O is for Oatmeal, Onions, and Oranges
O is my next letter in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. O is also for "Oh dear, this week got totally away from me, and now I have a lot of catching up to do!" The Monday Memories assignment this week was to write about a shopping experience from the past...
Shopping was much different back when I was a girl growing up in a small town in the Midwest fifty some years ago. There were no malls or superstores at that time, at least not in those parts. Our town had an old-fashioned mainstreet with stores that looked very much like the one above... a bakery, a butcher shop, and a couple each of grocery stores, drug stores, five and dime stores, hardware stores, drygoods stores, clothing stores, furniture store/mortuaries, cafes and bars. One could find pretty much everything needed for day to day life.
Growing up in rural America was fairly safe for kids back then, and we were free to roam the town on foot or bicycle when we weren't in school, as long as we showed up at the appointed times for dinner (as lunch was called), supper, and bedtime, and had completed our assigned chores.
I have wonderful memories of walking to the dime store with my allowance, which was not more than a quarter, or 50 cents as I grew older, and shopping to my heart's content thru toys, craft supplies, a huge variety of penny candy, and candy bars much larger than today's for just a nickel. It was also where we purchased birthday gifts and Mother's day gifts, tried on summer flip-flops from a giant bin, and bought our school supplies in the fall.
Mom bought groceries once a week at the local Red Owl grocery. We were well fed on about thirty five dollars a week, in addition to meat being purchased in quantity for our deepfreeze, and milk being delivered to the doorstep twice a week in glass bottles. There were no plastic shopping bags to blight the local landscape. Groceries were packed in boxes that the goods had arrived in at the store, and later on in brown paper shopping bags that sometimes broke thru on the bottom if packed too full! As I grew older, Mom would often send me to the Red Owl on my bicycle to obtain some item needed for baking or supper. With sidebaskets on my bike I could carry quite a bit and make the round trip in no time!
My favorite shopping memory from my childhood was at Christmas time. The stores would stay open in the evenings for Christmas shopping. All the shops were decorated and colored lights were strung across the mainstreet in several rows. Crunching thru the snow, my breath freezing in mid-air, it was a magical time to look for just the right gift for each family member to be purchased from the small stash of money I'd managed to save up and Dad had supplemented a bit.
When we reached our early teens, a larger city about an hour's drive away got the first shopping mall. It consisted of one large store and maybe five or six small ones, but we thought we'd hit the big time when we got to go there! An out of town shopping trip usually included a stop at the German Meat Market, where we'd buy old-fashioned handmade weiners that came attached to each other in a long string and tasted so good that we would often eat one or two "uncooked" on the way home!
A couple years later I discovered the tiny treasure of a bookstore tucked away near the end of Main Street in the city. Reading had always been my passion, and it was love at first sight! No large chain bookstore will ever be able to compete with the magic of that little shop, books cleverly displayed to catch your attention. I can close my eyes, step thru the door, and remember it in exact detail! I did a lot of babysitting back then, so always had money for few new books. I still have some of the ones I purchased there.
Life was so much simpler back then... not always easy, but not nearly as complicated, busy, or risky as it is for children growing up now. I think we lost something good along the way.