Memories from store patrons


Jerry Scott Watts

My earliest memories of Cole's Store on Hwy. 70 in Baxter, TN go back to the late 1950's/early 60's.

When my dad (John Byrd Watts) would sell livestock at the stock-barn in Carthage, TN, it meant my two older brothers (Eddie Watts & Jack Watts) qualified for a new pair of Freeman-Shelby boots for the school year at Cedar Hill School, also on Hwy. 70. The back wall of the store was the location for Robert Fred's stock of shoes. I recall the boots were contained by a green box with a lid.

My favorite part of the store was the Pepsi Cola cooler to the left, just inside the front door. This appliance was blue with the Pepsi emblem embossed on the top lids and front. It was filled with cold water and the glass bottles were submerged in the water. The price per bottle was around 10 cents or less at that time if you drank the beverage at the store and didn't take the bottle. Nehi or Fanta orange was my favorite drink.

In the mid-60's, my first cousins from the Bruce Ridge (Mitch Watts & Lee Brown, Cynthia's brother) would walk from the Bruce Ridge on opposite sides of Hwy.70 and pick up glass drink bottles that had been chunked out the side windows of passing cars & trucks. Robert Fred would pay 2 or 3 cents each for these bottles, enabling my cousins and I to buy a cold soda water and a pack of crackers or a bag of peanuts. This was great, since we left the Ridge penniless and had childhood faith that "Tennessee Trash" would always live up to our expectations and litter the ditches along Hwy. 70 sufficiently to buy us something to eat and drink. Ah, for the "good ole days" before the 'No deposit/No return' era in time.

I recall one particular time when Mitch Watts (who woulda' thunk he'd be a Nashville lawyer someday) and I were sent on foot to Cole's Store by his mother Jean (Bennie's wife) for vanilla wafers. She was making banana pudding and had all the ingredients, except for the vanilla wafers. When Mitch and I walked through the front door, my cousin informed Robert Fred that his mom had sent us to purchase vanilla wafers. To this day, approximately 54 years later, I still recall the storekeepers exact question directed to Mitch, "Do you want QUALITY or QUANTITY?" Since he stocked both the Nabisco brand in the yellow and blue box (quality) and the 2 pound off-brand in the cellophane bag (quantity), this was a very logical question. Mitch had discriminating taste buds and bought the Nabisco brand.

Another vivid memory involved a group of first cousins (Jack, Steve, Mitch, Jerry Watts and Lee Brown) riding bicycles from the Bruce Ridge, down Hwy. 70 past Cole's Store, a right turn past the store to Martin's Creek, past the "Blue Hole" on the creek and up the Bryant Ridge back to Hwy. 70 to complete the circuit. The day trip included a stop at Cole's Store so each of could buy a Hav-A-Tampa cigar and pretend we were "Big Shots" while we were on our little outing. Robert Fred asked the group if smoking was okay with our parents and someone in the group said yes. Hesitatingly, Robert Fred allowed us to make the purchase, knowing boys will be boys.

Now, to fast-forward a few decades to the black and white 1957 Ford truck the Robert Fred bought brand new.

As I recall, he only used the pickup truck to haul away empty oil cans from his gasoline island at the store. The brand of gasoline sold at his store was Esso. For many years the empty oil cans were dumped in the woods at the "Shoemaker place" on the Bruce Ridge, (with the permission of Junior Bruce who owned the property at that time). There are still remnants of these oil cans to be found in the woods, if you know where to look, after the passage of many decades since their disposal.

Jack Watts (Brandon's dad) had asked Robert Fred to give him the opportunity to buy the truck, if he ever decided to sell it. Before his death, Robert Fred gave his wife Kate instructions to sell the truck to Jack after his passage. I believe the purchase price was $400. Jack performed a "frame-off restoration" of the truck, had the painted front and rear bumpers chrome-plated, and added brand-new tires on chromed wire-wheels. He changed the paint scheme to solid black in lieu of the original two-tone color. The truck had less than 30K miles on it when Robert Fred died, but had a lot of surface rust from being parked in the elements for many years. Thus, a restoration and some body work was a much needed act of love. Jack sold me the truck for $1,500 when I lived in Chickamauga, GA sometime in the late 80's. It still had the original Champion spark plugs in the six-cylinder engine when I bought it from him. I had to install a new radiator and fuel pump



Bob Mathis, long time local resident, close friend of my grandfather Gibson, and Jeff Mathis' father,  told this story  

Bob said in the early 50's  he tended my dad, Beck's, backer, my uncle Junior's backer, my uncle Billy's backer, Robert Fred's backer, and my grandpa Jim Gibson's backer.  He worked for Pa Jim every day until Pa died in a wreck in his new Dodge logging truck.  Bob said he would have been with Jim in that wreck but the backer was ripe and he had to take care of it that day.  When Bob went to the funeral and said hello and regrets to my grandmother,  Ma Dona Gibson, she said wait a minute and pulled out her little cloth hanky and had $4 wrapped up in it.  She gave it to Bob.  She said the last thing Pa Jim said every day when he left was "If anything were to happen to me, be sure to pay Bob his $4 for the week's pay."  I could see my Ma with her little delicate handkerchief with money wrapped up in it - she always did that.  

Bob also said the John Madewell was first to get to Pa's truck when it crashed.  Reba was at Lafayette School. Pa had a favorite record at his beer joint - after Pa died - the owners took the record off the juke box because it was so sad that he was gone.


This story has been told about Robert Fred – by Carl Calvee and others

"In 1976 a day like today about 4 pm – I was driving 1976 Chevy truck. There was a car at the gas pumps. Robert Fred was putting in gas at the back center of the car under the license plates. Suddenly I see gravel from the tires – the guy drove off without paying – Robert Fred pulled a gun. I had just pulled up so I said "Hey Robert it’s me" . The guy turned down shaw branch then back up to 70. Robert Fred was already in his white ford after the guy. He came back. I said "Did you get him?" Robert Fred said "No, but I will find him."


I remember one day when Mrs. Cole was pumping gas for Robert Halfacre.  Robert was pulling a cattle trailer.  It was in the summer heat; the trailer had manute in it.  Mrs. Cole told Mrs. Halfacre that it sure does stink, and Mrs. Halfacre said it smelled like money.  The Halfacres raised beef cattle.


Paul Scarlett

Marcia, my name is Paul Scarlett.  My wife, Ethleen, and I visited Cole's Store for lunch a couple of weeks ago.

We enjoyed the food very much.  The conversation with you and the manager as well as the other customers was enlightening and fun. 

Now for what I remember about Cole's Store:

I was born and raised on a ridge 3 or 4 miles from the store.  I attended Cedar Hill school and Baxter Seminary.  I went to Tenn Tech and graduated in 1959.  I also went to Cedar Hill Baptist Church,  so I am pretty familiar with that area.

I remember going to the store for a bologna sandwich, cut off a stick of bologna.  Robert Fred was running it then, and he read the Wall Street Journal, something I had not heard of before.  If my memory is correct, there was a gas pump out front.  Also there usually was a gathering of men to share the news and argue politics.

I also remember Vanderbilt Cole.  He was the Baxter Post Master, and if some of us boys were late getting out of school and missed the bus, he would give us a ride down Highway 70.

Kate Cole was my second cousin; Aunt Lassie Hutchinson (Kate's mother) and my grandmother were sisters.




Mary A. Hewitt
Oh wow, so happy to see this. It was my girls favorite store to buy a sack of candy when we went on a trip. Mrs. Cole always loved the girls coming down in their Halloween costumes. Mr. Cole was always amazed that I would drive with my 3 girls 800 miles to visit my family. They walked to the store from Hewitt Ridge Road at least once a week.


Dorman Herd

All the pretty girls lived near Cole Store!


Cindy Jackson

Years ago I stopped by Cole's Store to fill my husband's truck wity fuel.  There was an elderly gengleman in bibb overalls on the porch; he says "Well mam, I could have sworn that was a diesel truck when you pulled up."  Unfortunately, I was putting regular gas in a diesel truck.  I will never forget this, and neither will my sweet forgiving husband. 


Kathy Cole Smith

I remember mother and I shopping every Saturday. It seemd so far down to drive from Baxter to Cole Store!  I always wanted her to buy Velveeta cheese.  The most fun was spending the night with Aunt Kate and Sheila.  Robert Fred would let us have anything we wanted from teh store.  My favorite was grape popsicles.  What a sweet time that was.


Rebecca Brown

I remember walking to the store; it seemed so far from where we lived but it was in sight.  I remember the loaf bread being 15 cents, and Aunt Margie saying "a penny more".  I would always look at the candy case and one day a stranger came in the store and told me to pick out a candy bar and he would pay for it.  It scared me so bad I told him "no."  When I got home, Mother told me it would have been ok to accept the gift (with Robert Fred there).


John Grizzle

I remember stopping by Cole Store going coon hunting.


Mr. Rittenberry

Oh what a beautiful day

Stopped in Robert Fred's on the way

A lot of memories came and went away

Nice lady with purty flower dress

Greets you with a smile and yes

Do you want a balogney sandwich she said

Trying to be sure I'm fed

Robet Fred's Store

I'll be back for more

I remember what he said

No, he's not really dead


Peggy Richardson told this

I lived next door to Buna Brown Vincent in Baxter, Tn.  She eloped to marry Freeman Vincent.  They met at Cole Store.


This was told be Jeff Mathis

One day when he was young, Jeff was at the store.  Prior to his arrival, Mule Man, Thomas Burton Maddux, had killed a rattle snake larger that a man's leg down on the Shaw Branch road.   Mule Man laid the rattle snake across the east end of the store porch where many people take just one step from ground to porch.  Jeff saw the snake and was scared to death; he didn't know it was dead!  Mule Man had killed it with a claw hammer; it was said Melvin McBroom skinned it for eating! 


Clarence Sewell remembered and shared this

He bought a 1935 vehicle with a 1941 Mercury motor for $700 from Beck (my daddy).  Beck and his brother, Junior had put the motor in.  The Cole brothers ran Cole's Garage in Baxter. 


Garland Stanton, son of Neal Stanton (Virgil ran Stanton Store a little further west on Highway 70)

One of my consistent memories was of Mr. Vanderbilt with a wood toothpick in his mouth.


Cousin Judy Milton Norman

I remember aisles of shelves with food and "stuff".  There was a shelf in the back with books.  There were always men sitting around a pot belly stove.  I remember the glass case to the right of the door with candy.  I was probably 8 years old the last time I climbed these steps; Thanks Marcia for bringing me back.


 Chris Robinson

Martin Foutch said that Cole Store sold more balogna than any other store.  I remember the glass cabinet with the candy.


Robert Mills

I remember I was plowing with dad; we broke a plow point.  Someone said Cole Store wouldn't have one; but they did!  His dad, Preacher Mills, name was on the original liar's table.


I remember getting thick balogna sandwich and talking with robert Fred and Kate.  They were great people...sweet memories...good times...


Nell Vinson

I remember when they hld elections here and sometimes they would nearly fight over the elections.


Colon Burgess

I remember seeing the store meant going to see my grandfather's house because he lived in Granville.


Carolyn Sue Cole Shanks

Mother had heard Ms Effie Robinson (Roscoe Robinson's wife) had died. She wanted me to go down to the store and see if Ms. Effie had died.  I said "Mom, I don't want to go down there and ask".  But she insisted and I went and Mr. Roscoe was down there.  I had to ask him if Ms Effie had died.  Of course, he said no.  I was so embarrassed.

I remember walking to the store almost everyday, maybe 2 or 3 times a day mom would send me for something.  Aunt Margie would always say "What else?"  The always wrote down the sales and tax in a notebook next to the adding machine or cash regisster.  The store looked so much bigger!  I remember how good the cofee smelled as they ground JFG in the store.


Melissa Bryant

I remember stopping by on my way to lake with my mother-in-law and husband.  She would always buy juicy fruit gum.  May God bless you for bringing back the memory.


Danny and Kristi Burton

I remember buying 22 shorts, 5 oz cokes, peanuts, feed corn, flour, corn meal, popsicles, twist of chewing tobacco, and firecrackers.


 Martha Winchester Vetitoe

I rememer spending the night with Barbara dn being able to go to the store for one "cold drink" and one candy bar free per day.  that was a real treat.  I remember Aunt Martie saying "What else?" I remember men sitton on the front porch whittling and spitting in the summer and around the stove in the winter.  I remember when feed sacks were in the side room; mom and I woould show dad what pattern we needed for a new dress out of the feed sacks.  It took 3 sacks to a dress; we were so proud of our "feedsack" dresses. 


Tommy Crawford

I remember coming down here with my father to buy plow points.


Phil Eakes

I remember the coke machine.


Jim Eakes

I remember the coke machine, moon pies, the old wood stove, and checkers.  I remember walking from Ma Gibson's to here to buy mom a mother's day present. 


Mark Watts

I remember being out working and coming by here everyday for lunch.  One day I ate a Kern's Pineapple Pie when I was about 11.  I ended up in the hospital!


Norris told this

I have many happy memories of this place - I had fun watching Mr. Cole swatting flies!


Mike G who sold the store the current Coke machine said he visited store with his father who was a horse trader.  The coke machine came from store in Putnam County near Jackson County Line.


Walter Herron

I wish I had a dime for every bologna (baloney) sandwich I ate there.  Me and my best friend mad a lot stops there!!!!


Steve Nunberg

There is a hidden cemetary essentially right across from the store on Hwy 70N.  It is called the Haynes-Bush Cemetary and is great grandparents, Robert (Bob)  and Martha Haggard Grogan.  My mother remembered this store well from her childhood days visit her grandparents and an aunt who lived down in the Shaw Branch proper.  The store is a real throw back to a century ago.  Glad to see its resurgence.   


John Edmonds

Grew up in walking distant of this store.  Bought my first pocket knife there.  A 4-bladed German tree brand Boker.  Still have one.  went there many times on my way down to Blue Hole to go swimming or fishing.  Like this store and Mr. Cole. 

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