Come back with me to Humble in the 1940s and ‘50s when shopping for groceries was a relaxed activity for most of the residents. After all, there were few choices to be made and the stores were close together. In fact, all the grocery stores were on Main Street within a 1-block area.
The people who lived in “town” could shop during the week, but m.ost shopping was done on Saturdays. That was the day residents were not working and the children weren’t in school. Also, no stores were open on Sunday. Usually both fathers and mothers came to town with their children. When the family arrived in town, the men would go to the Trees of Knowledge in the 200 block of Main to share their wisdom with other men of the town while the women bought the groceries.
Residents had few choices to shop for their groceries at. The A & P was open in the 1940s at the northwest corner of Main and Avenue C. Customers could browse the aisles with produce in large bins and canned goods on shelves. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of my recollections of the A & P since it was closed by 1950.
Humble Grocery was on the southwest corner of Main and Avenue C. It was one of the main grocery stores in Humble and had bins of produce as well as shelves stocked with canned goods and sacks of flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, sugar and other staples. The Frank brothers could be found in the store most days, and they were happy to help their customers find the items needed. The Frank brothers were not the original owners of the Humble Grocery or the last owners. It was sold to A.J. Foster and remained open at another location in the 1970s.
The other grocery in town was H.C. Schott and Sons, which is the store with which I am most familiar. Schott’s Grocery, as it was commonly called, was owned by Hilton C. Schott, his son Charles Schott, and his son-in-law Payton Williams. All three men worked in the store and greeted customers with a smile; they were friendly and helpful to all shoppers.
Schott’s Grocery was located at the northwest corner of Main Street and Avenue B. My dad was a truck farmer and furnished produce for Schott’s. Therefore, Mama shopped at Schott’s. I think that Daddy had a running tab at the store. Schott would give him credit for the produce that Daddy sold to the store. Then, when Mama shopped, the cost of her groceries was deducted from the tab.
Schott’s store was also filled with bins of produce and shelves of canned goods and sacks of staples. I remember the meat market at the back of the store, but Mama rarely purchased store-bought meat. However, she would purchase one can of black olives which was a treat for her and her two girls. After returning home and putting all the groceries away, Mama would open the can of black olives and she, my sister and I would enjoy the treat together. We never told our brothers about the olives; I don’t know if they would have liked them or not. We certainly never asked.
Probably the most exciting part of grocery shopping was buying the 25-pound sacks of flour or bags of oatmeal or sugar. The flour came in cloth sacks that were printed in pretty designs. The women who sewed would try to get more than one sack of the same print to use for clothing or household items such as curtains or pillowcases. The oatmeal, flour and sugar would have offerings of pieces of silverware or dishes such as a cereal bowl or a cup and saucer. These were collected in hopes of getting a complete set of four or eight of the same pattern. Jelly would come in drinking glasses both small and large. Teenage girls would collect these items for their hope chest. It was helpful to have household needs.
In the 1940s, Mama would purchase margarine. Even though we had milk cows, apparently there wasn’t always enough butter to go around for Grandma, our aunts and our family. The margarine was a white mixture with a packet of yellow coloring. She would soften the margarine and then mix in the yellow coloring until the entire pound of margarine looked like butter. I can’t imagine mothers doing anything like that today.
I think the shoppers used hand-held baskets to carry their items since I don’t remember any store aisles at that time being wide enough for a basket to be pushed down it. I don’t recall more than two or three shoppers in a store at one time. When the basket was too heavy to carry, it would be left on the counter until the shopper was ready to check out. There were never more than two checkers, and they were usually the owners of the store. I don’t remember any people paying with cash or checks. I think the merchants carried accounts for all their customers and the customers paid them off come payday.
Grocery shopping was quite different in the 1940s and ‘50s. It was a pleasant, slow-paced time when visiting with friends was almost as important as getting all the supplies one needed for home. Gee, I miss those days.