Now that we are in the heart of Black History Month, folks have read or watched presentations about the amazing stories of heroism, tragedy and pain that explain the African American experience in America.
There will be countless more stories of African Americans overcoming great odds, racism and violence — focusing on people who have become larger than life.
Many tales of honor and courage that emerge during this month can’t be sourced in many school books. That’s an accepted fact. Luckily, Black History Month is a means to shine a light on so many untold pieces of my history.
Over a period of many years, I have been blessed to read those stories, hear them, and see them portrayed in plays, in photos and on television. On a few occasions I have written a couple of those stories.
Most of the BHM stories focus on larger-than-life people, places and events. Sometimes though we fail to notice the historic value of something right in front of us. For me, that place is the old Bucky Moore grocery store.
Nope, most of you have never heard of it.
Buckey Moore’s died decades ago. It’s run down, weathered carcass still stands on Thomas H. Delpit Drive in old South Baton Rouge. Occasionally I take note of it when I pass by. The structure is about the size of two bedrooms — not to be confused with a two-bedroom house — but two bedrooms.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, Buckey Moore’s was legendary. Everyone went there at one time or another. It was like a Walmart or Target before there were such things. Because of segregation, virtually every large African American neighborhood had a store like Buckey Moore’s.
On the way to school you could get candy, sandwich meats, Cherry’s Potato Chips, bread (better checked, because sometimes a few days old), gum, pickles, cookies, marbles, spinning tops, canned goods, milk and playing cards, You could buy a flashlight, wallet, corn meal, Barq’s root beer, Cokes, balloons, Halloween masks, scarves, socks, aspirin, cold medicine, and small toys.
And there were ice cream cones, single-, double- and triple-scoops. Don’t forget cheap jewelry, watches and stuff. Just everything.
The neatest and most surprising thing is that you could run to Bucky Moore’s before school and buy three eggs that your mom needed to finish breakfast. Don’t need a pack of bacon or can’t afford it, no problem. Buy as few slices as you needed, or could afford.
Need a sling shot? He had that, too. Somebody at the house smokes? You could buy loose cigarettes or the whole pack. Your choice.
What was also great about Buckey Moore’s is that a couple neighborhood youth could get jobs there.
Once in the mid-60s, the city was being evacuated because officials were going to raise a barge, loaded with dangerous chemicals, that had sunk in the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge. Folks were asked to leave for fear of deadly gases being released from the barge. Bucky Moore’s remained open. The folks that stayed would need something to eat. That’s working for the community right there.
For the neighborhood folk who liked to dine on fine food, there was a ready supply of pig lips sitting in large clear jars on the counter. That’s right, pig lips. The clear jars allowed the critical buyer to point to the exact lip of their choice.
But there was something else that a lot of folk missed about Mr. Buckey Moore, the owner. He was a successful black businessman whose store was across the street from two competing white-owned dry goods stores. There were several much larger, white-owned grocery stores on the far ends of the street from him.
But Buckey Moore was an example of a black businessman who, in his own way, served his community. He hired people from the neighborhood to work for him. He lived in the community.
That folks could buy things like loose eggs and a few slices of bacon meant a lot to some of the struggling families, even though few people recognized it at the time.
Buckey Moore died a long time ago. I don’t know if that was his real name. But, he is a hero in my book.
No, Buckey Moore’s Store is not the typical subject of a BHM story. And, to that, I say, it should be.
Email Edward Pratt a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column at firstname.lastname@example.org.