These words were repeated countless times by wives and mamas and husbands and daddies of long ago. The neighborhood Mom and Pop Grocery was not far away from the family’s house, but in one car families or no car families going to town to shop was only a weekend occasion. “Running down to the store,” literally meant on your bike or on your feet. Usually, even in hard times, there would be a few cents reward for the child who made these quick trips to the nearby store which satisfied a need or just a hankering. As a child, deciding which candy to get from the 1 cent and 2 cent assortment took longer than the trip. The people at the store knew you, and they were just like family, and there was very little safety risk involved. Not much traffic and drugs were unknown.
Brenda Hammond McGrady remember fondly when her Dad (Bob Hammond) and her Mom (Chris Hammond) ran the Five Points Grocery in our area. Bob Hammond had previously worked as a meat cutter for A&P Tea Company here. If you remember that store you will remember Mr. Cecil Waldop, Mr. Harry Lusk, Jackie Melton, and Bessie George who worked there, too. It was on Main where the old Food World Building sits now. I do not recall exactly when A&P left Sylacauga, but Bob Hammond and some other business men were offered a position with a grocery chain in Florida, so the family moved to Palmetto and lived there for a while. Then Winn Dixie in Metairie, LA , offered Mr. Hammond a store there, but like so many people who leave Sylacauga, the Hammond family got homesick for family and friends. About the time that Ted Wesson got ready to sell Five Points Grocery. This seemed just right for fulfilling a life-long dream Bob had of owning his very own store.
Those of you who remember this couple remember that Bob was quiet and business-like, while Chris was outgoing and talkative. They complemented each other and came up with just the right formula to run a Mom and Pop store. Chris liked being a stay-at-home Mom so that she could pamper her husband and children with her good cooking for lunch and supper. It worked out well, for the store opened early six days a week, Monday through Saturday (1/2 day on Wednesday- as was the habit back in those days). Bob would open and Chris would stay home and prepare lunch; then she would come relieve him at the store. He would go home eat that good meal she had prepared and take a nap. Later in the afternoon Chris would go home to prepare the evening meal. Although Bob had no formal marketing education, Brenda remembers her Dad making his own signs on butcher paper and taping it to the windows of the store. Often he would misspell a word or hang the entire sign upside down so that people would come into the store to correct the error, and usually buy something. A sign on the front wall read, “If we don’t have it, we can get it.” Many times they would make good on that promise by bringing merchandise back from a downtown store while they were in town making daily bank deposits. The Hammond duo would keep the shelves and produce section well stocked.
The meat market was tucked into a back corner of the store. Mr. Hammond, the butcher, kept a fresh side of beef, pork, and chickens in the walk-in cooler, and the customer’s order was cut or ground to order. Of course, there WAS a meat case where there was packaged bacon, stick bologna(sliced to order), souse meat and hoop cheese among other things. The Mom and Pop stores of yesteryear were social hubs, where customers were connected to owners, and Five Points Grocery was no exception. Many of the stores had benches out front where old men sat, visited, and discussed the price of cotton or corn, and sometimes even played checkers or dominoes. At Five Points Grocery this group called themselves the “Honey Do Club” and Ms. Chris would pamper them by listening to their stories, cleaning their eyeglasses for them, and making out the patties from the ground beef they purchased. Like other Mom and Pop stores, the Five Points store gave high school boys jobs, stocking, straightening, cleaning, sometimes even training them to cut meat. Brenda remembers, Delbert Dale, Ray Harris, Greg Thornton and Ben Haynes being among the extras there.
The Five Points Community was so saddened by the store closing when Bob got a terminal cancer diagnosis in 1977. Customers gathered to present them with a plaque that read: To Bob and Chris Hammond, a token of sincere gratitude and appreciation for two of the best friends this community has ever had. Your Five Points Friends and Neighbors, March 1977. There are so many more Mom and Pop stores that we have not visited, and so many good stories of good people in the fifties and sixties when times were simpler. We had it all: personal service, fresh products, credit if you needed it, friendly faces who called your name, and it was not so long ago at that.