Oshkosh Stories and Snapshots: The Corner Grocery Store

The Corner Grocery Store
1940s-early '50s
Contributed by: Ron

It was one of the neighborhood fixtures, a place not often experienced anymore, where the grocer personally waited on each customer and you waited your turn.

There were sixteen of these small, mostly family-owned stores within five blocks of where I lived, each with it's own personality, most located on a corner.

None of them remain today. They simply could not compete with the prices, the selection, the variety of the larger food stores. So they went the way of the horse and buggy, and black and white TV.

They were viewed as much as a social center by the customer as they were viewed as a business by the owner. There was a humanness, a neighborliness there that didn't exist in the larger stores. It was a place where you sat and visited with friends and with the owner when he wasn't busy tending to customers. It was a place to drink a pop, eat a candy bar, and, after your grocery list was filled, to say to the owner "write it up."

My mother did her weekly grocery shopping on Fridays at Krogers, a south side supermarket, if their advertised spcials competed favorably with Krambos and the A&P, downtown stores. But even though the bought groceries would fill, sometimes spill over the kitchen table upon her return, the supply, with six hungry boys and one husband to feed, wouldn't last much beyond the weekend.

The fill-ins: the loaf of bread, the quart of milk, the pound of butter, the ring of bologna, the items a family needed to carry them through to the next Friday were bought during the week at the corner grocer. And, if you had a sense of loyality, you bought them at the one in your neighborhood.

The corner grocery store was an integral part of our community as were the church, the tavern, the school. Each helped provide a stability, a restraint, a sense of order and belonging most neighborhoods had when I was growing up.

There is a longing to return to those days; to those glass cases were penny candy was displayed: the white cigs with red tips, the two-for-a-penny caramels, the red and black licorice sticks, the pink and white lozenge tablets; to the cookie case with glass doors, the walk-in-cooler, the sawdust on the floor, the narrow box of individual tablets of charge slips kept on the grocer's counter; to that long pole wth the clawlike contraption on the end used by the grocer to grab a box of cereal off the top shelf and catch it with his free hand without batting an eye, and; to the grocer I knew so well who would ease himself up from his favorite chair and see the little boy standing along side the man I am now.

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