The Old Grocery Store
From the Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society Newsletter - 1989
We had our full quota of churches and saloons. But aside from quenching sin and thirst, there was a great need for food. The old grocery stores served us well. Remember the bins with the glass windows, full of cookies? The sacks of flour? The butcher in the white apron, with his celluloid cuffs?
When you entered a store, you were greeted by name -- a little better than the "Hello" and 11Have a nice day11at today's supermarket checkout counters. Not only that -- and this sounds miraculous in this age of "progress" -- you could phone your order in, and a delivery by horse-drawn wagon, or truck, would be made to your back door.
Below are some memories of those days, and you can view a list of grocery stores in Whiting in 1937 here.
"So many recollections of the old Atkin & Tharp store. At first it was on the corner of 119th and Sheridan where the flower shop was later. Then it moved across Sheridan a few doors east on 119th.
In the early days there were horse-drawn delivery wagons; later we got a Rea truck. It was a thrill for me one early morning to drive with my father, Wesley Tharp, to the South Water Street market in Chicago for produce. My sister Evelyn Reeve remembers that the horse and wagon were stabled in a shed back of Dr. Hoskins' house on Sheridan. I think one of the McGroarty boys drove.
Mr. Kelly was our butcher for awhile, then George Johnson. George married Bess Callahan and later they had a store in Marktown. Before we moved, the store on the corner was called "the corner store with the corner door." After we moved across Sheridan, there was a big grain elevator explosion in South Chicago that rattled the town and blew out the store windows. Hoyt and Dick Atkin stayed up all night to stand guard. Our family included my Dad, sons Dave and Wesley (Bud), and sisters Joyce, Helen, Evelyn and me. My father brought in Dick Linn as a butcher and later as a partner. Dick bought out Dad after 1945 and ran the West Park grocery.
Our customers were like an extended family. We knew everyone by name. Sometimes ladies called in their grocery orders for everything from flour to lamb chops, and then asked 'Is Jean there?' Then they would ask me for toilet paper. My brother Dave would laugh and laugh. What would those ladies think of some of the ads on TV now?"
-- Jean Tharp Zweig
"I remember so well Mary Masken's grocery at 2527 White Oak Avenue. Clutching the credit book, off to Mary Masken's I'd go. Mom needs a soup bone with meat on it, and carrots. No one is talking English. A mixture of Slovak and Polish is what you hear. 'Susie H. had a baby girl, John R. fell and broke his arm.' I'm listening because Mom will ask what was said. Everyone is getting ahead of me. Finally someone says, 'Little Ainka is next.' Mary Masken is on tip-toe looking over the counter. 'What do you want?' she says. On payday the credit book was taken and added up. The bill paid, Mary filled a bag of Fels Naptha and Lux soaps and Rinso, and if we were lucky, a little sweet for us. This was free for paying your bill."
-- Ann Habzansky Keightley
Ann Kaminsky supplied a great list -- "Tapajna's on Schrage Avenue, Dybel's on White Oak, Gurevitz on New York Avenue, George Uhrin at John and White Oak, Lee's at 1914 New York, Tittle Brothers on 119th, Mazanek's on New York, Joe Brozovich at New York and Steiber and then on Central, Paunicka at 1700 119th, National Tea, Grenchik's, Krogers, Allison and Ginther on New York Avenue (with home delivery), Poracky's on Indianapolis, Watkins Home Products, Berck's at Indianapolis and West Fred, Dick Linn's, Jancoseks at 120th and Indianapolis, Dado at 120th and Atchison, Wojcik's at Indianapolis and 121st, Banana Bill's fruit store at Atchison and 119th, Pete's fruit store at New York and Fischrupp, the Fetsis store on 119th, the A. & P. on 119th and McNamara's."
-- Ann M. Kaminsky
And here's another list. 11Tapajna Foods, Gurevitz, Colonial Fruit Market, Atkin & Tharp, Mostil grocery, Condes, Frenchik's candy store, Novotny groceries, Tittle Brothers, Jensen's fruit stand, Kaiser Ice Co. and Mrs. Hanley's ice cream. Gene Melvin Field and Jane and Betty Grubb Yater were born over the Atkin & Tharp store."
"The stores I remember best were Mrs. Britten's on Central Avenue and McNamara Brothers. Mrs. Britton sold lunch meat, bread and milk, but the main attraction for us was the hand-packed ice cream and penny candy. Weloved to go to McNamara's when Mom paid the bill. We always got a big bag of a variety of cookies picked from the bins with the glass doors. They had great lunch meat, and pickles in a big jar. One of my memories is of Brandman’s dry goods store. Where Mom took us for our patent leather shoes and long underwear (a must) and other clothing. We got our shoes fixed at Mr. Friedman's. He was located in a tiny shed type place with room for him, a counter and a couple of high chairs. You could look down on Ciesar's parking lot, and there was a railing along the side where the girl watchers sat.”
-- Gert Brown Sandrick
Next door to my Dad's tailor shop (Robertsdale Cleaners & Dyers) was a Kroger or Consumers store and next to it was an A. & P. Nearby was Gallus and Cannell's grocery. Later came the Royal Blue Store and Ann Doran's meat market. On Saturday afternoon after our baths, my brother and sisters and I were treated to a candy bar. They cost 3 to 10 cents. In the next block was "Cap Long's” and across the street was Jansen's on one corner, and on the other was Moser's. Great memories."
-- Pauline Dmitruck
"The neighborhood store from my childhood days was run by Mrs. Britton, a widow lady. It was at 1640 Central Avenue. Any time Mom sent me to the store the extra pennies were spent on orange slices and green Spearmint leaves. Remember those sticky candies'? I remember my late husband, Herb Klemm, telling me what a treat it was for him as a young boy, to have pennies for candy during the depression, to spend at Frenchik’s on 119th St. It wasn't until I looked in the city directory the other day, to check the spelling of her name that I learned Mrs. Brittan's first name was 'Mame.' We always were taught to call adults Mr. or Mrs., and she always was Mrs. Britton to the children."
-- Verda Klemm
"I remember the little store at 115th and Roberts that I called 'Mrs. Kosco's.' The lady was always old in my view(she was probably in her 40's.) She wore a house dress and full apron, as my grandmother did in her kitchen. She spoke with a thick accent and I often did not know what she said to me, and was too embarrassed to question her. She had a big case of penny candies, loose cookies, and unwrapped breads that were great. And of course, fresh lunch meats and cheeses. Like all little stores there was always the faithful cat, not friendly, but faithful! The family lived in back of the store. I never saw them out of the building, so I automatically assumed they never went anywhere."
-- Jim Facklan
"My best recollections are of Mrs. Brittan's on Central Avenue, Tittle Brothers Meats on 1119th St., Ann Doran's on Indianapolis, Jansen's Fruits at Indianapolis and Roberts, and Schaaf's in Robertsdale, where you could buy your Whiting Sun."
-- Betty Geheke
"I can still see my father in his butcher's apron in our store on Indianapolis Boulevard, and my mother adding up figures. I had trouble deciding 8 and 7 were 15, but my mother could go up a column of figures - Zrrrt! -- and have the total. Pa was funny. One day a woman asked for a small chicken. She kept turning them down until she got the smallest in the lot. A couple of days later she complained about the scrawny chicken. My father told her, 'You didn't order a chicken, you ordered a canary, and that's what you got.' My brother Andy had a customer who brought in a can of peas from the A. & P. and said, 'That's where you can get the best canned goods.' Andy opened the can, and then one from our shelves. He said, 'You got mostly water. I'll fill up the rest of it for you for nothing'"
-- Ann Poracky Vrabel
“Over half a century ago, a housewife could pick up a telephone, call in her order, and later in the day a horse-drawn wagon or truck would stop at the house, the driver would bring the groceries to the back door and leave them in the kitchen. Today we must drive to a supermarket, find a parking place, cruise through the market with a cart, stand inline at a check-out counter, find the car, hoping no one has put a dent in it, drive home, and lug in the groceries. This is progress? Where did we go wrong?”
-- Austin Boyle