Walking With Jackie the Ripper

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Jackie and I miss having a little grocery store to stop in and get a snack when we are out walking. We don't have any here in our town, and The Rip and I acutely feel the lack. Before we moved back to the scene of my childhood, almost every morning found us in the vicinity of an old-fashioned place of business which was almost identical to one well-known to me as a child.

Going into that small grocery store to get a wiener for Jackie took me back more than a few years to the time in the thirties when my father was operating "The Famous Market" here in the Ozarks. (Seems odd, but I remember the phone number was "7-0.")

Even the bookkeeping system was almost identical to what Daddy used back then. In those days almost everyone "ran a bill," as they referred to it, and each purchase was noted on a small tablet which held a carbon so as to make a duplicate of the original. This duplicate was placed in an alphabetized file which looked exactly like a bunch of mouse trap springs housed vertically in a large book-type contraption. When a customer wanted to pay up, it was a simple matter to pull all the duplicates, add them up, and present them to the payee, who was rewarded with a sack of candy called a "treat."

I liked to be on hand when this happened because often the bill payer would give me the candy. (I tried to look pitiful and underfed, and that was not easy because I have always been more-than-healthy appearing.) Daddy permitted me to accept as long as I thanked them nicely.

In those simple times it was not at all unusual for an adult to walk around to the back of the meat case where the wieners were kept and just help themselves to a couple along with a handful of crackers from the box which was was always open on the counter. I tried that once. Only once. Daddy did not hold with kids mimicking adults in such manner. He was strict in many ways and we had to ask permission.

I remember one time when I know he would have loved to choke the life out of me. Just put his fingers around my neck and throttle me lifeless. I had been sent on an errand to the store for some small item Mama needed because we didn't have a phone at home to call up and place an order. If you had a phone, you could order anything and they would deliver what you wanted, be it a loaf of bread or whatever. Twice a day delivery was what Daddy promised and that's what you got if you had a phone.

As I mentioned, we didn't have a phone and it was just about as easy to walk to the store as it was to walk to a neighbor's to borrow their phone. Unfortunately I walked in just as a lady was pricing some cantaloupe which daddy had purchased off the farm produce wagon for resale. This was the same produce wagon which had stopped at our house no more than a hour before I started my errand, the same produce wagon which had a sign advertising "cantaloupes -- 3 for a quarter."

In my ignorance of wholesaling and retailing practices, I was appalled when I heard Daddy say, "Missus, those nice cantaloupe are fresh from the field and sell for fifteen cents each or two for a quarter.

"What!" I yelled at the top of my voice. "Mama just got three of 'em for a quarter off the peddler's wagon!"

Somehow Daddy was able to control himself and the little lady customer laughed and tried to explain to me how my father had to make a profit in order to take care of his family.

The sweet lady was exceedingly gracious, yet I can to this very day see the little red spots on my father's cheeks which would appear when one of his offspring caused him such extreme embarrassment. I know he often wondered why in his wildest dreams he ever thought he wanted children.