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Vertrees: Grocery bag full of memories

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: November 28, 2013 6:22AM



In the beginning — I mean when I was trying to grow up — we bought food at a grocery store, the Grover Phillips place there on the corner of Elnora’s incredibly humming downtown. There by the barbershop.

We didn’t really buy — we often used Rhode Island Red hen eggs instead of money. We never called it a supermarket, although it was a super little place — simply the grocery store.

By any name in today’s fast-moving world, shopping for food has its lighter moments, including my fumbling efforts to swipe a credit card the right way. In pre-tech days, swipe would mean a crime. Or at least a misdemeanor.

Informative, like the sign in the middle of a wonderful doughnut display, a kind of Loreli thing, beckoning us. It said “2 boxes for $5.” I cleverly noticed a smaller sign that said we could buy one for $2.50. The nice girl from bakeryland explained it. Simple. “If you pay $5, you get two.”

There are other trying decisions, like “paper or plastic bag?” I don’t like plastic because it seems to be almost indestructible and we have some plastic politicians in Washington. That’s scary.

Another day I approached a doughnut layout, just to look of course, and stopped beside another aging chap. After a brief silence, perhaps meditation, he grinned and said “Hell, at our age, let’s go for it.” I found solace in that reasoning. Maybe the next time we visit Fort Myers, Fla., I will go stand by that doughnut place and think about him. But at our age, you never know.

Buying cereal makes me confused and a bit sad. I have not understood the multiplicity of selections since they knocked Bob Richards and his vaulting pole off Wheaties boxes. I think that we got dishes or glasses or some prize in cereal stuff that we traded for at the Phillips food emporium.

One day I noticed this fellow as he checked the big cereal array. I think he was not happy, because he was moving his lips with some clever names of his own.

I am a bit sad because my mother’s cereal recipe never caught on in the outside world. When our home-baked bread got old, she attacked it with a rolling pin until it was like powder. Presto! We had good, nourishing cereal. We called it Chicken Feed.

Being a bright rural kid, I often wrote the grocery list to help my dad when he went alone. One day he came home in a mild, plaintive huff because, “I could not find any bacon powder.” That’s what I wrote on the list — it was baking powder we wanted. Heck, I was just trying to help.

And, this is important — my mom made our doughnuts. Nobody worried about sugar or calories. That is a sweet memory from the world as we kids knew it.

I enjoyed a memorable moment while checking out the other day. The retired fellow who was bagging my loot noted that, “Your wife has not been in for a while.” He wondered about her. I do not know his name and he may not know mine, but this was a super moment for me. He remembered her.

Moments like that don’t come in plastic or paper, and they are better even than doughnuts.



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