The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Joe Rippey's Store

By Wayne Easter © 2014

Online: December, 2014

Joe Rippey's store building - August 2008Joe Rippey's store building - August 2008(Editor's Note: Wayne Easter lives in Mt Airy, North Carolina with his wife of 57 years, Helen. He has written three books about his early years growing up, "way out in the weeds at the foot of the Blue Ridge." His talent for taking one along on memory trips to his early days on Stewart Creek's, makes reading his stories a genuine pleasure. He has written three books, "Stewart's Creek: (The End of an Era) ," "In the Foothills of Home: Memories of growing up in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains," and, "Roads Once Traveled: In the Foothills of the Blue Ridge." All are available on

In days gone by, every small rural community had a local hang out, where people gathered to hash out world problems, pass the time of day, tell big lies, and forecast the weather. It was called "Down at the Store." The one I knew best was Joe Rippey's Store that stood beside Chestnut Grove Road in Lambsburg, Virginia in the early 1950s. It was "right downtown" on weekends, as neighbors gathered in to take a break from the everyday grind of hoeing corn, working at the sawmill, or making a living any way they could. They talked about the Good Old Days, harvested their best corn crops ever, caught their biggest fish "right down yonder in Stewart's Creek," and fox hunted all the way from Skull Camp Mountain to the Sugar Loaf. The biggest crowd-pleaser of all was a new-fangled thing called television that sat on a high self where everybody could watch the Saturday Night Fights, while they drank Nehi sody-pop and ate Moon Pies.

After getting my first job and an automobile, (such as it was) I too was right up there in the thick of things. I didn't care much for the fights and mostly stayed outside where the real action was. Some folks were never without their jug of moonshine and on occasion, a real fight broke out in the parking lot. Then everybody inside came outside to watch the outside fights, which were far better than the fights on TV. Nobody got seriously hurt, and before very long, everybody became friends again and passed the jug around again.

Another great attraction was the airplane rides people took from a pasture just across the road. Brooks Ferrell landed his small plane there on weekends and sold rides for $5.00 per. Ever since I'd seen my first airplane, I'd daydreamed of taking a ride. On a day to remember, I barely scraped up the money, along with my nerves and headed for the sky. When I got situated inside, he revved that joker wide-open, and we took out across the cow pasture like a bat out of you-know-where. I'd always figured riding an airplane would be like floating through the air with the greatest of ease, (like the man on the flying trapeze) but it didn't work that way. The plane shook and rattled so bad, there was no doubt in my mind it was about to fly all to pieces. My knuckles were as white as snow from hanging on to the seat, but the pilot didn't seem too worried about what anybody could see was a major disaster in the making.

Hoping and praying we didn't crash, I finally calmed down, opened my eyes and looked outside. From high in the sky, I could see every fishing hole on Stewart's Creek, and all the bottoms and fields we'd hoed corn in all those years. When we flew over our house, Mama was standing in the yard waving. We flew over Jim's Knob, Round Peak and Fisher's Peak, and it turned out to be an unforgettably good day. There were other plane rides in later years, but none as exciting as that first ride from a cow pasture at Joe Rippey's Store in Lambsburg.

As time passed, the store eventually closed, and the building became someone's home. It was demolished in 2009 and a new home now stands where so many cars and people gathered on weekends so many years ago.