Written by Linda Brooks Jones - 1992
A local landmark, the R. M. Brooks General Store in Rugby, is the most recent addition from Morgan County to The National Register of Historic Places. The store has been the center of social interaction and commercial exchange for community members and visitors since its inception in the early 1930s by my grandparents, R. M. and NETTIE BROOKS. To me (their granddaughter, LINDA SUE), however, its walls have been my home; the people who enter its door my extended family.
As a child we perceive people, events and circumstances with openness, innocence, curiosity, wonder, and acceptance. In our youth life is simple with few responsibilities. Food is cooked; we eat. Clothing is provided; we dress. Beds are made; we sleep. Enjoyment is there; we take. Unpleasantness occurs; we survive. Our simple trust and naiveness blind us to the imperfections of our surroundings and the flaws of the person in our lives who will shape our destiny.
It is my judgment that I have lived in a span of time and in an environment that has enabled me to experience the pioneer spirit and lifestyle, yet enjoy the modem conveniences that makes one’s life and work easier. I am glad to have lived where I did, to know the people of the community with their varied personalities, values, talents and dreams. These people, as well as my family, have given much to me. They have influenced me to become what I perceive to be a more compassionate and tolerant person. I feel privileged that I could observe their accomplishments, feel their frustrations, rejoice in their jobs, share their sorrows, and hear their dreams.
To a past generation, who through hard work, example, and perseverance have kept ajar the door of opportunity within our community, a door waiting to be fully opened by the next generation to create their own memories, legacies and dreams, I pay tribute. I share with you my experiences and observations of a time and a people to be justly respected and rightly remembered. These reflections that I share are presented as I perceived them to be.
Hardly a day goes by without a parent bringing a child; a grandparent, a grandchild, or a tourist; to experience the essence of R. M. Brooks General Store. They come to see "Polly the Parrot" who lived with R. M. and NETTIE for over forty years. She greeted customers with "Hello," or "Polly wants a cracker." She sits in her cage in a corner of the store, stuffed and silent, as fascinating as when alive. They come to see the big fish head which hung on the store porch. It was a three hundred pound Jew fish, the largest caught off the Bradenton, Florida pier in 1937 and shipped back to Tennessee. They are disappointed to hear that it was stolen after hanging safely on the porch for forty-nine years. They come to see and to buy the hoop or rat try cheese and to taste the bologna and cheese sandwiches purchased daily by truckers, farmers and tourists. They come to see memorabilia which remain and are awed by the time lapse they feel when entering. They come and without exception say, "Stay the way you are. Don’t change. I’ll be back."
R. M. Brooks General Store has been in continual use since its construction, many years, seven days a week, from six in the morning until late at night. It has endured through World War, Depression, recessions, serving as a mainstay for Rugby community members. Its essence speaks of American values, ethics and mores which should be nurtured and strengthened. Its foe is modernization. Customers want the nature of the store to remain, but they also want the convenience of a supermarket. It will be a challenge to meet those needs, but the family is committed to the task of preserving this vital part of American life.
The R. M. Brooks General Store has served as a paradigm for the community. The Volume 1977 issue of the Rugbeian states, "the store to this day is still the commercial hub of Rugby... Indeed R. M. Brooks supplied Rugby and Brewster-town with practically everything they needed." The location of the store between the road and highway illustrates its link to the past which should not be forgotten, and its potential for the future which should be conscientiously nurtured.
The store was the center of Rugby’s political life. Every politician who ran for office made it a priority to spend time in Brooks’ Store. While candidates were there, members of local families would make trips to the store. More voters could be reached in a day in Rugby’s store than in a week of stumping. Any and all campaign posters, cards, buttons and electioneering material could be found in abundance. Then, as now, the store was used as a location for people to register to vote, pay their taxes and get shots for their animals. Posters announcing any and all community events were viewed and duly noted for good attendance.
Writing this narrative has been a privilege. It is my hope that in its reading, memories will be recalled by those who lived during the times I recanted, and the younger folk will gain enlightenment and understanding of the people who came before them.
As I wrote I observed subtle changes and contrasts. The hand pump on one side of the porch is no longer workable, and on the opposite end there is now a spigot and sink. With a twist of the handle, water from a public water supply comes gushing out for quick and easy use. The Brewstertown Road is no longer graveled, but paved smooth, an equal to Highway 52.
It seems to me these changes are indicative of the modernization that is taking place in our community. The challenges for survival its people face today is no less than the people before them.
I pray with God’s guidance and wisdom we can leave to the next generation a good place in which to live. A place where integrity and the ethic of hard work prevail. The people of the community are my priority. It is my desire to open wider the door of opportunity for the next generation as the preceding generation did for me. It would be an humble way that I could say "thank you." I know my parents and grandparents would be pleased.