OIL TROUGH — One of the five Arkansas sites recently added to the National Register of Historic Places is an old country store that children in Oil Trough used to call “the Pepsi store.”
Garland Hankins said he remembers working in the store, known as the Hankins Store since his father, H.T. Hankins, purchased the building, and the iconic Pepsi sign on the side of the building that invoked the nickname.
The old building on North Main Street in Oil Trough sits across Main Street from houses of members of the Hankins family and is separated from City Hall by Perry Road.
Garland Hankins said the building was constructed in 1904 and has had five owners.
“My mother and dad bought it in 1945,” Hankins said. “It’s the oldest thing in this town, and I thought my mother and dad would be proud it was on the National Register.”
Hankins stocked shelves in the store when he was growing up, and people in the community used to gather on the porch to talk, but the building was especially important to his mother, Violet, who worked in the store for 54 years.
“The only time she was not in the store was when she was at church,” Hankins said.
Even though an 11-mile trip to Newport or a 16-mile trip to Batesville does not seem daunting, Hankins said people in the 1950s were not as mobile, and many in the area did not have vehicles to take them to larger communities. The Hankins Store held many of the necessities for the people who called Oil Trough home.
“We had everything a farmer could need,” Hankins said. “I called it an olden-days Walmart.”
Hankins, who was mayor of Oil Trough for 19 years, said the roads around the store used to be bustling with various businesses. A tornado that hit the town in 1968 killed several people and destroyed many of the buildings in the area, but the store was spared.
The store closed in 2004. Hankins said his brother Parmer kept the store open for a short time after their mother died but eventually closed the Hankins Store.
According to the National Park Services website, the National Register of Historic Places is “the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.”
The list is part of a national program to collect data and help in the preservation of the nation’s historic and archeological resources. The list was authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
Properties listed on the National Register are evaluated by their age, integrity and significance. To be eligible, a property must be at least 50 years old and must maintain a historic look.
Hankins said he was not sure if the National Register would accept the store because it had fallen into disrepair since it was closed.
“I asked if it mattered that it’s in terrible condition,” he said. “I was told that was fine. They seemed happy to have something this old come through. Most of the buildings being submitted now are much younger than this.”
The family was told to expect a proclamation and information to erect a plaque citing the building as a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.