A joke becomes reality in ‘country store’ book

CRAIG COUNTY, VA – If Craig County had a Best Seller list, “Craig County Stores & Other Points of Interest” by local residents Jerry Carper and Glenn Paxton would certainly be at the top. The book which Paxton says started out as a joke has sold 435 copies and is currently on its fourth printing.

“One day while Jerry and I were swapping some old pictures Jerry said, ‘We ought to write a book,’ and we both laughed,” Paxton said. But the more they thought about it the more they liked the idea of putting together a book about stores in Craig County both past and present.

Local residents Jerry Carper and Glenn Paxton were the Lee-Jackson Day celebration at the Emporium Book Store to sign their new book Craig County Stores. Photo by Gwen Johnson

And so the journey began, literally. “It took us almost two years to do the book,” said Carper who sort of knew what they were getting into because he had done a similar project several years ago, “World War II Veterans from Meadow Creek section of Craig County, Virginia.”

“We spent a lot of time on the road,” Carper said. “There were locations to be found, pictures to be collected, stories to be told and odometer readings to be calculated and written down. We nearly went broke just putting gas in our vehicles,” he added with a laugh.

“We chased pictures to Wisconsin, Texas and Florida,” Paxton said. “There were four we needed and didn’t get but we might get them yet. You never know.”

“One person would lead us to another,” Carper said of the journey. “People would go out of their way to help us out and were happy to do it.”

The two said most of the stores they had been in at one time or another in their lives but some of them they had never heard of. To their amazement, some they thought had been torn down were still standing though off the beaten path. An example of that is the old Zade Sarver store up Rt. 621.

“The structure is still there with some old rusted out signs that aren’t readable but we knew it had been a store.” Another example is the old Wiley Francisco store up Rt. 621 also. “We had to walk back through the briars and snakes to get to that one,” Carper said shaking his head and laughing. “There were three or four stores like that.”

Paxton recalled stopping in the Jim Foster Store located at the southeast corner of Walnut Street to get a piece of candy on his way to school.

Carper and Paxton said once the book was finished they seriously debated whether or not to buy more than two, one for each of them. After all was said and done they hesitantly decided to go ahead and purchase 60 copies in case somebody along the way might want one of them.

“We started selling them at the Fall Festival in October at 9:30 and by 11 a.m. every one of them was gone, and we had a list of 70 more people who wanted them,” Carper said. “People came from everywhere looking for it. We had one person buy four copies and another bought seven copies.”

The book is filled with old pictures and tidbits of stories “that everybody told us,” Paxton said. “And then there were some stories we were afraid to put in there,” he said jokingly. “The book brings back so many memories to people that I’ve had one fellow tell me he had been through it page by page at least three times.” Both Carper and Paxton were on hand to sign copies of the book at the Emporium Book Store on Main Street on Jan. 19, and again this Saturday, on Jan. 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Books may also be purchased while they last at the Emporium during normal business hours.