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190819 August 19, 2019


Running to the Store
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    “I need you to run to the store for me!” This was a common directive aimed at me by my mother when I was a kid in the mid 1950s. Although I sometimes questioned whether it really “needed” to be done, I knew for sure she did not mean I actually had to “run.” I also knew it was still a required task more than just a simple request. 

    It was not a big deal really, and often I enjoyed having a reason to go there. For me, the store to which I had to “run to” was the Kroger store located at the northwest corner of East Clinton Street and Lincoln Street. It was a mere two-tenths of a mile from our house on East Clinton, and was less than a 10 minute walk. It would have taken less time had I actually ran. It was a modern flat topped building made of cream colored bricks and big glass windows.

    Instead of running, most of the time I would walk, but sometimes I rode my bicycle – when I had one. I had bad luck keeping bicycles back then since they seemed to disappear in the night more often than not - to never to be seen again. But walking was no great challenge and I never seemed to have a grocery list which filled more bags than I was able to carry home in one trip.

    Most often my trips were to purchase a half-gallon of Meadow Gold milk and/or a loaf of white bread. It was never an order for bread or just a loaf of bread; it was always a “loaf of white bread.” The brand of bread I normally bought was Merita. It may sound a bit strange for a pre-teenage male to be brand conscious, but not to me. After all, Merita bread sponsored “The Lone Ranger” and the name was pounded into my brain with multiple commercials during each week’s show. My mother finally quit asking me to buy lettuce because every time she did I ended up getting her cabbage instead. She always told me to get the firmest head of lettuce I could find, and the green leafy head of cabbage was always much firmer than the head of iceberg lettuce. I didn’t eat either one so how was I to know the difference?

    Sometimes eggs and butter were added to the list, along with cans of Puss ‘n Boots cat food during the few years we had a cat. I was not trusted to shop for much more probably because of my history with cabbage. The majority of other items were reserved for my mother’s own big trips to buy the family’s groceries.
But, no matter how short or long the grocery list happened to be, no trip to Kroger or any other supermarket was complete for a kid without a stroll down the breakfast cereal aisle. I could have cared less which type of cereal was in a box, it was the toys inside which caught my attention. There were wonderful boxes with the words “Free Inside” printed is big letters on their fronts for kids back then. Cheerios had a collection of guided missiles which could be fired from their spring-loaded launchers. I hated Cheerios, but ate them religiously just to get the toys in the bottom of the cereal boxes. And I never waited until I ate my way down to the toy. Like a coal miner I dug through the flakes of cereal until my fingers finally grasped the prize. One time, with a box top from Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and 25-cents I became the proud owner of a set of three colorful plastic frogmen who would surface and dive in a tub of water when their bases were filled with baking soda. Later, another quarter and a box top brought me a small USS Nautilus inspired submarine in our mail box which used the same principal of baking soda propellant. It seemed each month offered newer toys and sets to be collected. Other items were designed to catch the attention of children while their parents shopped. Our kitchen cabinet was the home to a set of ‘Howdy Doody” jars which once held Welch’s Grape Jelly.

    Speaking of collected sets, in the 1959-60 timeframe Kroger offered shoppers an opportunity to purchase a complete set of The Golden Book Encyclopedia. But, they were not sold in sets. Instead, each week one new volume was added to the shelf, and for 99-cents a week it took 16 weeks to own the complete set. It is reported 60 million copies of individual encyclopedia volumes were sold between 1959 and 1961. I collected the entire set, but only by rushing to Kroger at the start of each week to insure I got the latest volume before they sold out. As an aside, I still sing the song from “The Mickey Mouse Club Show” each time I try to spell out E-N-C-YC-LO-PEDIA, thanks to Jiminy Cricket’s efforts.

    A trip to Kroger in 1956 resulted in the purchase of a box of Quaker Oat Meal. I did not particularly like oat meal, but just as I bought cereal for what was free inside, I did the same for the oat meal. Inside specially marked boxes of Quaker’s was a free ticket to attend the opening of the space classic “Forbidden Planet.” The ticket only saved me a quarter when I presented it to the ticket taker at the Lyric Theatre, but the idea of getting to see a first run movie for free was exciting. I should have kept it. Those tickets now sell for over $35 each on eBay.

    While we are back to the subject of free, who could forget the opportunity of free things available when shopping at Kroger via their Top Value Trading Stamp program? With each purchase the small yellow stamps would be distributed to be pasted onto a page in a book. Depending upon the amount of the purchase different denominations of stamps would be earned. Stamps became pages; pages became books; books became merchandise. The more books you collected, the bigger the items you could redeem them for at the local Top Value Redemption Center. But a whole story could be written just on collecting trading stamps. My first Coleman camp stove was purchased with Top Value stamps.

    Over the years I witnessed great technological changes happen at my Kroger store. One of the first things I remember was the installation of the motorized conveyor belts at the cashier stands. To my young mind it was magic. Put your items on the belt and the cashier pushed a button and they moved to her. She rang up each item up by manually entering the prices printed on them. There were no bar codes and no scanners then, you remember? After keying in each price she pushed the items to the sack boy who skillfully packed them into the brown paper bags. I would put my purchases on the far end of the belt, as far away from the cashier as possible, just to see her do her magic and make the items come to her.

    Another technology change I witnessed happened to the front door of the store. One day my mother asked me to run to the store for her. As I walked up and reached out to open the front door I fell flat on my face. When I had gone to push the door open, it opened automatically without me touching it. My momentum intended to push open the front door could not be stopped and down I went. That was the first time I had ever seen a door which would open when someone stepped on the rubber mat in front of it. I think I stood there and made the door open and close about a dozen times I was so fascinated with the concept.
    Although it was not a new invention, I also became fascinated with the automated coffee grinder in the store. Coffee beans were sold in bags and the bag of beans was poured into the top of the grinder. The empty bag was placed in the holder below a funnel. The dial to select the desired grind of the coffee was set and with the push of a button the beans spilled into the grinder with the sound of a buzz saw. The ground coffee filled the bag and the aroma of fresh coffee filled the air. Although I did not drink coffee, I loved the smell emitted from the machine as it did its job. Those grinders are still in some specialty stores but I saw and was amazed by my first one in my local Kroger.

    Unlike the historical value of the houses on East Clinton, the Kroger store’s importance was not considered the same. Though its physical structure fell victim to the demolition team several years ago the memories of my trips to it have remained in my mind. I have other memories, but they must wait for another day I suppose. I can’t put all my eggs in one basket.

        Memphis, TN - Well, not long until football season. I remember that we historically had our reunions in August and how hot things were when we did. Next year should be the year for our next reunion, based upon the Five-Year Anniversaries centered on the Class of '65. I do not know if anyone has started making plans or not, but we should at least be thinking about it.

Last Week's Name That Tune

Name That Tune

    Jeffrey Fussell, LHS '66, "This is the original version of  “Do You Want to Dance” by Bobby Freeman.  Like last week, this song also had numerous covers over the years -- including Del Shannon, Beach Boys, Johnny Rivers, Ramones, and Bette Midler.  You can’t keep a good song down!"

Sarajane Steigerwald Tarter, LHS '65, "I think this weeks song is "Do You Want to Dance?" Actually, I think it's 'Do you Wanna Dance?" Thanks for the hint."

    Max Kull, LHS  '67, "Do You Want to Dance - Bobby Freeman" In fairness, I'd had probably had to mull that one over for longer had it not been for your over generous clue."

    Linda Collinsworth Provost,  LHS '66,  "Looks like a lot of people are enjoying playing “name that tune.”  It IS fun! My guess for this week’s tune is “Do You Want to dDance?” Or as I say it, “Do You Wanna Dance?”Music from our youth is my passion - I listen to it daily."

Other Correct Answers Were from:
Belinda German Talley   HHS ‘69

Do You Wanna Dance?

This Week's Name That Tune

We go back to five songs this week. Please put your school year with your answers so I don't have to look them up.
These will probably stump a lot of Greenhorns!

Name That Tune


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