I continue to enjoy the walk down memory lane with Joseph Baca and jesus Lopez on KFUN on Monday. One thing leads to another with these talk shows, and recently they listed the many “Mom and Pop” grocery stores we used to have there. Yes, that was the term used to describe them at the time.
These delicious old stores served our town well. They were very necessary because in the old day the residents didn’t have vehicles and/or refrigerators. Life was simple then. Usually the lady of the house just walked to the nearby grocery store and bought whatever she needed for the next meal or two she would prepare. The store butcher would cut the piece of meat she wanted while she waited and visited with the store employees. and other customers, visiting about recent events that were newsworthy, sometimes known as gossip. Much of the meat and produce were grown near here.
Canned goods probably came from Gross Kelly or the Ilfeld warehouse on the Plaza. If the store near the Lady’s home didn’t have a can of tomatoes, she’d just walk a block or two to the next one, which usually had what she wanted. And, she probably didn’t bring any cash with her, because every store had credit, often done with a handshake and issued on a “pay as you can” tab. Oh, my! Those were the days.
Two stores I didn’t hear Jesus and Joseph mention were the Fourth Street Grocery, owned by Mrs. Dowlar, and the Hi-De-Ho just across from Castle Junior High on Baca Street. The Hi-De-Ho was owned by the Strongs, if memory serves me.
I sold my 4-H project rabbits to several of these stores and the market for fresh rabbit meat was good luck back then. My mother picked me up after school one day when I was a freshman at Highlands and said she had one more stop to make, this time at Art’s Food Market on Mills Avenue.
This was a bigger, more modern store than most, and I found all sorts of good things, labels to read. I was going to a picnic that weekend, and I found a bottle of olives that I thought would be great to share with my friends. Being a dumb country kid, I just walked out of the store with the jar in my hand. When I got to the car, Mother asked me if I had payed for this. In my young mind it didn’t occur to me that money was needed when one walked out the door of the store. I had to search out canned goods at our Valmora store all of the time, but I never had to pay for anything because the store manager just put it on my father’s tab. So! suddenly I was busted. Mother marched me right back into the store, found Art cutting meat in the back, and demanded in no uncertain terms, that I tell him what I did. I had shoplifted a jar of olives, no less.
Art refused to take any money for my crime. This really upset my strict mother, because she hoped she’d scare the wits out of me. Well, she didn’t need to worry, believe me. Just facing him and handing him that jar of olives sent a message to my brain that is still a lasting memory and from then on I was always first in line to pay for anything I had in my hand.
Come to think about it, I’ll bet those forgiving grocery store owners of yesteryear didn’t need security cameras and tags that beep if the item isn’t paid for. They had a built in sixth sense when an item was missing and who was in the store that day. And if they knew someone needed food and was broke, they were generous. Nobody ever went hungry on their watch. The good old days really were good, in so many ways.
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.