And That’s The Way It Was

Recently, my mom gave me an old mailer she’d received with recipes in it. The address is to “Occupant” at 927 W. 30th in the greater L.A. area . . . that was where I lived as a little girl. Why she kept it all these years I don’t know, but it’s pretty fun to look through the helpful hits, recipes and coupons.


It got me to thinking about how grocery shopping has changed over the years. I’m not a fan of going–not sure why, maybe because I don’t like taking the time. But I love to cook and prep a big meal. I went to the market (a word associated with California whenever I’ve used it in place of grocery) with my mom as a little girl. Things I remember . . .

In the produce section, there were no plastic bags. I hate the ones they have now. They are micro-paper thin and I can never get them open. Drives me nuts. Back in the day, all that the consumer had to use was brown bags. They came in a few sizes. They were in slots beneath the vegetables and fruit. My mom, produce in her left hand, would grab a bag with her right and snap it open to dump the peaches in or whatever she was buying. Mostly, she weighed her items to see how much she was getting.

When I got bored shopping, my mom would give me and my sister a penny. This was a big deal. A penny bought a gumball.

By the gumball machines was a test tube machine where people brought in tubes from their televisions. If we were lucky after buying the gumballs, we could watch as some housewife or man insert a tube to see if it would light up or whatever it did. Why this was fascinating, don’t ask me now.

In the check out line, it was never asked if we wanted paper or plastic. Everything was packed in a brown paper bag. The checker would ask my mom if she wanted the tops on or off her carrots. She’d say on–so at home, we’d take the tops with a little bottom of the carrot and put it in water. Don’t ask me why.

There was no safety packaging on anything. You’d open it up and get right to whatever you’d bought. Aspirin, peanut butter.

But the best part of going to the market was waiting to see how many Blue Chip Stamps we could get with our order. If you aren’t familiar with them, Blue Chip stamps came in two denominations. At home, you had a book and you filled the pages with the stamps. When you had enough books filled, you got to go to the Blue Chip stamp store and redeem them. A really cool redemption was TV trays . . . that maybe your mom would let you eat in the living room and have a Swanson meal–only if you were good and it was a special occasion.

So I’m thinking the reason I may not like going grocery shopping anymore is all the fun is gone. There aren’t any Blue Chip stamps, gumballs are like .50, and the plastic bags won’t open when I need them to.

Times have changed . . . Do you remember anything from your childhood that has changed and you have fond memories of the good old days?