A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Grocery List

Waldron was home to five different grocery stores back in the 1960's. James Hicks had a small store on Danville Road near Elliott's Hardware, and Plummer's Grocery was located nearby on Featherston Street (back in those days the street sign said "Featherstone"). On Main Street you had Piggly Wiggly and Buddy Gray's, and over on Washington Street was Robert Davis' Grocery. We did some of our grocery shopping at Buddy Gray's, but the majority of our business went to Robert Davis.

Davis Grocery offered something that other stores didn't: home delivery. At that time, Mama didn't drive; in fact, we didn't even own a vehicle. Since Daddy worked for the phone company, he was provided with a telephone truck, which he brought home every night. When we needed to go somewhere, we either loaded into the telephone truck or caught a ride with someone else. So, when we needed groceries, Mama would make a list and call Davis Grocery. A few hours later, M.C. Maxwell would arrive in his little green 1965 Chevy Pick-up with our groceries loaded in the back. However, there was often a complication. Lucky, our family dog, would suddenly go into protection mode and bark furiously at M.C., and if we didn't get out there and corral him, he would probably try to bite. Which was strange, because under normal circumstances Lucky was one of the most congenial and sweet-natured dogs you would ever encounter. So often, grocery delivery day meant that Lucky would spend the afternoon tied up to the clothesline until M.C. had made the delivery.

But M.C. actually managed to solve the Lucky problem for us. One day, when Lucky was barking furiously at him, M.C. pulled out a bone and handed it to Lucky. Lucky immediately quieted down and walked off with his prize. From then on, whenever M.C. delivered groceries, he'd bring a bone for Lucky. Pretty soon Lucky considered M.C. his best friend.

In addition to the normal staples like pinto beans, potatoes, bread, and milk, we sometimes got some items of more interest to a kid like me. Maybe a carton of cokes (6 and a half ounce, of course), some Sunshine Chocolate Cookies (still haven't found any as good), or maybe even a half-gallon of ice cream. Of course, we were a family of seven, so Mama had to cut corners wherever she could, so we often got Ice Milk instead of Ice Cream. There were two brands of Ice Milk; Ward Dairy made one that I think had the unlikely name of Melamine or something like that, and White Dairy made one called Frozen Delight. Even my young palate could tell the difference between Ice Milk and Ice Cream. I can remember how we served up our half gallon of Frozen Delight for a family of seven: You peel away the cardboard packaging so that you have just a block of Frozen Delight, get a butcher knife and proceed to slice it into seven more or less equal slabs. Always enough for everybody!
Me, whipping up a batch of Scotch-a-roos.

If we didn’t have enough for store bought treats, Mama would usually get something to make for us. Maybe graham crackers with chocolate icing spread in the middle. Or our all-time favorite, Scotch-A-Roos. Mama found the recipe for Scotch-A-Roos on the back of a Rice Krispies box one time, and I’ll bet over the years she made a thousand batches. You take a cup of sugar and a cup of Karo syrup, mix it together and put it over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Then you take it away from the stove, stir in a cup of peanut butter and six cups of Rice Krispies. You can also throw in some butterscotch chips if you have them. Get it all mixed together, dump it in a cake pan, and then see if you have enough self-control to wait until it cools enough to cut in into squares. If you can’t wait, you get a spoon and start eating them while they are cooling. They are unbelievably tasty! I still make them now.

Buddy Gray's store was just a few blocks from our house, so when we needed something from there we could always walk or ride our bikes. The actual name of the business was Buddy Gray's Market, which was spelled out in large wooden letters on the front of the store. Over time, some of the letters deteriorated and fell off, so eventually the name of the store appeared to just be UDDY MARKET. But Uddy Market was where you could ride your bike on a blistering summer afternoon and head to the ice cream box, where Popsicles were stored in little cardboard boxes with white strings around them. Each box held a different flavor: Cherry, Grape, Banana, Root Beer, Blueberry, Lime, and even those white ones that we could never quite identify the flavor of (probably lemonade). Buddy had by far the best selection of Popsicles anywhere. They were only a nickel, so you picked your flavor and rode home on your bike, steering with one hand and working on your Popsicle with the other. It was always interesting to walk around Buddy's store; he had a little bit of everything in there. I always liked to look at his fishing tackle department. There was a little shed out back where he sold minnows, and there was a tall wooden tower that always had water cascading down it to supply oxygen to the minnow tank. He also had school supplies, cookware, and most anything else you might need. If you were there late at night, you could see the guys working for him sweeping the concrete floor. They used push brooms, and they sprinkled some kind of purple stuff on the floor that I guess absorbed any liquid that may have spilled during the day.

Grocery day was always a good day.

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