Monday, March 30, 2009

The Old High School Store

Here is an update on this blog, I recently visitied with Mrs.Carolyn King the wife of former Paul King the couple owned and operatered Kings Store which was located across the street from the old Rich Hill High School. Mrs. King was able to give me a date for the Rich Hill Mining Review article in the Wagon wheels edition, of May 2,1986.
Thank you, Carolyn for the date and information.

The story for tonights blog was written by Randy Bell and published in the Wagon wheels edition of the Mining Review. Unsure of the date!

The one great thing about Rich Hill when I began going to High School was that we could go and eat our lunch at the store across the street.

Paul King was right. I didn't really doubt that he was, especially considering the subject in question. Still I wanted to see for myself. . .
Paul was making his daily trip across the Rich Hill High School yard, looking for any bits of litter that might have come there via his place of business. I told him I like to visit with him in a couple of days to do a story on "the store." I went on to tell him that certainly many a Rich Hill student over the years had enjoyed a chili dog and bottle of pop at the store. A little history, a look at the changes the years had brought to this unique business might make interesting reading.
He replied that he, along with his wife, Carolyn, would be glad to talk with me "but" he said "you know, things haven't -really changed that much."
He was right. It has been almost 20 years since I'd hurried at the sound of the noon bell, out the west door of the high school, around the edge of the shop, across the road and up to the counter of the store for a sandwich or candy bar. But it was just about exactly as I remember it.

Apparently most Rich Hill students for over 50 years could say the same. Depending on when you were in school, the booths may be moved and the candy case may be in a slightly different spot and, of course, the prices have changed, but the more we talked with the various owners of the store about changes the more I realized—it hadn't really changed that much.
"The Store" is what we always called it in high school. There's a sign over the door now with the name King's Store but to five decades of students, and even to the owners, it's been "The Store." It sits just across the street, west of the high school.
What is now The Store was a garage back in 1936 when Mr. and Mrs. Lowell Davis bought the property. It was in the midst of the depression years and Doris' parents moved from Hannibal to Rich Hill. Her father, handy with tools, converted the building to The Store, making the benches and adding the windows. It was 1938 when he and his wife opened the Store to the first wave of hungry students. But the couple ran the business for only a year when Doris' mother took sick and in March of 1941 she died.
Doris was living in Kansas City at the time and with the death of his wife, her father lost interest in the business and Doris came back to run The Store.
For a quarter, in those years, you could have a bowl of chili (15C), a candy bar (5C) and a bottle of pop (55). The Store featured a lunch
counter, school supplies, pop, ice cream and of course, the candy counter.
Doris ran the store for 13 years, seeing many students through their entire school career.
With Lowell working for the state and often away from home, Doris pretty much ran the business by herself. Then, like now, the store was open before school, during the lunch periods, and after school. Lunch periods were the hectic time and Doris had everything ready before the kids poured in. In the early years Mrs. Davis had high school girls help her through the lunch period. They worked for about 20 minutes and in exchange got their lunch. Later Mrs. Davis would be aided by her twin sons, Richard and Robert.
"To this day I don't like chili because I made so much of it in those days," laughs Mrs. Davis.
She ran the store until 1954 when the Davises sold it to Jasper and Lucy Smith.
"Prices remained fairly stable in those years with little change," recalls Mrs. Davis.
Another whole era of school children knew Mrs. Davis in a different role, that of school teacher. After selling the store she returned to teaching (she had taught in her home town of Hannibal before marrying and coming to Rich Hill) first at Foster and then at Rich Hill retiring in 1970.
In the store or in the classroom she had no discipline problems to speak of.
"You have to let them know who's boss then there's no problem," she said. In The Store "it was noisy but that didn't bother me any. I loved working with the children."
Jasper and Lucy Smith ran the business for almost five years but I failed to talk with Lucy at any great length on the subject. In about 1960 the Smiths sold to Elmer "Bingo" Davis who owned the store until March of 1964. At that time, and for the next 21 years, the store became King's Store.
The menu is about the same, except for the prices. While the prices go up so does the cost and it all comes out about the same, said Paul.

The candy'case is still stocked. Brands of candy bars remain fairly constant but there are many more brands of gum now than in years gone by, said Carolyn. We sell more gum and sandwiches now, and less candy, she said. The Kings no longer handle school supplies due to their suppliers not handling them.
Paul drives a school bus including a trip to Nevada for Vo Tech School. Therefore he misses the first lunch hour but is back to help on the second lunch break, their busiest time. Carolyn's mother helps out through the first lunch period.
With 21 years in the store and many years as a bus driver Paul has had plenty of experience with students. They, like the store, stay pretty much the same. He sees some similarity between the bus driving and the store. The kids have been in class all day and when they run out to the bus or over to the store they're ready to blow off some steam, he says. For the first few minutes it's pretty noisy but then they settle down. He says he has very few discipline problems on the bus or at the store.
Carolyn thinks the children are less rambunctious than in past years. They are pretty orderly in the store and are good to clean up the tables when they're finished, she said.
While fashions, music, expressions, modes of transpor­tation for students have ran the gamut of change in the past 50 years, it appears The Store has remained a constant through it all.

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