Some of the best times I can remember spending as a child took place down on Hassell’s Creek either at my grandfather Jim Tarkington’s farm, or at Tarkington General Store, owned and operated by my great-uncle Robert D. Tarkington and his sweet wife, Edith. I spent a lot of time at both of those places in my youth visiting with family, making music, and most importantly to a child – playing in Hassell’s Creek.
Tarkington General Store first opened its doors in 1927 in the middle of the rural Hassell’s Creek community. Not only did the store offer general merchandise for the local farming families, it also stocked feed and seed, much needed supplies for the early farmers in Hickman County. It served as the typical country general store where neighbors would stop by to shop, visit, and eat, still things that country stores provide today.
I always knew when my family visited the store in the early 1960’s that I would be assured of two things – a freshly made bologna sandwich with home-grown tomatoes and home-made bread and butter pickles, plus an RC Cola filled to the brim with peanuts – two of my favorite treats from the store. The store offered custom made country sandwiches with home-grown and home-made supplements, so thick you could hardly get a good bite! I would sit out on the front porch eating my sandwich and watch the many customers coming in and out of the store. It was never dull visiting Tarkington Store.
Walking through the store was almost as good as walking through a museum of rural America. Intermingled with the everyday store products were one-of-a-kind items that were on hand “just in case” someone needed it. Behind the counter were shelves filled with knick knacks of porcelain and wood, toys of all kinds, sewing supplies, and more. A wooden display case was filled with pocket knives, lotions, old timey medicines, buttons, shaving supplies – you name it, they had it. And if they didn’t have it, they would try to find it for you.
In addition to groceries, feed and seed, and household items, the store offered an amazing array of clothing goods – denim overalls, blue jeans, t-shirts, undergarments, and shoes to name just a few. People began coming from all over the state to shop at the little rural general store. Lots of folks have worn blue jeans and denim overalls purchased down on Hassell’s Creek. A guest book kept at the counter contained names from all over, including judges, politicians and celebrities.
As my aunt and uncle got older and could no longer handle the day-to-day operations of the store, their son C.W. Tarkington, his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Pam Allen took over the store and provided the same wonderful services. C.W. expanded the clothing line, and later on a room in the store was opened that sold antiques on consignment. I still have the old sewing basket and the many old Avon bottles I found there. Tarkington Store was definitely a one-stop shopping place.
Every summer the Tarkington-Hassell family reunion would take place behind the store and a new generation of family members would spend time playing in the same creek I enjoyed so much as a child. A stage was set up with music going all day long. A moonshine still was always on exhibit and James Hassell was always willing to explain how the still operated. No free samples of shine, however, were ever provided.
Later on the store was purchased by family member Elizabeth Thornton and her husband Joe. They added music every weekend at the store which continued until it closed. In 2014 our family opened the store for the celebration of life for my dad Richard W. Tarkington. Once again the sounds of music rang through the store and yet another generation of Tarkington-Hassell kids caught minnows and searched for periwinkles in Hassell’s Creek.
Today the store is used for weekend flea markets and other special events. The building looks like it did back in my days of childhood. The creek still runs merrily behind the store and the minnows and periwinkles still hide from curious kids. Tarkington General Store still stands sentinel on the banks of Hassell’s Creek, a now quiet reminder of the hustle and bustle of days gone by.
Tarkington Stor is now owned and operated by Pam Allen and Linda Maddox. The building is available for reunions, weddings, and other events by calling 931-729-4276.