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Albert Maywood Courtright II

Reminiscences of Maywood Courtright

Grocery Clerk

Moore and Bashore, later Bashore and Weigle, was a grocery store on the west side of the square just south of the alley which cuts the block in two parts. The Moores lived just a few doors north of us when we lived in the Johnson house on South Williams Street while Loy Bashore, one of my mother's distant cousins, as were all of the Bashores around Paulding, owned a house a block west of the Church of Christ.

I don't know how I got the job of working in the grocery on Saturdays, probably it was thru Loy, as we went to the same church. Loy had the job of ringing the bells for church and Sunday school and I can see him now dressed in his black suit and white shirt with starched white collar hauling on the rope, which went up thru the ceiling of the entry, as we filed into Sunday school on the second bell. Each of us carried a penny for the collection.

Mr. Moore was considerably older than Loy and sold his share in the store to John Weigle the last year I worked there, my last year in high school.

My wages when I started were 25 cents a day and I worked from 6 AM 'til midnight with time out to go home for lunch and supper. My first task in the morning was to sweep the store which had oiled wooden floors, first scattering sweeping compound of oiled sawdust over it to catch the dust. I learned the first thing that I didn't know how to hold a broom, that the technique has to be learned even for so simple a job as sweeping.

Before I had my sweeping done the farmers' wives would start coming in with their butter and eggs which the exchanged for flour, crackers, bananas and other items which they could not produce on the farm. The price of eggs didn't vary but the amount allowed for butter depended on its quality. Mr. Moore took care of that; by tasting it.

At that time, (1912) the grocery stores of Paulding had united to set up a general delivery service as few of the town women came to town to buy their groceries. They phone in their orders which we filled from the stock on the shelves or in boxes and barrels and placed in wire baskets. Both Mr. Moore and Loy Bashore wrote down the items so fast as they were phoned in that I had a lot of trouble reading them. They admitted they couldn't read their own writing after it got cold. If I remember correctly there were four deliveries a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. The delivery wagons were built specially for the job so that the driver could stand inside at the rear and were pulled by two horses. At the appointed hour the wagons would make the rounds of the grocery stores to pick up the orders. It was always something of a scramble to have all the orders ready on time. Many women would forget to order until the last minute.

There were no self-service stores of any kind, they came much later, long after World War II. The customer was not allowed access to the shelves. Nothing was prepackaged. Pickles came in barrels with thick staves, a large barrel for dill pickles and a small one for sweet pickles. When a housewife ordered crackers she always meant the small crackers, about an inch and a quarter square which were unsalted and used in soup. They came in barrels with thin staves. We had a square glass case standing on the counter which held a barrel of crackers. They were poured out from the bottom and put into sacks. Since scotch tape had not been thought of yet, all packages had to be tied with string. A big ball of string was hung in a wire cage on the ceiling, the end hanging down just over the counter where we made up the orders. Apples were generally shipped in barrels too at first, but later on they began arriving in wooden crates like those used for oranges and lemons. Oranges were very rare except at Christmas time.

There were two kinds of cheese, brick cheese made from goat's milk, and common, ordinary cheese, which was yellow and came in a drum about two feet in diameter and twelve inches high. It was placed on a round piece of wood next to the cracker case where a special knife cut pie-shaped slices from it. With so much food exposed (I was always hungry) I was continually fishing two crackers out of the case, slicing off a thin sliver of cheese and making myself a cheese sandwich. A few minutes later I would be standing by the pickle barrels, which were next to the windows in the front of the store, so I would fish a sweet pickle out of the vinegar in the barrel. I didn't care much for dills.

The only meat we sold was dried beef; you went to the butcher shops for meat and the delivery wagons delivered that too. Dried beef didn't have to be refrigerated and was dispensed from a slicing machine which cut it as thin as paper. A slice of dried beef was also very good with crackers. After cheese, pickles and dried beef with crackers, a piece of chocolate candy tasted good. All of the candy was in a glass case near the front door. If a girl I liked came in I slipped her a piece of candy. I never had one refuse it. I really didn't need to go home for dinner and supper as I was eating practically all day.

Staples, such as dried beans, peas and rice were left in the 100 lb. sacks they were shipped in and set up against the counter on the floor. The top of the sack was opened and a scoop placed in each sack. Potatoes were kept in a back room which had a cement floor about two feet lower than the floor of the store. They were not sold by the pound but by the peck or half bushel. There was a deep shovel to scoop them off the floor and a metal measure can. Coal oil (kerosene) for lamps was kept in a steel drum in the same room as the potatoes. If you needed a gallon of coal oil you went (or brought) your can to the store. Grocery stores, as well as hardware stores, also sold lamp chimneys and wicks. After the town people had electricity, the farmers were still dependent on kerosene lamps.

Graham and soda crackers, cookies and cakes, mostly Nabisco (National Biscuit Co.) came in sheet metal boxes with a window in the front and a lid at the top and were set in rows back of the candy counter. We reached into the boxes with hands that had a minute before possibly handled kerosene or potatoes covered with dirt from the fields. We didn't think much about sanitation tho we did try to keep our hands clean as well as possible, that is, we wiped them on our aprons. We even sold pies which, I believe came from a bakery in Bryan or Van Wert. I was once asked to deliver a lemon pie to old Jeff who lived alone in a room above the grocery. Jeff was out so, instead of setting the pie flat on the floor in front of his door, I leaned it against the door, thinking he would be more likely to see it that way. Of course all the filling ran out onto the floor. Jeff teased me about that for months. In the winter, a potbellied wood stove, which burned soft coal, was set up near the back of the store. After the farmers had left for home and the rush was over, a few old men would come into the store and sit on boxes and sacks around the stove to talk of old times. Jim Powell, the black man I went to get in Cecil with the Maxwell, was nearly always there as was old Jeff from upstairs. There was also Old Man McBride who raised chickens at the west side of town and brought the eggs to sell to the grocery. He had a long white beard and only one arm. When the talk got too boring, I would go off to one side and get out a zither which was supposed to be a prize for some kind of contest which had never been held. It got so I could play it fairly well and one Christmas my bosses gave to me for a Christmas present. It rested on the living room table or on the piano for many years but I never played it after I took it home.

I enjoyed working at the grocery. Everybody went to town on Saturday, the farmers going in the morning for their marketing, they staying 'til dark to gossip on the streets, talk to their bankers and make business deals and the kinds from town coming down in the evening where all the stores were lit up to walk around and around the square. It was the evening promenade winter and summer. Even tho I had to be inside most of the time I felt I was part of the action.

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Last modified on 22 May 2009 @ 23:23