January 21, 2009

The Store

Filed under: humor — unwriter1 @ 8:58 am

Back in the old days there were general stores. The old days were about 100 to 150 years ago, anything earlier than that we’ll call, oh, I don’t know, historic I guess. In those general store you parked your vehicle, either a horse or a donkey right out front!!! What a concept, no waiting or driving around the block to find a place closer.Once you exited your vehicle you walked in to the store. Now those were the hard times because you had to carry everything by hand, those three and a half wheeled carts hadn’t been invented yet. That really didn’t make much difference since the stuff was either behind the counter or in barrels. Another minor difference was that you didn’t just run into town for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. Let’s look at a typical (in my opinion), trip to town for shopping.

Our first assumption is that you lived on a farm or a ranch. If you lived in town you would naturally have taken the most common conveyance to the store, your feet. Ok, let’s travel back in time tothe ranch.

The sun is coming up over the hills (mountains, trees, you pick your own area) and you’ve already got the herd fed and the cows milked. (see, I told ya ya don’t buy this at the store!). Now you already know this is the big day of the month where you take the little lady into town to stock up. Your first stop is to get the horses out and hitch up the wagon. It’s now time to stop at the well and wash up. The smell of bacon and eggs draws you into the house. Nothing like a hearty breakfast to start the day. What makes it even better is that the wife had just gathered the eggs from the henhouse.

You help the wife up on the wagon and head into town. Town is an hour’s drive with a two horsepower drive system. As you get off the wagon and help her down, you agree to meet back at the wagon in an hour or so. You head off for the blacksmith to pick up those new shoes for the team. Meanwhile, in the store the Mrs. is checking out the latest gingham. At the counter she orders a few sacks of wheat and a barrel of pickles. Oh what the heck, a few yards of cloth to make some new clothes. It is summer.

On your arrival back at the store, the Mrs. and the storeowner are ready to load the wagon with barrels and sacks. Now these aren’t the plastic ones we put used cat litter in nowadays. No siree Bob, these are made out of cloth and can be used as dishtowels or dresses when empty.

Moving ahead in time, along comes Henry “Assembly Line” Ford. This causes a need for roads. Along with roads comes people. The general store concept is nice, but there’s too much diversity now. Specialty shops come in, such as the Grocery store! You can also go to a store to just buy ready-made clothing or medicine. Wow! What a concept. And with the advent of the automobile, the monthly trip to town can be done every week!

“Hey Ma, they gots this thing called a refrigerator! They have milk in jugs!”

Yes, it was true, now you could keep cold things longer. So much had changed. The son of the general store owner now had his own store, he called it a supermarket and there was a special place just to park the automobile. Yep, the parking lot had arrived.

Meanwhile back at the ranch.

Age tended to creep up on ya. Fortunately so did technology. Milking the cows had always been hard work, but since electricity came to the ranch, a new fangled device called a milk machine had made things much easier. Plug it in, attach the unit to each cow then grab a cup of coffee and watch the milk flow into the big collector. Ok, it wasn’t exactly like that but you get the idea. It was a ‘look ma, no hands’ operation. You had also added an icebox to the house so food could be kept longer. Now the monthly trip to town could be done every week.

Bear in mind that our ranch-of-the-past here hadn’t been totally modernized yet. However, our progressive thinking rancher was slowly moving into the modern era. The town was also moving forward, but a little faster. They had to, otherwise the ranchers and townfolk couldn’t. So, adding to our ‘specialized’ stores were now added the gas station and car dealer. The town was growing.

Now when the rancher and his wife headed into town to stock up, it was done on a weekly basis and they took the truck. Indeed, the times they were a changin’. Instead of taking the horse to the shoes (the blacksmith), the rancher how took the shoes to the horse. After picking up the horseshoes, they could stop in town for a bite to eat then browse the shops that had now emerged. By this time Sears had a catalogue store or maybe even a retail store. The general store was now a hardware store and new clothes could be seen and purchased at Millies.

Shopping done, all that was left was the food. They headed over to the grocery store. As they entered the front door the whiff of fresh food assailed the nose. Now they could purchase milk and eggs instead of relying on the cows and chickens at home. Over in the butcher’s section they could get fresh cut beef, pork or chicken. They were getting up there in years so why do all that work themselves when the grocers could order it in from the big places that specialize in it? Once the weeks groceries were paid for and bagged (paper sacks now), all that was left was to load the truck.

Time marched on.

Eventually the weekly trip to town revealed just how much things can change. The hardware store was now part of a national chain. All of the small specialty stores like Millies clothes, were now overpriced boutiques. Our friendly little grocery store has just tripled in size and was now a Supermarket! Everything you want under one roof. We have gone full circle. In less than a century we have gone from the general store to the super general store called the supermarket. What goes around, comes around.

But wait. Look at that!

We have gone from a general store in a small town to specialty shops, to the all in one general store called a supermarket to;


We now have a town in a box!

Walmart has arrived.


  1. Good, Ron Twain! A town in a box! Walmart! And that is, I’m sure, exactly what they have in mind! LOL! Wonderful story!

    Comment by Carol — January 21, 2009 @ 9:15 am | Reply

  2. Marvelous piece of entertaining historical musings, Mr. Twain. Yes, from a one hour two horsepower day-long excursion to pick up the necessary goods of yore, we now have the handy Sprawl Mart just ten to fifteen minutes and 180 horsepower from every human being in the country. And plastic throw away bags.

    Nice post.

    Comment by Marvin D Wilson — January 21, 2009 @ 10:28 am | Reply

  3. Great nostalgic piece, Ron!

    Comment by Joyce Scarbrough — January 21, 2009 @ 10:48 am | Reply

  4. A great look at evolution. The part about parking in front of stores used to be true in my suburb until development began. Now our village is so popular, we have to park in the parking garages to visit any of the local shops.

    Morgan Mandel

    Comment by Morgan Mandel — January 26, 2009 @ 7:42 am | Reply

  5. Great piece!
    I felt like I was experiencing
    “the old days” and almost living through the progression all the way to
    “Walmart’s town in a box”!

    Comment by internet Pastor Bill — February 1, 2009 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

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