around it, and the package tied with a string (or later taped closed). The price was written on the package with a pencil kept behind the Horn brother’s ear. This was all done so quickly and efficiently that the motions seemed choreographed and took only seconds to complete.
Their feed, seed, farm supplies, and even a few live chickens in crates were kept in the wooden warehouses that one reached by going out the store’s back door and crossing the little service road that ran behind the stores. A parking lot now occupies the site of the old warehouse.
Blanton’s was located across Main Street, on the corner of Main and Depot Streets, in the setback area. The store was much smaller than Horn’s, and one placed their orders with the man behind the high meat counter that stretched across the width of the room. Apparently groceries were all that Blanton’s sold. No clothing, shoes, or other supplies were displayed. Apparently only order taking and meat cutting took place in the small front room, and the groceries and produce were stored in the room behind the small front room. A service road ran behind the stores on that side of the street, also, and Blanton’s Hotel, facing Depot Street, was across the service road from Blanton’s back door. I once saw a very old publication on which an advertisement for Blanton’s Grocery listed their phone number, and I believe it consisted of only the two numbers 35, and no prefix. I am not positive that the number was 35, but in any case, it was a very low, two digit number, indicating that the store was in operation at the time or near the time telephone service was first available in Forest City.
Horn’s Cash Store and Blanton’s Grocery each had a “dray truck” that delivered groceries to a customer’s home. One with a telephone could call and order what they wanted, and would usually have their groceries delivered to their house in a couple of hours. If already in ‘town’ and there was too much to carry home in the brown paper grocery bags, one could order their groceries, which would be delivered later in the afternoon. There was no choice of paper or plastic then, and the groceries were packed in brown paper bags, or if delivered, were packed in cardboard boxes. Willie Hill, a cousin of our Uncle Roy Hill, drove the battered black pickup that served as Horn’s delivery truck. Roy’s father, George Barney Hill, was the brother of Willie’s father.
Grandpa Ed Prewitt’s family shopped at Blanton’s, and our family shopped at Horn’s. A problem had arisen when both shopped at Blanton’s and charges were added to Daddy’s bill that should have been added to Grandpa Ed’s bill, so Daddy changed his account to Horn’s to avoid any confusion.
Smaller Store & Chains
In addition to these two groceries, there were several smaller ones, such as King Brothers Supermarket on West Main Street, and John Gurley’s Grocery across from Florence Mill’s gate. Later, there was Lytle and Reep Grocery on Oak Street and Thrift Brothers on Broadway. Some of these operated in the 1940s and some in the 1950s, but I am not sure when each opened and closed.
The Chain Groceries A&P, Harris Teeter, and Dixie Home (Later Winn Dixie) did not begin to open until the 1950s. Tillman’s Supermarket was located on West Main Street, between the present location of Wells Fargo and The old Cool Springs High School building that now houses the Board of Education. The A & P was located on West Main Street behind the present location of Watkins Automobiles, and Dixie Home Store, later Winn-Dixie was located first on West Main Street and then on Powell Street, where the Post Office is presently located.