Flanders Brothers—Rolling through Telfair
In the 1930s, the United States entered the “Great Depression,” and it affected all walks of American life. During the worst years of the Depression, the overall jobless rate was 25%, with another 25% taking wage cuts or working part time, and the gross national product fell almost 50%.. During the Depression Dwight Flanders and Norwood Flanders were “laid off” from their jobs on the Southern Railroad. After they returned to their hometown of Scotland, they watched as the town changed with the Bank of Scotland closing due to a decrease in local cash flow and a declining agricultural market.
With limited funds, the brothers started a small grocery in 1932, called the F & F Store. With a nation-wide cash flow problem, rural America became a big “swap meet.”. Farmers without cash swapped their products (eggs, livestock, vegetables, firewood, etc.) For staples which they could not grow. With their customers’ mode of transportation in decline, the brothers decided to carry the store to their customers, so the first “rolling store” was developed. The Scotland store became the home base, and the rolling store was stocked with the necessities for a rural family plus a few special extras like candy for the youngest customers. The third brother, William Chester, drove the truck five days per week with Mondays reserved for cleaning, restocking, and servicing his truck. This “down time” gave the brothers time to carry their “swap” items to market. Much of their real money came from selling these items to CCC workers and towns people.
The small business gradually grew, and Chester became the third partner. With the new partnership came a new name, Flanders Brothers. Besides a new name, the brothers added two more rolling stores as well as a larger store and warehouse. By 1941, other services were added. A larger home base was built, with the smaller store converted into additional warehouse space. A line of farm machinery, home appliances, hardware, and building supplies were added to the grocery inventory. The brothers also developed a small sawmill and logging operation.
As business increased, the brothers decided in the mid 1960s to build a store in McRae. After the death of William Chester Flanders in 1970, the McRae store was closed. A year later, 1971, Norwood Flanders died, and the third brother was in failing health, thus causing the closure of the Scotland store. The last brother, Dwight Linwood Flanders, died in 1987. All three brothers are buried in the Scotland cemetery in Wheeler County.In a time of Depression, the Flanders brothers took a progressive step to serve their customer base. Like the supply wagons of the Old West, the Flanders’ “rolling stores” filled a necessary niche in the lives of Telfair reside