There's a new supermarket opening nearby, this Wednesday. It's a Giant. Giant is the name of the chain. But it is a giant. It's the biggest grocery store I've seen in Pennsylvania. It will have a coffee shop with internet access and a fireplace, a café, a Weight-Watchers, a child care center, a community room, some sort of work-out place, a bank, a dry cleaners, two nutritionists, a chef's grill, carving station and take-out/eat-in meals, a cooking school, an in-house Staples store, an in-house Hallmark card shop, of course a drive-through pharmacy, oh, the list seems endless. All of this IN the store. Inside the store. Amazing. To me anyway.
You know at the beginning of the 20th century, grocery stores in the U.S. were "full service." A customer would ask a clerk behind the counter for specific items and the clerk would package the stuff for them. Even the early chain stores were all entirely full-service.
But in 1916, a paradigm shift occurred in this kinda stuff. The idea of a "self-serving store" was actually patented. Seems like such an obvious idea. But it was patented. Don't know how you would patent it. Anyone could do it.
According to the Smithsonian Institution, the first real supermarket in the U.S. was opened in 1930. Now I'm sure in the north, that these things became very common, very quickly.
But I was raised in the south. We were way behind the north in those days.
My very first school field trip was to a new fangled idea place: a supermarket. This would have been probably in 1946. Forty-five five-year-olds held hands and walked two-by-two a few blocks down to this new thing. We got a tour and a spiel about how wonderful this was and how it was something called "the wave of the future." That meant zip to us.
My Mama still did her shopping at a store where she called in her order like this:
"About a half pound of ground beef, a few slices of bologna, a half-dozen eggs, a can of peas..." Like that. She coulda ordered 4 eggs. That would have been okay. You didn't have to buy them in a particular quantity.
A black man named John would deliver the groceries at some point during the day. It didn't matter when. Mama was home. Mama was always home.
You could go down to the store and pick out your own stuff, but why bother? But once when Mama was in a sort of a hurry for some eggs, she sent me down to get some. At the store the eggs were just out in a big box thing. Beside that was a stack of egg cartons. You just picked out the eggs you wanted and put them into a carton and took them up to the old-fashioned counter.
I was 6 at the time. I can still see my little hands reaching into the egg box and picking up eggs. I didn't know how to handle them. I crushed at least a dozen eggs trying to get the half-dozen she had told me to get. I would reach in and truly try to be gentle, but my little fingers didn't know how. My fingers would just break right into an egg. Try again. Break another one. FINALLY the jerk at the counter moved his lazy butt and came out and got them for me. There was a pretty good mess goin' on by this time.
When the monthly grocery bill came, he had charged Mama for all the ones I had broken. We were poor, and this was quite a blow to her. I'm talkin' poor. I hadn't told her about the ones I had broken because the guy hadn't fussed at me or anything. The day the bill came was a sad day for me. Mama didn't yell at me. She was an easy Mama. I just knew that money was not something we had, and I was sad that I had caused her this woe.
She stopped using that store. A new store called a supermarket --Mack's Grocery Store -- soon opened fairly nearby. You couldn't call in your order there, but they did deliver the stuff to you after you had come in and picked it all out yourself and paid for it. It seemed like such a big store at the time, but it was about the size of a modern 7-11.
My memory of Mack's is a big jar of jellybeans. This was a HUGE jar of jellybeans. There was a contest to guess how many beans were in the jar. It wasn't just a contest for kids; grown-ups entered too. I was a pretty smart little kid. I didn't just take a wild guess. I studied the jar. I won.
But not the jellybeans. The prize was a big ol' doll. I wasn't a doll-type girl. I wanted the jellybeans. I gave the doll to my sister Bonnie. She loved it. A girlie-girl for sure.
That Bonnie. I was smart. She was lucky.