I was making a grocery list when I stopped and remembered the grocery stores when I was a kid. There weren’t many choices in rural Vermont then – you mostly shopped at whatever store was in the village. In Johnson, the main store was actually a Grand Union, but probably not like any GU you recall. We just called it Dick’s Store.
It was housed in an old brick building near the bank, not a company-built one near the edge of town. I don’t remember if there were any shopping carts, but it would have been impossible to take them out of the store as there were several steps leading in or out. I remember it as well-lighted, possibly the brightest indoor place I’d ever been. I am not exactly sure what was purchased there. Bananas, I guess, and orange juice. Sugar, flour, baking soda. Cheese. The few things that were not made at the farm. Since it was a dairy farm, with a small orchard, and with access to a meat locker where a beef was butchered and hung each year, there may not have been enough groceries we needed to fill a shopping cart anyway. Gram brought her extra eggs to trade for some of the goods.
One year at Christmas, the Grand Union company sold toy stores – they were cardboard with lots of tiny cardboard groceries. Santa brought me one, and I spent a number of hours cutting out the groceries and setting up the store which was not unlike the one where we shopped. I actually can’t imagine enough kids nowadays being interested in setting up stores to make it worth having them for sale, but it was entirely absorbing at the time. I tried adding more groceries cut from magazine ads, but they were mostly out of scale, which bothered me.
There was also an IGA, which may have belonged to the Joneses, although I may not remember that correctly. I don’t remember what they sold that Dick didn’t, but we went there once in a while. Those were our two choices, and we did just fine, at least by 1950s standards. Orange juice came in a large tin can with bluebirds on it – it probably lacked the flavor that bottled, refrigerated juice has, but since it was the only juice we had, we didn’t know the difference anyway.
In Cambridgeboro, Mom also shopped at two stores. We always walked, and she bought what she could carry or put in the baby stroller. We went most often to the one just up on our side of the street. We got nearly everything we needed there. I don’t recall much of it except I think it was kind of dark, except by the big front windows. Sometimes when Mom wanted fresh meat or things the smaller store didn’t carry, we went to the bigger store across the street. There was a sense of adventure in going there – crossing the streets was a big deal for me. Cambridge had once had a real green which had been bisected by Route 15 – therefore crossing meant navigating three different streams of traffic. There was a butcher at that store, and they had a walk-in cooler for meat with an exciting-looking latch than held the thickly insulated door closed tightly, I never got too close to it as I had a fear of somehow getting shut in. This was a more modern store with better lighting, fresh local meat, fresh produce and a cheerful couple who owned and ran it. I believe it is still in business, though no doubt with a different couple.
We moved over to where Dad still lives when I was nine. We got spoiled. Suddenly there were more stores, more lights, more things to buy. Are we better served? Maybe. But we can’t go back anyway. And someday I suppose this will all be quaint, too.