Posted by: patwogan | October 3, 2008

Grocery Shopping

I visited our local supermarket earlier this week and as I looked at the myriad selections we have now I was reminded of the local grocery store my parents shopped at.  Perhaps I should say my Mother shopped at because as I remember Dad stayed in the car and when Mom came out he complained about how long it had taken her to shop.  Keep in mind we had our own vegetables, some meat, and milk so it was mostly specialty items and staples that we had to buy at the store. 

The grocery store was the only place my parents bought on credit.  I think most everyone did.  It was probably more for convenience to the shopper and the grocer that a bill was run from payday to payday.  There was not a large inventory in the store.  The items were on shelves behind a counter which ran down the sides of the store with a meat counter across the back.  A shopper went to the counter, told the storekeeper what items were needed, and the storekeeper would get the items from the shelves.  The storekeeper would write the items down on a pad and give a carbon copy to the buyer.  There were several brands of laundry soap.  Two that I remember were Oxydol  and Rinso.  My Mom used Oxydol.  It was made by Proctor and Gambel. 

During World War II each family had food stamps as some items were rationed.  One of these items was sugar.  In order to buy sugar, the shopper had to present a ration stamp.  I don’t remember how many stamps each family was issued, but I know the use of sugar was definitely curtailed.  There are many recipes from that era which use sugar substitutes like honey, sorghum, and syrup.  Even with the stamps, there was a shortage of several items.  This was because the items were used to feed our soldiers.  One of the items in short supply was Franco-American spaghetti.  I LOVED Franco-American spaghetti!  Whenever our grocer, Mr. McCoy, got a shipment of Franco-American spaghetti he would put some under the counter for my Mom.  Another thing in truly short supply was Hershey bars.  Mr. McCoy would do the same thing with them.  I think this was because we were good customers and paid our bill. 

My Mom raised chickens and “dressed” them and sold them to Mr. McCoy for his market.  She also had other customers but he was her prime outlet.  I know there were ration stamps for meat, too, and although we butchered our own hogs, I don’t know whether we had our own beef, too.  In fact, until the freezer plants came into town, I don’t think we did as there was no way to keep beef fresh.  After the food lockers came into town, we had meat frozen in the locker.  I do remember buying some beef at the grocery store.  I remember liver, particularly.  It was supposed to be good for you.  I kind of liked it.

We also bought some canned fruit and my Mom was quite faithful to Del Monte brand.  It also was at times in short supply.  We brought bread at the grocery store and oleomargarine.  I don’t know why we didn’t churn butter, but imagine it was because we sold the cream for money.  We used Nucoa brand margarine.  There was some law which Wisconsin dairy farmers had gotten passed that made it illegal to sell yellow margarine.  Nucoa had a coloring packet in the package with it.  The margarine was white and you had to work the coloring packet into it to make it yellow.   Sometimes as a special treat Mom would buy boiled ham.  A boiled ham sandwich with Miracle Whip was absolutely my favorite sandwich.  That and white grapes in my lunch box made a great school lunch.

Although we bought most of our groceries at McCoy’s Grocery store, on some Friday nights Dad would stop by Mitchell’s Bakery on the way home and get a hot loaf of bread fresh out of the oven.  That was a real treat and we would have hot bread and cold milk for supper. 

Sometimes he would bring home tamales which he had gotten from a Mexican man.  The man sold them from a push-cart.  They were delicious and on the evenings when Dad brought home the tamales that was our supper. 

On payday when we paid our grocery bill, Mr. McCoy would fill a small sack with candy for my brother and me.  That was a really nice treat.  He would let us pick out what we wanted from the penny candy counter.  Sometimes that was a difficult decision, but delicious in its anticipation. 

Today’s supermarkets are a great improvement over the mom and pop stores back in the day, however, the personal touch is lacking.



  1. Mom, I surely love reading these. Thanks for writing them!

  2. I was going to say… I wouldn’t necessary say it was all that better. I would rather have that personal touch!
    Makes me think of Rycos on a larger scale compared to the stores I shop at today.

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