Lett's Set A Spell
Farmers, workers, musicians, storytellers, dignitaries, community leaders, customers, historians and lovers of the agricultural way of life gathered on Saturday, Dec. 7, for the 125th Anniversary celebration of the Farmers’ Alliance store, located at 134 S. Chatham Ave. in Siler City. Hundreds of people packed the store for several hours.
As the oldest business establishment in Chatham County, no other store can claim this kind of longevity in the same location.
Nancy Tysor, who has served as manager for more than 50 years, and Norman Jordan, chairman of the board who represented one of the founding families, was presented with a plaque by Chatham County Commissioner Walter Petty, who noted the many contributions the store has offered the community. Farmers’ Alliance is a co-operative store still owned by the original families and their descendants, including Ed Murray who is working with Nancy.
Musical performers included the Tommy Edwards Family Band, the Tron Family Band, the Walters Family, The Zinc Kings, the Hinsons, and the Lang Sisters. (See Walters Family performance at http://youtu.be/Op3vm5IRW9I)
Barry Hayes and David Hart of WNCA, the radio station in Siler City, presented broadcasting live from the store and interviewed dozens of folks who attended.
I was among those fans applauding simpler times and shared a few stories from growing up on a big farm across the road from Grandpa’s country store. Ironically, my grandfather Willie Puzie Lett was born in 1988 in his family’s homestead on the Cape Fear River on the Harnett County line in the same year that folks sowed the seeds for the farm store in Chatham County.
WAY BACK IN 1888 a group of farmers and workers gathered in Siler City to discuss finding ways to buy supplies needed to make their labor easier. Seeing a need for a central place to trade in the fledging community of Siler City, the group met Aug. 8 at Loves Creek School House, a one-room building located on the grounds of the present Loves Creek Baptist Church on Highway 64.
Both farm owners and workers banded together to form a corporate structure so they could buy, sell and exchange goods. This conglomerate helped them get better prices on crucial supplies.
Starting as an agricultural-based store, it sold a wide range of farm and home goods, including equipment, groceries and wearing apparel.
TODAY, CUSTOMERS will find ladies’ and men’s apparel, Western wear, shoes, cowboy boots, galoshes, hats, jeans, bib overalls and coveralls — sizes extra small to extra large. Other products include ceramic chamber pots, lawn and garden supplies, small food items, oil lamps, and the famous old Rawleigh Products like food flavoring and salves. Apiary equipment for local beekeepers is on the shelves.
Hoop cheese was a highlight back then and continues to be a best seller. Unique candies are a specialty, including Mary Janes, double dipped chocolate peanuts, chocolate covered raisins, chocolate drops, rainbow coconut bars and Red Bird peppermint sticks. My favorite was the Zagnut candy bar!
The Farmers’ Alliance store is practically a museum of Siler City, plastered with old photographs and newspaper clippings of the town and its people — especially from the Depression and World War II eras. It features historical machines, implements and products of yesteryear.
Through the decades farmers and their families and hired help have gathered to trade know-out, compare crop yields, display quilt squares, share stories, enjoy juicy gossip and feel a sense of community. Today, a few folks still relish this country custom and timeless tradition.
The Farmers’ Alliance continues to be the social center of the community and a unique place where customers can find distinctive and practical wares and also connect with neighbors and friends.
Come on by and “set a spell.”
AlexSandra Lett will autograph her four nostalgia books and four-CD set at several locations during the holidays. She is the author of “Timeless Recipes and Remedies, Country Cooking, Customs, and Cures;” “A Timeless Place, Lett’s Set a Spell at the Country Store;” “Timeless Moons, Seasons of the Fields and Matters of the Heart;” and “Coming Home to my Country Heart, Timeless Reflections about Work, Family, Health, and Spirit.” Lett can be reached at (919) 258-9299 or LettsSetaSpell@aol.com.