When you were a kid, was a trip to the grocery store fun for you?
Oh man, it was for me.
People who know me know that I still like a reasonable amount of store stops. There’s something appealing in checking out grocery stores, department stores, big box stores, little locally owned shops, the whole enchilada. I like seeing what’s new. I am always startled by the mid-July return to stores of back-to-school supplies but I love all those fresh notebooks and folders and pencils. I love the onset of Halloween season and could spend hours looking at every possible variation on masks and decorations.
But even grocery shopping is fine with me and has been since I was a kid.
I spent a lot of time going to grocery stores with my dad. He was the primary grocery shopper in my family. In fact, I have almost no memory of my mom in the supermarket. She wasn’t a big shopper in any way. Clothes shopping just about pushed her over the edge.
My trips to the store with my dad, however, were real treats for me.
I have only vague memories of Marshall Carter’s Madison Street Market. It seemed big to me at the time, but judging by the KFC now occupying its former location it must not have been all that big. My only distinct memory of it was that it seemed to be built on two levels. It seems like you had to step down to get to the rear of the store.
I loved going to Jack Gommel’s butcher shop. (I love seeing Mr. Gommel behind the butcher counter at Marsh these days too.) My dad and I would start at one end of the L-shaped butcher counter, buying baloney and bacon (when we didn’t have a supply from our own hogs) and hamburger (when we didn’t have a supply from our own cows) and the like. We made our way, shuffling along the butcher case with the other shoppers, from beginning to end, then ducked down the aisles to pick up the random canned or packaged good.
Dad and I often went to Marsh or Wise or Ross too, but Gommel’s stands out in my memory, as does the Eavey’s grocery store just off South Madison Street. Eavey’s was a favorite stop for me because of the magazine rack near the elevated office at the front corner of the store. I would peruse the magazines and comics there while Dad wheeled his cart around the store.
The magazine memory, of course, is somewhat unrelated to grocery shopping and more closely connected to the glimpse of the forbidden that Eavey’s magazine rack offered. Because there, on an upper row, were the kind of men’s magazines that most boys wanted to get a look at. They had names like “True” and “Man’s Life” and usually featured stories about hardy men surviving bear attacks and blizzards and brutal Pacific islands during World War II.
I spent most of my time at Eavey’s with my head whipping back and forth from the magazines to the aisle nearest me to make sure my dad wasn’t walking up behind me.
That’s because, in addition to grizzly mauling stories, the magazines featured cheesecake photos of models. The bikinis the women wore were probably modest compared to what we see today.
But take my word for it: They represented something you didn’t see every day in Cowan or Stick City. Even though Playboy and its imitators were in existence even then, those were beyond my grasp and my expectations.
The men’s magazines – and monster magazine and comics – in the rack at Eavey’s, however, were just an added bonus that helped ensure that any time my dad headed toward his pickup and asked if I wanted to go to the grocery, I was ready.