Friday, September 21, 2007

Stories of Iowaville

Iowaville used to have a grocery store right on main street but it has probably been gone for twenty-five years now. The Thomas family who lived on a small farm just north of town away ran Thomas Grocery. Even back when it was in its prime, it was a small grocery store just carrying the basics and a small deli. The nearest fully stocked grocery store was over thirty miles away and so we often came here to get a few items to carry us through until our next big grocery trip which occurred once every two or three weeks.

Thinking back of Thomas Grocery, three memories come to mind. When in the fields during the spring or fall, we often would swing through town to get some homemade sandwiches made at the deli in the back of the store. The bread was always thicker than regular pre-sliced bread always held thick slabs of whatever meat you wanted cut right there in front of you on a slicer. The cheese too was slab like and cut on the slicer. Although it has been a quarter of a century since I ate one of their sandwiches, I wouldn't be surprised to have weighed one and found that each sandwich topped one half pound.

Of course what would a good sandwich be without an ice-cold pop in a ten-ounce bottle. These were stored right next to the deli in one of those old chest freezers with rails in it that suspended the pop bottle by the neck in a row. You put your quarter (if memory serves me correct) into the slot and the grippers would release allowing you to slide the last bottle in the row out to a circular opening. The top could be popped with the hanging bottle opener attached to the side. Pop was at its best when it came from a cold glass bottle. The glass bottle hung on in our area until I was late in my college career thanks to a kick from the recycling fad but eventually it was replaced with its plastic bottled and not as good tasting cousin.

My final memory occurred at the checkout counter that was just that, a counter near the entrance of the store. No scanners and no cash registers, only an accounting calculator with paper tape. Life was more leisurely back then so even if there was a crowd (i.e. one other person in the store besides the owner), we never minded waiting to check out. We always knew the other person and the Mr. Thomas of course new everyone so we would usually chat as he rang up the total and bagged the groceries. With every purchase, he would slip a little television guide booklet into one of the bags. Since my family didn't own a television, I wasn't too concerned with what was in the guide but loved the back cover that would contain a crossword puzzle.

After getting home and unloading the groceries, I would grab my pencil and start in solving the puzzle. I would pencil in the answers and sometimes have to carefully erase them when I later discovered I was wrong being careful not to erase the background ink forming the puzzle boxes and numbers. After I did all that I could, I would start with the dictionary and encyclopedias trying to fill in the rest of the answers before the next puzzle came out the following week with the answers to this week. I suppose I was successful 80% of the time and always enjoyed learning the answer to the clue or two that I missed one out of every five weeks.

Thomas Grocery used to bag up groceries from lists submitted by elderly people in town and deliver them right to the home once a week, right down to the preferred brand or quantity size. So when the grocery store finally closed down to its customer base (mostly farmers) going bankrupt and moving to larger towns, the town elders perhaps missed it the most. It is just one more building on a main street full of them that now contain only memories

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