In the secluded community of Valley View, Kentucky, lies an old, long-closed general store. My visit there revealed a surprising inhabitant.
Many years back, I glimpsed through its grimy windows and saw remnants of its past as a general store. The building, once splendid with its white wood clapboard siding, slim front porch, and elevated position overseeing the road, had maintained its charm. An old Pepsi cola sign, a reminder of its retail days, still hung outside.
Visiting this place sparked imaginings of a bygone era, where locals might have relaxed on the porch, enjoying Ale-8 and tobacco, immersed in community life. This general store, now overshadowed by modern, impersonal supermarkets, was once a vibrant center of community interaction, a place for exchanging news, picking up the newspaper, and discussing vital local matters.
Last summer, passing through Valley View after many years, I noticed changes at the old store – a new blue tarp and what looked like coal stacks. I parked and approached, peering inside as I had done previously, only to be greeted by a gruff voice.
“Hey, who are you?”
Confronted by an elderly, soot-covered man with a sandwich in hand, I introduced myself as a photographer and historian interested in the store. He revealed he was the owner and former operator, still residing within despite its worn exterior.
Our conversation was disjointed. He mentioned a persistent buzzing in his ears, imaginary conversations, and made references to the Japanese, mistakenly assuming my heritage. Beyond small talk about the store, his words were often incoherent.
As I left, I was concerned for his welfare, especially given the harsh winter. I hoped he remained warm and safe in that old general store in Valley View.
Update: The individual, Eugene Masters, passed in March 2015.