I have always had an interest in the pre-war years that are normally just lumped as "The depression" year. Stories and images can keep me occupied for hours. I was looking through the archives of the Library of Congress and I came across a picture that used a phrase I had not heard before. "Rolling Store". It mainly looked like a standard delivery truck from any store of the period but found that the history behind them was much more.
Down south the rural areas were wide and barren. Do a road trip across central Alabama and Georgia and you can get an idea even today what level of isolation was there. With this isolation a lack of services that stores could give you did not exist. Now add to this isolation a depression of unprecedented levels and you have an abandoned countryside and an opportunity for businesses to come in.
These businesses arrived in the form of homemade trucks full of the good needed by the citizens. How homemade you may ask?
The rolling-store owners had vehicles that were similarly constructed and used. Quentin Nigg of Blount County got the chassis of a one-and-a-half-ton truck with a sixteen-foot bed, enclosed it, but left room for a front windshield. William King, who serviced people in Russell and Macon Counties, bought a school-bus engine and chassis on which he and his father-in-law built a wood and tin rectangular frame. It had a center aisle with shelves on each side and room for only two people to work, one taking orders at the door and the other filling the orders. Fletcher T. Driver Sr. of Conecuh County ordered a truck bed and built a body over it with a porch on the back that held a kerosene tank, put a chicken coop under the rear end, and installed shelves. Eldon C. Simpson of Blount County bought a 1939 Chevrolet truck body, enclosed it, installed shelves, and carried a kerosene tank on one side. Iva Bryant of Calhoun County helped her husband operate his rolling store, which he built by enclosing the chassis of a school bus with a sheet-metal frame and putting a door in back that opened to an aisle that allowed the operator to walk inside the vehicle from the front seat to the back. The shelves were slanted backward to keep the merchandise in place when the vehicle went over rough roads. This was very similar to many other rolling stores such as the big blue truck owned by judge C. Everage in Andalusia, the box-shaped store owned by EcId Mannings and driven by Charles B. Vickery in Monroe County, and the store owned by B. J. Gorday and driven in Houston and Dale Counties by William Clearman.No two alike they delivered goods across the rural south for the 30's and 40's and some up into the 60's.
They could deliver any good needed as the next picture from the Library of congress show.
Now in my reading up on these rolling stores last night one article gave some information that effected me politically and for humanitarian reasons.
numerous entrepreneurs realized an opportunity to benefit financially and also provide a service to people in rural areas by operating rolling stores. To do so they had to pay a state license tax in every county in which they operated.5 During most of the 1930s and 1940s that tax was $100 to the state, $50 to the county, and 50 cents to the probate judge. Operators also had to pay license fees of $15 to the state and $7.50 to the county to sell cigarettes and tobacco, $2.50 to the state and $1.25 to the county to sell soft drinks, and 50 cents to the probate judge for any license obtained.Now I have always had troubles with the whole idea of licenses. A permit from the government to do what needs to be done and should be done...as long as you pay for permission is vile.
I went to "The inflation calculator" to see what the license fees would be in today's money. Adding up the standard license fees I came out with $176.75, and in today's(2005) money that is about $1909.73. The average annual wage in Alabama was $727.49 so understand how much this number they demanded to deliver a service was.
Here the country was in the depth of a depression like never experienced before and all they can do is tax and fee and keep the free market down. People had a demand and need and some wanted to make the supply, and yet for some the government kept them from that supply because of their fees.
Some owners operated in only one county because of the additional license fee required to operate in each county.I wonder today how many areas went without this service because of the simple desire the government has to control and charge money for basic needs.
Somehow in even the worst situation the government gets in the way.