By Bryan Schrock
Bryan Schrock is a WCHS graduate who spent his early years living near Schrock's Store in the Midway community. Thelma and Robie Schrock were the original owners of the store, located on the corner of Green Hill Road and Highway 288. Bryan moved away from Warren County in 1995 and is currently a funeral director in Owensboro, Ky.
I’m not sure what year Schrock’s Store opened, but I suppose around 1929. I have always been told that Robie Schrock mixed the blocks onsite when it was built. Robie was my grandpa but I never met him as he died when my dad, Dannie Fredrick Schrock, was young.
Robie worked at the store, for TVA at Great Falls, and later for Caney Fork Electric and was instrumental in bringing electricity to many communities in Warren County by traveling to homes and getting folks to sign up as members of the electric cooperative. My grandmother, Thelma, operated the store for over 65 years until her death on July 29, 1994.
During that time, she married Wayne Martin, who coincidentally drove the gas truck for the local Mobil distributor, Gant Oil. He was the only grandpa known to me on that side of my family. Wayne was instrumental in helping operate the store after his retirement and was the operator for a short time after her death.
The store was for me, like many of you, a great place. We lived close by until I was in first grade.
As a little fella, I would ride my tricycle along the fencerow to the store just so I could be there. It was where I learned to count, read, make friends, talk to people as they would come in and visit or get supplies, and later be a help to grandmother as I grew big enough to pump gas, refill the Coke box, and stock shelves after the grocery truck came.
I also learned to read there as the mobile library or bookmobile would come once a month and bring new books for folks to check out. I would sit on the porch of the store and eat tootsie rolls to pretend I was chewing tobacco and spit like the local farmers and nurserymen.
I also learned that grandmother only had one rule — sardines had to be eaten on the porch! Folks would come to the store for gas, cigarettes, tobacco, cold drinks in glass bottles, snacks, some minor groceries, a few automotive items, and to communicate the needs and desires of the community. Others just needed to use the phone — yes, the days before cellphones — and call for help if they needed something or call home to see if we had something that home had depleted before the trip back to town to the bigger grocers.
Before robocalls there were prank calls asking if the refrigerator was running — if so could grandmother catch it — or if she had Prince Albert in a can— he needed to be let out because he couldn’t breathe! Folks would run out of gas or need gas when the store was closed and we would go across the street and help our neighbors by opening up and sometimes help complete strangers who were lost — yes, the days before GPS.
Summer days were spent sitting on the porch watching cars and waving at neighbors, shucking corn or breaking beans and when the weather cooled we would sit near the stove in the back of the store and grandmother would give me buttons to count while she crocheted and waited for the next customer — with her 8 ounce glass Coke bottle always near her wooden chair.
Here I also learned the value of the healing capability of kerosene. Kerosene-wrapped paper towels that eased scratches, bug bites, scrapes and even cuts that should have been cared for by a doctor. And let’s not forget the remarkable healing and medicinal qualities that a Luden’s Cough Drop provided.
I also learned fear as the store was robbed several times and my dad installed an alarm system with a really loud bell that could be heard at the Midway ball field. A few robbers even learned Wayne was a pretty good sharpshooter and the break-ins declined. But I also learned the power of forgiveness as once after a robbery trial, grandmother only asked that the thief paid for the repairs and the charges were dismissed after a probation time was served out.
Even though the store has been closed for many years, photographs and little monuments like these are all around our countryside. They serve as reminders of the American Dream. They represent community, a family, a sense of belonging to and having a home no matter if you’ve been there your whole life or have never been there before.
They are reminders of the hard work, sacrifice, emotion, and appreciation of a small business. They are the people who operate them and how they can become a part of your family through trade over generations. I am honored to be a part of this and, like grandmother was, am humbled to be loved by so many in and around one of the greatest places on Earth to grow up and to speak the words to each parting customer, “You come back.”
Those were words she always said and ones I would love to travel back in time to hear again. Instead, I will remember with a grateful heart of not only the impact of Schrock’s Store in my life but being able to share with so many others who remember this place so fondly.