old Red and White sign

The dismantling of the old Jerry Cox Warehouse uncovered this sign. The Harrelson family had lots of memories to share about their days in the grocery business.

When a friend told Chuck Harrelson that she had seen the sign, that once proudly identified his family’s grocery store, in the old Jerry Cox Warehouse the hunt was on.

Harrelson said he worked at the store, located in the back of the old Jerry Cox store, for about 10 years, starting when he was only 12-years-old.

Chuck and his parents, Charles “Charlie” and Jeanette Harrelson, met the building’s owner, Tripp Nealy, first thing Monday morning when they collected the sign that brought back good memories, but also memories of lots of hard work and long hours.

Charlie Harrelson said he leased the building where four of the five members of the Harrelson family worked from 1990 to 2000.

Harrelson, who had been cutting meat for a number of years before he took over Charlie Harrelson’s Red & White, and started putting in as many as 100 hours a week.

“We had a great time,” Harrelson said, “did real good.”

After seeing the sign, Mrs. Harrelson, who worked alongside her husband, said, “It brings a lot of emotional memories.”

She primarily remembers “toting” a lot of groceries, but also meeting lots of nice people.

Young Chuck started running the wrapping machine, but later moved on to cutting chickens and sometimes delivering meat to the then-popular Meeting House restaurant.

“We kept him busy on that wrapping machine to start with, get his attention again,” his dad inserted.

But Chuck said, “I thought it was great. I met a lot of great people and it kept me out of a lot of trouble because I was a young man who had to work a lot of hours. It taught me a lot of life’s lessons. How to talk to people, how to meet people and how to work for your dollar.”

He said he still sees people now that he formed bonds with way back them.

Now, he says, he’ll retire a second time in a few more years, this time from Grand Strand Water and Sewer where he has already put in 21 years.

He truly enjoys his GSWSA job, but said, “I miss working with my family, for sure.”

Mrs. Harrelson says her husband and son were the best meat cutters in town.

Then she laughed as she added, “I’m not prejudiced; they really are.”

The Harrelsons also have two daughters. One, Charlean Graham, escaped the grocery business when she became a hair stylist.

The other, Lisa Barnhill, did her share of work ringing up groceries at the store and doing whatever else needed to be done, even mopping the floor.

Harrelson said the hardest part of the job, especially when he was working in Myrtle Beach, was keeping the women straight, adding every chicken is about the same, but some women wanted him to keep showing them still another chicken.

“Well all the chickens is about the same, might be half a pound difference in them. You bring the same chicken out the third time, ‘Oh that’s pretty. I’ll take it’,” he quoted the women as saying.

Charlie Harrelson said it was his family’s encouragement that caused him to give up the store.

“My family said they were working too many hours,” he said.

His response was favorable.

“I said, ‘Close the doors. Let’s get out. I’m tired, too.’ I’d been doing it 45 years,” he said. “I said, ‘Close the doors. Let’s go home.’”

And that’s what they did. Charlie Harrelson has since worked with heavy equipment, a task he really loves.

As Jeanette Harrelson reviewed the family’s work history, she opined, “We worked well as a family. Some families can’t get along.”

Things were different in Downtown Conway back then, she said. They were not allowed to have any lights on their sign because the city didn’t allow lights or pulsating signs in the downtown area. They also were not allowed to put the Red & White’s “red dot” on the side of the building because it was located too close to Kingston Presbyterian Church. 

Her husband remembers Conway’s grocery business before 1965, the year he and Jeanette married and he was already cutting meat at the Colonial Store in Myrtle Beach where he was putting in about 100 hours per week.

He moved to Conway where he began working at the IGA, the same area located in the back of Jerry Cox.

He said some Indian people bought the store and he leased it from them.

His first meat-cutting job was at a store owned by the Calhoun family, across the street from the current K&J’s.

The Calhoun family later owned and operated a Red & White store where St. Paul’s Church now stands, according to Harrelson.

As the Harrelson family loaded the old sign into the back of a pickup truck, Charlie said he was surprised when he found out that the old sign had been found.

He said he couldn’t figure out why he didn’t already have the sign. He remembered taking everything when his family left the store.

He has new plans for it now.

“I’ll put it back in use. I’ll put it at my horse barn where I can look at it,” he said.

 

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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