Let's Go Shopping!
Detroit Grocery Store
Let's imagine for a moment that we've just pulled up in front of the grocery store. Not by car, but by haywagon. Yeah, a haywagon. Mom and Pop are seated on the hard wooden seat, with the even harder leaf-type springs. Not a lot of give to those when you hit a bump in the road. The kids are piled up in the back of the wagon. Well, at least the youngest ones. The older ones are left at home on the farm to do chores. What do you expect? Just cause the folks have gone after a few essentials, doesn't mean the farm's gonna take care of itself!
You climb down off that wagon, you step over the sideboard, put one booted foot on a wooden wheel rung, and jump the rest of the way down. Pop gives each of you youngin's a hard look. He doesn't have to say a thing. It means "Look! Don't touch! And don't ask for anything, we ain't got the money for it anyway!"
Mom's dressed like she was headed to Sunday School and Church. So are the girls. The boys are clean and neat, but not so prettied up. Clean overalls and a shirt. At least everyone has shoes or boots on their feet! At home, in summer time you just ran barefoot.
You step through the doors into the mercantile or general store. Mr. Jones is behind the long mahogany counter.
"Welcome folks! What can I do ya for?" he asks the folks. Mom reaches into her reticule and hands Mr. Jones a piece of paper on which she's penciled down the few items she needs for home: a 10-pound bag of beans, a pound of salt, two pounds of sugar, two pounds of coffee, a 25-pound sack of flour, and some baking powder. Pop has added a box of nails for that fence you're gonna help him mend later this evening.
"It'll just be a few minutes, missus," Mr. Jones tells Mom. While they wait for the items to be gathered up, Mom walks through the store and wanders over to the sewing goods. There she peers at a bolt of fine cotton. She's imagining it made into little dresses for the girls. She never worried about buying material for her own clothes, instead, she was always dreaming about the fine dresses she could make her girls. Or the linen she could make shirts of for her boys.
"Is that something you'd like for yourself?" Pop whispers in her ear.
"Don't be silly," Mom scolds. "Besides, it's a nickle a yard! We can't afford that!" Still, she dreams of the pretty little dresses she could make.
Pop walks over to look at an axe handle. The one he has now is fixing to split any day. And he's thinking 'bout maybe going ahead and getting this handle. It's oak and would last a good while, so long as he didn't accidentally hit it on the handle when chopping wood! He looked at the price handwritten on the handle, 75-cents. Nope, not today! He'd have to wait till another day for that extra.
"Got your things right here!" calls out Mr. Jones. A small wooden crate sits on the big counter. The flour sack sits waiting on the floor in front of the counter.
Mom walks to the counter and opens up her reticule.
"That'll be $2 missus," says Mr. Jones. "Sorry 'bout the price, but coffee has gone up 3-cents in the last 2 weeks!"
"Well, we've gotta have our coffee in the morning!" Mom says. She knows she'll cut it with a little chickory just to make it go a little farther.
"I've thrown a piece of stick candy in for each of the youngin's," Mr. Jones added. "Including them is at home," he says.
"Oh, well, no, let me pay you for that!" Mom says.
"Nope, nope, you folks are good customers! You just keep coming back for more, okay?"
"Well, thank you kindly, Mr. Jones," Pop says. "Children, what do you say?"
"Thank you, Mr. Jones!" you all answer in unison.
Mr. Jones carries the crate out to the wagon and sits it in the back. Then he helps Mom up onto the seat that sits high above the ground.
"Now, ya'all be careful heading home!" Mr. Jones calls out. "And come again real soon!"
Mr. Jones heads back into the store, where Mrs. Jones enters from their private rooms behind the store.
"Who was that?" she asks her husband.
"Well, that was Mr. and Missus Smith from up the mountain a ways," he answers.
"I always did admire them folks. Hard workers. And never ask for credit, always pays cash on the barrel head," she says.
"Yep, mighty fine folks, wish they all was!"
"Mom, can we have the candy?" your little sister asks while you are bumped and jostled in the wagon.
"No, sweetie. Not till after dinner, and then you can all have a piece for dessert."
"Yippee!" you all yell.
Pop looks over at Mom and smiles. "All in all a good day, right Mom?"
"You're so right, Pop!"
It will be another hour and a half before the wagon gets home. Your chores will need to be done before you can sit done and have dinner, which the girls will help Mom cook. Then they'll clean up the kitchen before Mom will pass out the candy. A stick to every one of the kids. Mom and Pop just opt for another cup of that chickory laced coffee.
Yep, life was pretty darned good!