The Commissary


   The company store was a busy place. It opened at 8 AM and closed at 12 noon and then opened again at 1 PM and closed at 5 PM. It sold almost everything from groceries, shoes, clothing, dry goods, and feed, to flour.

  The first store manager was Mr. Charles Owen. He was at Bon during World War I until about the end of the war. He later moved to Pineville, Ky., ran a small grocery store, and lived in the back of the store. It was located on the old river road in East Pineville, just before the road crossed the river going to Harlan. Mr. C.E. (Ernest) Freeman was the second store manager at Bon.

The first bookkeeper was a Mr. Foreman. “He was an aristocrat and had the first car in the Bon Jellico Camp, but ‘he couldn’t drive a lick’. It was nothing unusual for him to drive right out of the road. One time on the curve near the John Jones home, he failed to make the curve and it was real funny (to on-lookers) to see Mrs. Forman climbing up the bank and looking in her vanity mirror to see if her hat was on straight.”  Mr. George Tie was the third store manager; he started working at the Bon Jellico Commissary when Ernest Freeman went to work for a wholesale grocery company and moved to Middlesboro, KY. The fourth store manager was Earl J. Lovitt from April 1, 1928 through September 28, 1935.

   The commissary had iceboxes for drinks, meats, etc. Mr. Ben Lee, the iceman from Williamsburg, would come about twice a week with 25, 50, or 100 pounds of ice. In the corner of the store was a screened in area for salt bacon, cured bacon, cured hams, etc. “The only trouble, after we solved the fly problem, was the rat problem… At times we had to contend with Pal, a large beautiful pointer bird dog, owned by Dr. Stonecipher. He could jump the counter, steal a half roll of bologna, and be out the door all in one motion in one minute.”

  In ‘good times’ the commissary sales ran about $5000 per month. About 125 men were on the payroll and about 75 families lived in the company houses. During the depression high sales per day were $15.

   Here is a copy of a grocery list that “Mrs. Brown” would buy quite often:

1 bag Lexington Cream Flour 25 lbs. $1.25
1 bag corn meal 24 lbs $0.75
1 lb. Bill Jones coffee $0.15
1 lb. salt bacon $0.10
1 lb. bologna in roll $0.15
1 can green beans - 202 size $0.10
10 lb. pail pure lard $0.90
2 lb. sugar $0.15
1 lb. box brown sugar $0.10
1 lb. pinto beans $0.10
1 box soda $0.05
1 lb. Clabber Girl Baking Powder $0.10
1 box snuff $0.10
1 cut Apple Tobacco $0.10
1/2 lb. carbide $0.05
1 bag Stud H. Tobacco $0.05
Cigarette papers free
1 lb. No. 8 nails $0.05
1 box oatmeal $0.10
1 box black pepper $0.10
1 100 lb. Bag Cow Feed $1.50
5 yds. dress print $0.75
1 pr. men's work shoes $3.75
1 pr. work gloves $0.75

Mrs. Brown would go to the office and draw $12 in scrip and get 90 cents in scrip change. “I remember Mr. Jim (Red) Stout would come in the store at the end of each workday and hand me a quarter in scrip. While I weighed him ½ lb of carbide, he would reach for a Coca-Cola and a pack of Camel cigarettes, all for 25 cents.”

Bon Jellico Commissary Prices
Eggs 10 cents per dozen
Bologna 10 cents per pound
Sausage 15 cents per pound
Pair of shoes $2.00
Gasoline 15 cents per gallon
House Rent: $1 per room

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