The grocery list, then and now

By Bill Shepard

There is a lot that can be said about the way time has changed how we do things since I was a little boy. Among those things is the way we did our grocery shopping. I suppose the reason I am writing about this is because I have just returned from the store and the story is fresh on my mind.

Before I started to the store this morning, I made a short list of the things I needed. “Not much,” I said to myself, “but I’ll make my list anyway. A gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and some breakfast cereal.”

I arrived at the huge store, unlike any that I have ever seen. It is known as the Bargain Store. Folks come from miles to trade at this store. Anything a person might need can be can be purchased, and a lot he doesn’t need.

I entered the store, pulled out my shopping list, took one glance at the items listed and threw it aside. “I don’t need a list to remind me of the things I need,” I said to myself. I chose my shopping cart and started toward where I knew the milk and bread aisles were. I hadn’t moved more than three yards when my eyes fell on some tasty-looking cookies and a sign that read SALE 79 CENTS.

“That’s a real bargain,” I thought and placed two of them inside my cart. It seemed every few yards, there was another bargain staring in my face. By the time I reached the milk and bread aisles, my basket had a number of items that had not been on my list. When I finally reached the checkout counter and began unloading, I was amused with myself .

One by one, I placed them on the counter and the cashier totaled them. I began to sort of smile at myself as I recalled instances from a long time ago. The cashier smiled at me and said, “The total is $45.35.” I really smiled when she said that and I said, “All I needed was a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.”

On arriving home, I thought about the way Mama did her grocery shopping when I was a boy. We bought groceries at a large store on the west end of Darlington where I lived in the Mill Village.

The store was owned by the same folks who owned the big cotton mill near the same spot. Folks who traded at that store had given it a name – the Grab All! Nearly everyone who worked at the mill bought their groceries, as well as their other needs, at the Grab All. All the folks who worked at the mill had credit at the store and most had to use it during those harsh Depression years.

Once a week, Mama would take stock of the things she needed and would write them on a piece of paper; she called it her “grocery order.” She would hand the paper to me and I would take off to the Grab All. I would look for my favorite clerk and hand him my grocery order.

He would usually take a small sack and place several pieces of candy in it. “Share some of the candy with your sisters,” he would say.

The next day, a delivery man would arrive at our house with our groceries. He drove a big red horse, hitched to a pretty wagon, painted green with red wheels. The man’s name was Fred. He would come inside the house with Mama’s groceries in a box and with her written list in one hand, he would check each item as he took it from the box.

Mama never bought anything she did not need. That’s quite different from the way I do my shopping these days. Maybe I should write my grocery list and send it to the store!

Author: Duane Childers

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