Grocery Store Tales I

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When I was a girl, I went to Daddy Leland’s grocery store almost every day. I felt at home all over the store–in the aisles where Daddy put up stock, at the checkout stand with Earlene the checker, in the butcher department with my Uncle Ronnie, and in the backroom with Emory the produce man.

The backroom had three sections: a silver metal walk-in freezer, the produce preparation area, and the stock area where boxes of groceries waited before Daddy put them on shelves. Every Thursday afternoon a big semi-truck from the warehouse in Nashville arrived at the loading dock. Daddy and other employees unloaded one box after another.

Emory the produce man was Daddy Leland’s next door neighbor. He took vegetables out of wooden crates and wrapped them individually for sale. I liked to help Emory, especially with the lettuce. After a head of iceberg lettuce (we didn’t sell any other kind) was dropped into a plastic bag, it was fun to grab the two sides of the open end and spin the lettuce around and around to twist them. It was also fun to push the twisted ends into a little contraption that wrapped a piece of red tape around them.

In the butcher department, I watched Uncle Ronnie cut up meat and chickens. Sometimes I peeked inside the walk-in cooler and saw sides of beef hanging from giant hooks. Once when I was a teenager, Daddy Leland hired me to be Uncle Ronnie’s assistant for two weeks, while his regular assistant was on vacation. Uncle Ronnie put meat and chicken into trays and passed them on to me.

As I stood in front of the wrapping stand, I stretched plastic wrap over a filled tray. I then set it on a heated pad which sealed the plastic. My next jobs were to weigh the package and then hold it up to the sticker machine to attach the price. I can’t tell you how many times through the years I have remembered a whole chicken lying bare in a tray before me as I prepared to wrap it. As I wrote recently, it’s funny what we remember.

My memories of Daddy Leland’s store are sweet. We have made the hall outside our kitchen a pantry and I have decorated it as our own little “Boyd’s Market.” I sponged the walls to look like the brick exterior of Daddy Leland’s old country store which he ran before building his little supermarket in Ashland City.

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Our Own “Boyd’s Market” with Kitchen Items, Most of Which Belonged
to Mama Sue or to Ray’s Family during the 1950s and 1960s

Sometimes we got gifts from particular companies or from the warehouse. This set of tins was one of them. It stayed in my under-my-bed “hope chest” until Ray and I got married.

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I am thankful that I could watch my Mother work in her sewing business at home and then walk across our backyard and the grocery store parking lot to see Daddy at his work. I am also thankful that I was surrounded by other adults– some relatives and some grown-up friends–all of whom cared about me and had time for me. I don’t remember Mother, Daddy, Earlene, Emory, or Uncle Ronnie ever making me feel that I was in the way — though I probably was at times. I learned that adults could carry out their responsibilities, while still taking time for a little child. That makes me think of Someone else who did that 2,000 years ago.

And they were bringing children to Him
so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.
But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them,
“Permit the children to come to Me. . .”
And He took them in His arms and began blessing them,
laying His hands on them.
Mark 10:13-14, 16

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