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Finding Your Stories In Articles For Father’s Day

Jun 16, 2017 | Comments Off on Finding Your Stories In Articles For Father’s Day

Dust off your scrapbooks and go through them or the boxes of “stuff” you don’t want to throw away but don’t exactly know what’s in there.

What you find is going to surprise and delight you. I found, for example, an article about my Granddad Moore in Jack Mabley’s column in the Chicago Tribune, Monday, September 7, 1976, titled “Labor Day When Labor Was.”

“Donald F. Moore, a Calumet City realtor, sat in his high-rise on the lake shore east of the Loop, and through the big picture windows could make out the neighborhood around 73rd and Vincennes where his father ran a grocery store.”

‘Having a father in the grocery and meat business made me the envy of every kid in the neighborhood,’ Moore recalled.

‘Dad was a wonderful father. He came from a poor family raised on mush and milk, and he firmly believed a boy should earn his spending money. That meant work in the store.

Dad had ten clerks, three butchers and a barn man, and delivery boys. Three clerks got on the phone every day and called customers for their orders. Three other clerks put their order books in their pockets and called on customers who didn’t have phones.

The store was closed Sundays, but Dad always went there to check the books. I usually went with him. My job was to give the cats their weekly treat. Cats were important to hunt mice. The treat was liver, which we gave away in those days, a can of Carnation milk, and, as a special treat, I went next door to Sam Rosenblum’s drugstore and bought catnip.

THE DAYS before Christmas were exciting. We all worked late into the night packing in brown paper bags: nuts, cranberries, sugar, potatoes, coffee, and other things so orders could be quickly filled. Christmas trees were sold only in grocery stores then, so in addition to the usual smell of the old-fashioned grocer, we had the wonderful scent of pine needles.

The basement was a boy’s delight. On Fridays, I’d sit on the top step and watch the butchers kill chickens with one quick stroke of the knife, throw them in a big brick tank of boiling water, then strip the feathers and put them in chilling water.

The basement also had a large room for potatoes. One task I despised was putting up potatoes. It was tedious and dusty. The only thing that made it fun was racing with the other unfortunates on the job.

In TODAY’S supermarket, a can of food is no higher than the reach of a short shopper. In those days canned food reached to the ceiling and a daily task was for two clerks to fill the shelves, one on a ladder and the other throwing cans up to him.

NO grocery was worth its name without sawdust on the floor. It was swept up regularly and replaced with fresh sawdust. We had a lot of flies. The only way to get rid of them was to spread tanglefoot fly paper around.

In hot weather, heaven was going into the butcher’s freezer to cool off. No air-conditioning, just plain, old-fashioned blocks of ice.

One of the fun things was to sharpen knives. We used a contraption with a seat and pedals that you pumped and a device for putting water on the stone.

The ORDER department was a bedlam, as orders were put up and boys made deliveries using horse-drawn wagons, or sleds in winter. It wasn’t unusual for a customer to call and say, I forgot to order yeast, and without a second thought the delivery boy would make a second trip.

Best of all was getting up at four in the morning in the summer and going to South Water Market with Dad to buy fruit and vegetables. That place was something else! The bargaining that went on was unbelievable. It was a boy’s wonder world.

After the barnman loaded the day’s produce on the truck, he’d be on his way, guiding the two-horse team through the traffic jam – and it really was a jam – back to Hamilton Park.

Dad and I would stop at his favorite saloon. He got a beer, I got a white pop, and we both ate at the free lunch counter.

Mr. Moore looked across the shore to Meigs Field and Grant Park, and recalled that his father once took him there to watch two men, Orville and Wilbur Wright, demonstrate their new contraption, the flying machine.

What stories did we capture with this article I found in my family’s mementos?

    • Back in the early 1900’s, having a father in the grocery and meat business made Beth’s Grandfather the envy of every kid in the neighborhood.


    • What must it be like to be so poor that you were raised only on mush and milk? Mush is synonymous with porridge and cornmeal and is boiled with milk or water and sits around to gel and becomes semisolid. Sometimes, the cornmeal mush is pan fried. And what’s more, you survived, thrived and learned a work ethic. If Donald Moore wanted to spend money as a kid, he had to work at his father’s grocery store.


    • Grocery stories were different in the early 1900’s. They weren’t like Costco, Wal-Mart or Whole Foods. How were they different?


    • From what I can gather from a Google search, putting up potatoes means covering them with a newspaper or sheet which helps the skins toughen up and have them keep longer.


    • Why were cats important to the grocery store?


    • Who sold Christmas Trees?


    • Why was there sawdust on the floor?


    • How did you sharpen knives?


    • Why was the order department bedlam?


    • Why didn’t Donald Moore mind getting up at 4:00 AM in the morning in the summer?


    • Who were the inventors of the new flying machine?


    • If Xavier is a year and a half old now, Donald’s Father and Xavier are six generations apart.


  • History connects us when there’s a story attached to her.

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