January 30, 2010 11:32:00 PM
I hope that "better late than never" is a truism, because with the rush of the recent holidays, I let a significant anniversary slip by. On Dec. 7, Military Hardware celebrated 50 years of business. I lived in that same neighborhood about the same length of time and always thought of the hardware store as one of our neighborhood treasures.
I was a young mother in the late 50s, a time before so many women went back into the work force. After the men returned to civilian life when World War II ended, many women who had filled jobs the men had left for the war, rushed back into domesticity. It was a time when men resumed the role of breadwinner and women embraced that of bread-baker.
Garden clubs proliferated for us young mothers who needed at least occasional adult company. At that time, Military Hardware was a big part of our lives. Seasoned garden club members like Martha Bozeman, Wade Puckett and Ruth Wallin gave frequent programs and workshops for us neophytes; and it was Military Hardware that kept us supplied with everything we needed -- wire, tape, frogs, oasis, containers, clippers for arranging, and pots, dirt, mulch and fertilizer for growing. They also had the most beautiful array of colored candles to complement our efforts.
The style of the day was one popularized by Gregory Conway. We tried a lot of Ikebana, a Japanese form of arrangement with three points, depicting sky, man and earth, often in a flat container. It was simpler than the lavish Victorian arrangements of earlier years or today''s massive ones or tablescapes. It fit our smaller rooms and lower ceilings. Whatever it called for, our good friends at Military had it, along with regular hardware and a plentiful supply of gifts.
All in the family
The Perkerson family has run the store now for four generations, three of them, including children, at the present time.
John and Ruth Perkerson were the founders, leaving the grocery business for the hardware store, always offering a friendly greeting and efficient service. They passed the torch to son Mike and his wife Carol. In time their children, Brad and Angie (now Perrigin), joined them. Now Brad''s wife, Renee, is moving her floral business into the store on Military Road, coming full circle back to flower arranging in a different way.
Mike began working for his parents when he was in the seventh grade, even helping with the construction. Brad actually began working there with simple jobs when he was 4 or 5. As he grew older and developed an interest in electronics, he was motivated to keep working to support his hobby. He even bought his first car, a Mustang, when he was 16 years old, from Virginia Cox. The youngest generation, namely Angie Perrigin''s son, Clay, is beginning to work at what he can.
Donell Lloyd was one of their youngest "employees." Born in 1964, he came there with three brothers and a cousin when he was only 5 years old. The Perkersons let him "work," too, putting nuts and bolts together. Now, at 46, he is still there and knows all the "nuts and bolts" of the entire operation.
Mike says, "We were all so close, I think Donell was 12 years old before he knew I wasn''t his daddy!"
Now they have succeeded in recruiting Charles Whitney, who used to work at the post office, to join their work force. When I was in there, Charles even recalled my old post office box number. It is great to do business where people not only know your name, but "who you are."
Carol remembers when Warren Gardner Jr., John Hutchinson and Billy Brown were children. They would be at the store waiting for it to open, so that they could get the pick of some plastic cars the boys were collecting.
The Perkersons have had many memorable experiences, as might be expected. One time Brad had to "run interference" between two members of a sparring family who were not speaking to each other but needed to conduct some business.
Once a customer needed to get something for a plumbing problem. He was having trouble explaining what was wrong with his toilet. Finally he said, "Well, it will cough, but won''t swallow."
One day they had a screaming ambulance pull up into their parking area in front of the store. An emergency medical technician jumped out and ran to the back of the ambulance. He got there just in time to deliver a baby who wouldn''t wait to get to the hospital.
There have been many special customers who liked to come often -- Rev. Bobby Douglas; Riley Moore, who would "like to reinvent the wheel"; Hal Bray, who was a "very special kid." Mike remembers the man who invented the piggy-back for the space shuttle from the time he was stationed at Columbus Air Force Base. He says, "If you pay attention, your customers will give you an education."
Carol says, "We are so appreciative of this community that has supported us."
Mike says fondly of the store as it has evolved through the years, "It put me through school and also my children."
It still remains a warm, comfortable, homey business, a real treasure for any community. Mike concluded, "I have no regrets. I''m thankful for all I have. I want to make it clear that I''m here because of the goodness of our Lord."
Happy Birthday, good friends at Military Hardware. I hope it really is better late than never. If we had never had you, how much we would have missed!
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.
2. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT