Terry’s Grocery Store united Prosperity residents

Owner Bill Terry allows a quick snapshot at work.
Terry’s store was common ground for members of the Prosperity Community.

Editor’s note: This series will run weekly throughout 2016 to highlight Bartlett’s history in honor of its 150th anniversary this year. Suzanne Griffith Coleman of the Bartlett Historical Society notes that after the first article in this series came out, Betty Terry Litton brought this short history of her family’s store on Old Brownsville Road to the Bartlett Museum. It is followed by comments from Harold Byrd, whom she contacted after writing it.

In 1948, Bill and Lena Terry, along with their five children (Billy, Beverly, Larry, Raymond and Betty) bought a small grocery store at the end of Billy Maher and Old Browns-ville Road. The living quarters were joined in the back and had two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room.

The community, called “Prosperity Corner,” consisted of a church on Old Brownsville Road and Albright Cotton Gin across the street from the store. Bill Terry continued to work as a switchman for Missouri Pacific Railroad, while Lena Terry worked full time in Terry’s Grocery Store along with the help of the children. After a few years of prospering, the old store was made into a rental house, and a new store and home were built next door.

Bartlett-Sesq-logo-SMALL-WETerry’s Leadway Grocery Store was born. It served as a landmark for the Prosperity Community. From 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. we served cotton choppers, farmers and just good ole hardworking people. It was a one-stop grocery store, providing 25 pounds or more of block ice; dry goods such as straw hats, overalls and brown cotton stockings for the women; a butcher shop (mom was the best butcher ever); salt blocks; and sacks of feed, kerosene, and a grill that cooked anything from fried bologna or smoke sausage sandwiches to the best hamburgers you have ever tasted. Just ask Harold Byrd, whose family farmed up the road from the store. He still talks to me about those hamburgers and cheeseburgers mom cooked each time I see him at the Bank of Bartlett.

Terry’s store served as a gathering place, with customers coming in horse-drawn wagons or old trucks or walking to get their weekly groceries on Friday or Saturday nights. Almost every family bought on credit. They paid for the previous week’s groceries, then charged the following week’s groceries.

The community tolerated my dad but absolutely loved my mother since she was there all the time. When one of the neighbors died, she would place a jar on the checkout counter, and those who could would drop money in the jar, and mom would order flowers for the funeral from the “Prosperity Neighborhood.”

We traveled the gravel roads many times. Several times, my dear friend Ginger Freeman and I would meet halfway on Billy Maher, riding our horses and playing at one another’s homes for the day.

All five of us graduated from Bartlett High School. Billy played the trombone in the band; Beverly was a cheerleader; Larry was a good student; Raymond kept Mr. Barnes on his toes; and I enjoyed helping in the elementary grades to become a future teacher. I’m sure Mr. Barnes did his happy dance when the last of the Terry kids graduated.

Terry’s Grocery closed in 1970 due to my mom’s declining health and later death. The house and store still stand, but the store has been turned into a day care center. However, to me, Beverly and Larry — the only part of the Terry family remaining — the memories will always remain in our hearts where a community prospered, loved and helped each other through tough times. I can truly say, “Prosperity Comer, thanks for the memories.”

Letter about the family and store

Dear Betty,

I/we (Byrd family) are honored to be included. Your mom and our mom were “two peas in a pod” to be sure — two of the hardest-working, sweet, caring and special ladies ever.

Terry’s store, you, your mom and the Terry family are an especially fond and big, big part of the Byrd’s family life history. The uniqueness of that time can’t be told or understood by those who didn’t live in that era and type of community. When my sisters Sarah and Jo and families would come home to visit, a trip to Terry’s was not long in coming to get the best ground chuck, pork chops and provisions for a feast! And it took a lot for our family of seven siblings and kids, Mom and Dad and always visitors.

I’ll never forget Bobby and me transporting as many as 25-75 fellow cotton choppers in either one or two open flatbed bob trucks as needed to Terry’s store on a one-hour dinnertime break (now called “lunch” by modem era folks) for ice and food.

Your mom and family swiftly and efficiently prepared from scratch the tastiest-ever sandwiches, cheeseburgers, desserts and cold drinks for all — as we were back in the fields at 1 p.m. sharp. The pay was generous, 30 cents an hour for 10 hours, escalating all the way to an unbelievable 50 cents an hour before chemicals replaced manual cotton chopping in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

I was 14-18 years old and Bobby 17-21 during this time. Don’t ask if I had a driver’s license at the start — ha! So many other memories, but it would take a book to include them. Thanks for sending and including us in your editorial tribute to a special place and time in the community history.

Harold Byrd

Written by Betty Terry Litton, special to the Express.