Our neighborhood grocers served us tirelessly and well. If they didn’t have an item you wanted, they’d get it for you. When your sons went to war, they placed their pictures on their walls and never failed to ask about those boys. You paid for your groceries as you bought them or it was quite all right to run a tab in one of the little record books behind the cash register. Their groceries were not cheap, because their suppliers took care of that! Then, into their midst, came our town’s first super markets…
We were spellbound! Our daily bread was cheaper than we could ever have imagined! The stores were as clean and modern as tomorrow and provided lots of jobs for all ages.
The first one I remember was Alber’s, of the Alber’s-Colonial chain in Cincinnati. They took up residence in a sparkling new building on Hinde Street that had a sliding window on the right side in front where you could buy a frozen treat.
We could not fathom that their dealing in quantities kept their prices so low. Where had they been all our lives? Now, we have to admit, they may have learned our names by sight if we went there often, but there the similarities to the faithful, old neighborhood grocery ended. It was a new day in every direction and long past time for change in our quiet, little farming community.
While the new stores were springing up, we on the home front were collecting scrap for the scrap drives brought on by the global war. We saved stamps and bonds. When we cashed in the $18.75 bonds later upon maturity, they were worth $25. We were growing victory gardens, holding victory songfests and placing service flags in our front windows to honor our fighting men. My sisters wrote scores of “V-Mail” letters to the servicemen they danced with in our town’s entertainment centers, such as “The Victory” and “The Chatterbox.”
Probably, my favorite, as a young wife and mother was “The A&P”, which had a long history in our country, having been originally called “The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company” and traveled door to door via horses and buggies. The store’s products were greatly loved and respected. Their bakery goods were without par. I remember Dick Roush was manager, (his wife worked in the dress department at J.C. Penney’s) (I hope I have given them the correct last name, if not, you can correct me.)
Ann Blue was cashier there for many years. She was a very pretty lady with a son. She was married to Charlie Blue.
Ivan Blair was the produce manager. He was always so nice and friendly to everyone. His son Kenneth was manager of the new “Singer’s Sewing Center” and young Ivan (junior) Blair was at Washington High School during the years I was.
My husband and I had a strict budget – of necessity – and, after paying 30 cents each way to the “A and P” in a “Try-Me-Cab”, I dared not spend more for groceries than we had planned on! Baby Michelle (Micki) used to love our trips to the “A&P” on Saturdays. Her bright brown eyes grew even larger at the sight of the many products the store offered.
As a new army bride, I was happy to find an “A&P” in the village near Fort Knox where we had our first apartment. It made stretching army pay so much easier.
Another favorite super market was the “Thrift-E” on Court Street. My sister Lois began her after-school, part time work in the meat department there, sawing into her fingers one by one. Her boss was a jovial fellow we all just called “Butch.” When my teenage girlfriends and I began looking over the dating scene, we were not above stalking the “Prey” and making ourselves available for Saturday night dates. I was especially interested in a young classmate who worked at the “Thrift-E” as a carry-out boy. (learning patience as he searched diligently for “a blue Ford in the next block” so that he could finally unload those heavy bags and go on to the next customer). My mother wondered why I wanted to accompany her for her Saturday night shopping at that store. (It was so I could see the object of my latest conquest and hoped he would smile at me. When he did, I was on cloud nine!)
The war years saw our town spring into life. We shopped more than ever, expressed the hope that the war would soon be over and sent care packages to the boys in far away places. I remember my mother baking an apple pie for my brother Jimmie and packing it so careful. His last letter had mentioned how much he would love to have a piece of her pie again…I think he was in North Africa at the time.
The super markets brought countless new food items into our midst. Grocery shopping became more than a chore, it was exciting. Women got out old cookbooks and studied them, knowing the ingredient they needed would all be available in one of the local stores.
Remember the first “Kroger?” It was managed by Scott Harner. I can’t remember where the first one was located, but I seem to recall, it moved during the years. It was and still is a “Cadillac” among all of them.
Who would ever have believe the department stores would all go away with Father Time? Who thought our Saturday night shopping expeditions would become only a memory, when we used to meet our friends and visit awhile as we tried on shoes, looked at and bought clothes and believed in our hearts those days would never end…Time certainly marches onward, but is it always for our betterment.
At any rate, we are here today and gone tomorrow , perhaps a hundred years from now it won’t matter, but right now, my friends, it most assuredly does! It is always such fun to reminisce with you!
Jean Mickle is a local resident who writes columns for the Record-Herald.