Move over online delivery service and personal shoppers! Today, more than ever, their resources are needed and very much appreciated. But there was a time several years ago that citizens in the Concord/Farragut community were well supplied with home delivery services.
Because of the rural area, few families had transportation. Residents looked forward to door-to-door services which provided them a wide variety of goods. These included: Avondale Milk, Avon Cosmetics, the ice man who sold blocks of ice to those without electric refrigerators, Jewel Tea that sold coffee and tea service as well as other household products. Mr. William Ethelbert Fox sold J.R. Watkins & Company products which included flavorings and salves. And the community supported their local farmers and looked forward to visits from James R. “Pap” Nichols who would bring around fresh produce from his garden during the summer months.
But the man to be remembered as Farragut’s traveling grocery entrepreneur is Mr. Ben A. Boring who drove a home-delivery grocery store! A recent enjoyable interview with Mr. Boring, soon to be 92, provided a visit back to simpler times as he related the fascinating story of Concord/Farragut’s Rolling Store.
In 1948, Ben Boring, a graduate of Farragut High School in 1946, purchased a new Chevrolet two-ton truck. Since the truck only had a windshield, he had an 18-foot x 8-foot bed built for it and equipped it with a freezer unit so that he could sell fresh meat and ice cream. Mr. Boring said he would plug it up at night at his house and it would stay cold all day long while making his delivery rounds. He made a business arrangement with Mr. Lynn Bevins, who owned a local grocery store, to purchase groceries for his truck at a small commission.
“I had routes in the Solway area and one that went from Bearden down Northshore Drive, through Snaky Road, and all the way to Possum Valley and Choto,” he said. For those not familiar with some of these roads, Snaky is now called Bluegrass Road and the Possum Valley area is in the deep west end of Northshore Drive around the Montgomery Cove homes and subdivisions.
Reminded that his service would have been very much in demand today, Boring said that he didn’t think it would work because of the large amount of traffic. “Back then, the roads were just rock roads. I kept to a schedule so that people would know when to expect me and I would just drive up and blow my horn. Many neighbors would congregate at a common place and wait for me to arrive.”
A wise businessman, Boring knew the value of a loss leader. He said he sold a lot of coffee and sugar and would sell cigarettes at five cents below his price. He had one customer who lived in the Snaky area that needed 100 pounds of sugar and 300 pounds of wheat supplies quite often for his (ahem) liquid distillery business. Boring said his credit was good, but the customer would not take an invoice. Rather, he kept an inventory of his debts by requiring Boring to write his delivery items over the door to the customer’s establishment.
Mr. Boring relates that once when he went to collect, his customer was busy burning some brush and there was a huge explosion. Thinking Revenuers, Boring prepared to take cover. The cause of the explosion was a hidden jug that the customer had forgotten about in the burning brush fire.
Trips on the Rolling Store were anything but mundane. Another time a calf ran out in front of the truck causing a large crate of eggs to fall crashing to the floor. “I had to stop at a nearby stream and do the best I could to clean the mess up.”
In January 1951, Boring was called into service for the Korean War. He sold his truck to Silvey Brothers who owned a grocery store in the Byington area. They continued Boring’s established routes.
After the war, Boring worked for 53 years as a furniture salesman for a Knoxville wholesale business and spent 40 years caring for, training, and boarding American Saddlebred horses. He has had as high as 115 head on the farm at one time.
Ben Boring is a community treasure and is well loved. He still lives on his family farm in the Farragut area where he was born. We thank him for his service to America and for the many good memories and friendship that he has provided us through the years.
Mona Isbell Smith is a retired computer systems analyst who enjoys freelancing.