Bob Mitchell: Grocery shopping not what it used to be

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Going to the grocery store as late as the 1960s, even later in some communities, was once a more personal event than it is today.

There was no automation for possible computer errors to tangle with when you were checking out.

There is a price differential to be noticed too.

For the most part, certain particular items were always in their shelf space and there was no running all over the place to find a particular item. And, in small towns there were not any monsters that required either a bicycle or skateboard to make it from one end to the other. Most usually, there was one clerk on the floor that knew where every item was located and would most likely fetch it for you while your shopping was being completed. Come to think of it, most of the grocery outlets of the past in Cassville had wooden floors. Two of the eight had concrete.

Checking out

The most tedious part of grocery shopping in the past was checking out. Every item had to be handled and calculated on a machine with the amount keyed on the face and then a handle pulled or a button pushed to record the amount. There were no bar codes to be read, the amount of the item had been stamped upon it when it arrived at the store and there was no uncertainty about how much you were going to pay for that particular item.

Credit accounts

For a lot of people there was a running account of credit, some going as long as a month at a time before their bill was paid. If this method was used, every item had to be recorded, by hand, on a small booklet that was filed under the customer’s name. For a rather large family, this could be a long and tedious manner of recording each trip, sacking or boxing the purchases. There was never any of those plastic sacks that later botched the countryside.

Owners of a couple of the grocery stores, there were six or eight in Cassville at one time, were close friends and were once questioned about the credit business they did. There was never any interest charged on a regular account as there might be if you went to a bank and borrowed the money to buy groceries.

Meat counter

There were no pre-packed meat counters in those days. Cuts of meat came from a side of beef that hung in a cold storage area in that department. When a request was made for a particular cut of beef, out came the side and onto the butcher block it went, where the meat cutter would manipulate his large knife or saw around over the side of beef to get the exact size and thickness the customer desired.

That butcher block was one large hunk of wood that would be constantly cleaned by scraping the top, a method that would be frowned upon these days by health authorities.

Working a side of beef down to the trimming of bone to acquire material to make hamburger really displayed the skill of the meat cutter who was usually a master of his trade. The wielding of his trimming knife over and around the surface of the large bones of the carcass really displayed his skill level.

Dog owners liked this era since they could collect about as many bones, of any size, as they could use. The existence of all of today’s pet foods just did not exist.

No grocery carts

There were few grocery carts in those days, especially for the mom and pop operations, baskets to hold purchases were the order of the day.

Getting your purchases to a vehicle parked at curbside or the small parking lot was no problem, more than likely they were carried out in paper sacks by either the grocer or an employee.

Supermarkets are quite accommodating today, especially for senior citizens.

No availability for frozen foods

Up until the end of this era, there were no frozen foods available for customers. For the most part in those days, facilities were not available to keep or display them.

Arrival of this availability came much later when the grocery markets gave way to supermarket operations that brought all the modernistic features and services that exist today. Anyone in the past who would have thought of a self-service check out would have been ruled “teched” in the head.

Daylight Saving Time

Just as I have previously mentioned, Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday, March 14.

This event is followed by St. Patrick’s Day on the 17th, and spring begins on the 20th.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: