Growing Up on Muddy Creek:

| March 2001

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    Grocery shopping
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    Fancy packages

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Grocery shopping has changed since I was a boy on Muddy Creek. We did most of our shopping at the big Westall store in Sumner, for it had a gigantic grocery, or it seemed to me. The groceries were far back in the store under the balcony. This made it handy to hang those full stalks of bananas from the low ceiling. A special curve-blade knife was used to cut the desired number of bananas from the stalk. (These exotic treats came packed in tall, wooden, returnable cases, and oft times, one would uncover a foreign spider or even larger unidentifiable stowaway, which would have to be quickly disposed of.)

Crackers were larger than today's version. In fact, they were nearly four inches square, and came packed in 'cracker' barrels. These would be conveniently located near the patented cheese slicer, where a hungry patron could have one of the clerks slice off a dime's worth of 'rat trap,' as they nicknamed the cheese, from the huge wheel of New York cheddar. The patron could then help himself to the crackers while waiting his turn, or while just waiting and sipping on a bottle of chilled Moxie.

It was indeed a bulk world. Coffee came in huge burlap bags, plastered with colorful paper labels. These already-roasted coffee beans had to be freshly ground in a giant of a mill with two huge wheels and a gallon-size can with a spout on it to catch the coffee. This spout allowed the ground beans to be easily poured into small bags that were waxed to preserve the flavor. The memory of the aroma from coffee beans being ground is one to be long-remembered and savored, even if you do not drink the brew.

Bulk tea came packed in two-foot-square wooden boxes, each lined with tin foil and covered with indecipherable Chinese lettering. Baker's Cocoa was, as now, in colorful pound cans embossed with the Baker lady, wearing a long gown and apron, carrying a tray of steaming cups of hot chocolate.

Very few cardboard cartons were in use then. Clean wooden boxes were used for shipping everything from shotgun shells and dry goods to soap. Then, they were recycled into toy wagons, and podiums for politicians.

Vinegar was always available from a 55-gallon oak barrel. The customer's jug would be filled through a wooden spigot or from a wooden pump, similar to the tin one that was used to fill the thin wood-covered tin oil cans from the coal oil drum.


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