Charles E. Doyle with his children, C.E. (left) and Christina c1920

Papa Ran the Little Red Store

By CHRISTINA DOYLE SPEAR

The author is an active member of the White County Historical Society who now lives in Little Rock. She can be contacted at cdspear@juno.com

My father, Charles E. Doyle, was the postmaster at Little Red before I was born, and ran the store there that was recreated as "the Little Red Store" at Pioneer Village on the fair grounds in Searcy.

Papa wasnít encouraged to go to school, so he had only a third grade education. In spite of his limited schooling he could read and write and was good with figures. When he was a young man he rode to west Texas on horseback and farmed for a year or two, then returned to Arkansas and operated the country store which housed the post office at Little Red. He was postmaster from August 16, 1911, until December 20, 1916.

The mail for Little Red and Little Rock kept getting sent to the wrong post office so the name of the post office at Little Red was changed to Doyleville. In March 1913, at the age of 37, my father married Sarah Effie Whitten McKaig from Steprock, a widow who was 28 at the time. Papa also farmed at Little Red and when he was in the field, Mama kept the store and post office. Papa hauled supplies for the store by wagon from Searcy, about 20 miles away.

October 12, 1916, two days before Papaís 41st birthday and shortly before a new postmaster took over, I was born. By that time the family had moved to Pangburn. Papa always called me his birthday present and said that because of me and his age he didnít have to go to World War I. February 13, 1919, my brother Charles Edgar Junior was born. The year before, the Little Red Post Office was discontinued and mail sent to Steprock. The family was then living on a farm a mile south of Pangburn. When I was eight years old we moved to town and my father once again had a country store, which he continued to operate until it burned down in 1940.

I don't remember my father telling much about the store in Little Red, except that he hauled the supplies from Searcy. I used one of the ledgers from that store to learn my numbers and ABC's before I started to school. I don't ever remember seeing the Little Red Store. But I would imagine that he sold about the same things he sold in his store in Pangburn and I can tell you about that, although it was about 75 years ago.

At that time the street was dirt or gravel and people said if you hit a mud hole in the edge of town you never knew you had gone through town.

My dad had a little bit of everything in the store Ė kegs of nails, sugar in 100-pound sacks, hard wheat and soft wheat flour in 25- and 50-pound sacks, crackers in big tin boxes, pure lard in 1- and 5-gallon cans. Apples and oranges came in wooden boxes that were divided in the middle, and bananas came in big stalks that hung from the ceiling.

I remember one man who came in every day and asked if there were any rotten apples he could have. He would go through the box of apples and pick out the ones with rotten spots. He would take out his pocketknife and peel and eat them around the pot-bellied stove where people gathered to pass the time of day.

Cheese came in round wheels or hoops, chewing tobacco in twists or long compressed pieces that had to be cut with a tobacco cutter into plugs or half plugs. Vanilla wafers, oatmeal cookies and lemon cookies were in big glass jars with shiny lids.

My very favorite part of the store was the big glass candy case across the front. There were all kinds of stick candy, jaw breakers, all-day suckers, chocolate drops and lemon drops, round peanut patties and all kinds of chocolate bars. My friends and I were the official candy samplers. Little children stood in front of the case gazing longingly at the candy inside. Papa, after awhile, would open the sliding glass door and hand a chocolate drop to them. The smiles on the children's faces were payment enough for my father.

In the back of the store were all kinds of livestock feeds Ė shorts, bran, cottonseed meal, oats, chicken scratch, bales of hay and bricks of salt. Then there was that big coal oil pump that I hated so much. I would stay at the store while Papa went home to plow the garden and how I hated to draw coal oil. You had to hold a 5-gallon can with your left hand and turn the crank with the right hand. I didnít have enough strength to hold the can. When it had more than a gallon of coal oil, the can would slip and oil would splash all over me. Sometimes the customer would hold the can for me while I turned the crank.

In the fall of the year there were big long duck cotton sacks that people used for picking cotton and there were shorter ones for the children to use. About the only clothing in the store were chambray work shirts, overalls and denim jackets called jumpers.

My father sold groceries at cost and on credit to a blind man who peddled in the country. I remember how my mother complained about this, but I also remember some years later, after the store burned, the blind manís widow was one of the few people who paid her bill in full.

The country store belongs to an era that is gone. But for me it is not forgotten because it holds some fond memories of my father and my childhood.

 

Little Red Postmasters

Ebenezer Elliott, Nov. 10, 1876

Ebenezer Leggett, Dec. 6, 1876

John T. Angel, Aug. 8, 1879

Park S. Middleton, Oct. 2, 1879

Christopher C. Wood, Aug. 19, 1892

Icie D. Leggett, July 31, 1896

Andrew N. Wood, Dec. 14, 1897

Noah P. Hilger, Feb. 13, 1905

Ernest L. Brice, Feb. 14, 1906

Mellisey J. Barnes, Nov. 8, 1907

Charles E. Doyle, Aug. 16, 1911

Name changed to Doyleville

Charles E. Doyle, Dec. 10, 1912

Andrew F. Whitten, Dec. 20, 1916

John R. Butler, April 21, 1917

Discontinued March 15, 1918

Mail to Steprock

 

Little Red Store in the Piomeer Village Museum in Searcy

The Little Red store has been recreated at Pioneer Village Museum in Searcy.