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the occasions lady and

Memories of Road Stops at Stuckey’s
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest

There was a time when no family road trip was complete without a stop at Stuckey’s.

We were fortunate. Our parents were fairly adventurous. They were brave enough to load three kids in the back of a 1970s-era Ford Country Squire station wagon and head across the country to parts unknown.

If you were lucky, about the time you needed gas on your trip, signs for an iconic roadside convenience store named Stuckey’s would come into view. Stuckey’s originated in the early 1930s in Eastman, Ga. After World War II, the company’s growth continued with additional stores opening in Georgia and Florida. As the post-war baby boom flourished and families took more long-distance trips, Stuckey’s eventually opened hundreds of stores across the U.S. The stores were usually located along major highways, were frequently paired with gas stations and restaurants, and were equipped with restrooms.

“Relax, refresh, refuel” was one of the company’s mottos during its heyday. There were lots of reasons why Stuckey’s appealed to road-weary travelers, especially families. The store typically had clean restrooms, a novelty section and its own brand of homemade candies.

Before modern-day convenience stores, gas station restrooms often looked like a prime location where unsuspecting travelers could be abducted or murdered. They were usually located outside of the main building, and you had to ask a sketchy man for a key to gain access to the sketchy restroom. It was not a good experience, especially for women. Stuckey’s typically offered clean restrooms that were located inside the store.

Stuckey’s was also known for its homemade candies. The founder, W.S. Stuckey Sr., began the business as a place to sell pecans from his family’s orchard in Georgia. After finding favor with Florida-bound tourists who stopped to purchase the pecans, his wife, Ethel, created a variety of homemade pecan candies to sell at the roadside business. Stuckey’s pecan log rolls and pecan divinity were among the Southern candies stocked at every store and branded on billboards as the “World’s Finest Pecan Candies.”

As a kid, the novelty gift and toy section was my favorite thing about Stuckey’s. There’s no telling how many little plastic boxes filled with Mexican jumping beans my parents bought over the years. I think every kid was mesmerized by those. Other novelties, like the Drinking Lucky Bird, were always on display; filled with a red liquid, the glass bird appeared to tip over and drink from a cup. My favorite Stuckey’s novelty, however, was the smoking monkey. It was often my toy of choice from the Stuckey’s vending machine. The small plastic monkey came with a few tiny paper cigarettes that you inserted into its mouth. I wasn’t allowed to light the paper cigarettes, but I’m sure I insisted that we make the monkey smoke all of its pack pretty quickly.

At its peak, Stuckey’s had more than 350 locations, which dwindled to fewer than 75 after a decline in the late 1970s. Today, Stuckey’s has more than 115 locations along many popular highways, including those in Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas.

“Stop and enjoy quick and delicious snacks, pleasant surroundings, everything for happy highway travel,” a vintage magazine ad read. “Look for Stuckey’s cool blue roof on the road to good times all over America.”

It’s not uncommon to see old Stuckey’s stores abandoned along the highway today – a few of them still have the brand’s iconic teal blue roof. For families who frequently visited Stuckey’s during the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, those abandoned stores are filled with memories of a place in time that simply made road trips more fun – one box of Mexican jumping beans at a time.