In the 1940’s when I was a child, the local post office and mercantile store were not just places where we got our mail and our groceries. They were where we also got our local gossip, recommendations for a babysitter, a maid of all work, a handyman to fix stuff, a mechanic for the car, or an electrician to wire the house now that rural electrification had come to the hills of Arkansas.
If you could not rely on the grocer or postmaster to give you a fair recommendation, you might as well pack up and move on because no one would use you for whatever service you provided.
The conversation might go something like this; “Good morning, Mrs. Hinshaw. How did your driveway hold up after all the rain last night?”
Mom would reply, “Pretty good though I think we are going to have to have someone come along with a grader pretty soon and knock the tops off some of the rocks.”
As the postmaster handed out the mail he would say, “Just let me know when you’re ready and I’ll give you the name of a reliable worker.”
That would be that until mom needed the grading done and then a name would be supplied, the worker would come, mom would let the postmaster know the good or bad of the transaction and then the next time the postmaster passed along the referral he would add in whatever mom thought of the man’s work.
After visiting the postoffice, we would amble next door to the mercantile and look at dress goods, our favorites were “dress lengths” packaged up by the Dan River mill, and maybe some blue jeans for the boys and those were pretty much always Levi Strauss brand because back in those days there were no “designer” jeans.
We might get a few nails from the nail keg for a home project and they were sold by the pound and put into a small brown paper bag. Of course, I loved the smell of the coffee beans that you could request be ground for you or buy them whole. Then finally mom would hand over her grocery list and the merchant would gather up the groceries for her, bag them up or wrap them up in paper and tie with string, depending on what was being bought. All the while this was happening, we would be casually visiting with whoever happened to be in the store at the time. We might find out that the feed store had baby chicks in, spring onion sets were also in, someone out on one of the farms had delivered her baby and it was another girl. Another neighbor had broken a bone or someone was sick enough to have called the doctor. It was serious if the doctor had to be called in because most of us treated ourselves at home.
Then we would amble back to our house only stopping at one neighbor’s house on the way to relay all we had gleaned from our trip.
This was our version of “social media” when I was growing up.