For many years, family excursions from the Bronx to Bangor, Pennsylvania—to visit my maternal grandparents—found all concerned on the wending Richmond Road, which zigzagged through sleepy, picturesque farmland with barns, silos full of corn, and—a personal favorite of mine—algae-strewn ponds. This enticing visual was the last leg of our journey from urban to rural, and I remember being especially captivated by one pond in particular. Sure, I liked the one with the white ducks in it and the abandoned yellow school bus filling in the backdrop. But the pond with the diving board alongside it had a special allure. I often wondered what it would be like to dive into that muddy-looking drink with those ubiquitous dragonflies and mosquitoes hovering all around it. I wondered, too, how deep the thing was and how a person might extricate himself from its mysterious muck. My youthful flights of fancy imagined the pond’s floor as possibly quicksand.
On this very same pastoral thoroughfare, at the intersection of the intriguingly named Ott’s Corner, was also a bona fide “general store”—the Richmond General Store to be exact—replete with a couple of gas pumps out front, a pay telephone, and a Coca-Cola soda cooler. It was an ordinary residence—a house— that doubled as retail space. From our city perspective, this was Ike Godsey’s place in the bright light of day. My brothers and I perpetually pined to stop there, but my father—ever suffering from driver’s fatigue and an unquenchable desire to get to his destination—regularly ignored our pleas. Then one day on a return trip to the Bronx, he—for some inexplicable reason—relented. We finally stopped at the general store and purchased—of all things—a couple of packs of Dynamints. They were Tic Tac candy rip-offs that were stocked at the time by the Richmond General Store. In the big picture, though, we got a whole lot more than a couple of packs of Dynamints. We entered the general store to jingling bells, which alerted the proprietor that potential customers were on the premises. From a back room, a very sweet, elderly woman in her nightgown emerged to transact with us and make change for our considerable purchase. Having at long last patronized a real country general store—one that we had had our eyes on for a long time—it was definitely a morning to remember.
This general store is no more. The last time we passed by it was a house—and just a house—again. The gas pumps, pay telephone, and soda cooler were all gone. Locals, I suspect, no longer need a general store anymore. And Dynamints, too, haven’t stood the test of time, but I’m certainly glad we interrupted a kindly businesswoman’s morning coffee to buy a couple of packs of them all those years ago.