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These days I have limited tolerance for any shopping. I can take an hour or two of it and that’s about all. I blame this on my early history.

From the time I was five, I was the “personal shopper” for my teenaged sister at the corner grocery store a block and a half from our house. The dialogue went like this:

Marge: “Susie (my childhood nickname,) I want you to run to the store and get me a bag of Chesty Potato Chips,” as she handed me a quarter. “Think of your chest, honey, so you remember what kind to get.”

Me: (Thinking) Of course I know Chesty Potato Chips! They’re my favorites. What kind of dunce does she think I am?

Me: “Ok, Margie.”

Marge: “Do you remember what the bag looks like?”

Me: (Thinking) Of course I remember what it looks like. It has a little boy on the front wearing blue shorts and a blue and yellow striped shirt. He has his chest stuck out and lines are coming from it, like he’s proud.

Me: “Yes, I remember.”

After giving Mary, the store owner, Marge’s quarter, I scurried home with the bag and got a big thank you, but no chips.

I know of another five-year-old who became an emissary to another corner market sometimes to buy cigarettes for his mother. As he put it, “No questions were asked, as long as I had the money. To her dying day my mother claimed it never happened, but I know it did.”

At lunchtime, Everymom might send her runner for a few slices of bologna (baloney, as we called it.) The butcher would grab that long roll of lunch meat the size of a torpedo, cut off the requested number of slices, tear off a piece of butcher paper from its big roll, slap the slices on it, fold it like a gift, and tie it up with string from the overhead spool.

Some of the stores even allowed the neighbors to “run a tab,” as you might in a bar. Then on pay day, the parent in question would stop by the store to settle up, and the cycle would restart.

Sometimes, the kid shopper would abuse the privilege and charge “unauthorized purchases," think penny candy, but that usually happened only until caught.

In the 50’s, these were common occurrences all over America. Somehow, this Old School method of shopping seems a lot more personal, but maybe less efficient than a trip to Publix.


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