Sliding to market
Off to market we go. Danny and I were three or four years old when my Dad began taking us grocery shopping with him. He continued taking me with him each week long after Danny had joined his mother and stepfather a few years later. It became a weekly highlight. We didn’t have a car and really didn’t need one and not many of our neighbors, friends or relatives had them either.
In our neighborhood there were the small Mom and Pop stores on nearly every corner. They were sufficient for our everyday needs and once a week we would go to a much larger store up on Warren Avenue. We especially liked going in the winter because Dad had fastened an orange crate onto a sled and would pull my cousin and me, both snuggled in the orange crate, along the sidewalks and streets to the big supermarket, which wasn’t really super by today’s standards most certainly. What a hoot that was and so early on (and this was hard for us), we learned to behave ourselves at the market. Otherwise, we knew next time, Dad wouldn’t take us with him.
There were other occasions when the sled came in handy; on Christmas Eve for example. At just about the time Santa was supposed to arrive we were fashioned into the sled for a trip or two around the block. At the appointed time it would be announced that Santa was just observed leaving the neighbor’s roof. We didn’t know enough about reindeer and flying sleigh’s to question… like looking, for example, for sleigh tracks in the snow? When it came to Santa, we believed everything… like reindeer not leaving hoof prints, and we certainly didn’t know about the hover. And so sure enough, as always, upon arriving home it seems we had just missed him. It’s funny, without question, how that worked.
Being a product of the depression era my Dad acquired certain habits that he never gave up on. For as long as I can remember, after grocery shopping, he had a ritual of unpacking everything onto the kitchen table. He would then take the cash register receipt and check off each and every item on it with a pencil. I don’t know if he ever found an error and the better question is… what would he have done if he found one? My guess is, he would (or maybe did) take the receipt back for a refund? He used the term “cheapskate” a lot in his day, but he himself was never known to pass on an opportunity to use a coupon when it was made available.
When the Depression hit in 1929 my Dad was nineteen years old. Survival was a tough road then and later, after Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corp, he joined a CCC camp and sent his pay home to his mother and siblings.
After enduring the hardships of the 1930’s, economic survival was always on his mind. The depression era experience ruled his everyday life, it never went away. My Dad was a survivor until the day he died. He was a factory laborer and appreciated being able to work for a wage. No matter how hard the task… my Dad whistled while he worked. Truly, he did.