Friday, January 2, 2009

Crescent Grocery

During the summer of my thirteenth year I was unable to run and had little energy. Something was wrong and it was even seriously imagined that I was suffering from leprosy as I developed skin lesions. Later, after school started my dad noticed my lethargy and took me to Dr. Hays. My fingers were (and are still to a lesser degree) deformed and my legs were so weak that he opined that I had survived polio. It was also found that I had a rather severe case of psoriasis which caused me to wear long sleeve shirts to cover the ugly rash. The medicine prescribed did not help but Mom was visiting Leon Gordon's mother (at the hospital) and learned that he too had the problem and was using a patent medicine to control the situation. Hankins Drug Store was able to supply the remedy and one expensive bottle kept the condition under control until it was no longer problem.

The start of my business career began as I mowed lawns as a young man and during the summer when I was fourteen. One afternoon as I was trudging up the hill with my mower, Mr. Woodruff stopped me and asked if I would like to work in his grocery store next to 'Woodruff Cleaners'. Jumping at the chance, I started work that late afternoon and enjoyed my short stint with his store prior to the sale of same to Charley Fields.

Charley was an engaging and energetic young man and was married to Norma Haden and had (I believe) two young children at the time. They had a fancy new Dodge automobile with a push button automatic gear mechanism and they even allowed me to drive it from time-to-time (as I provided chore duty). Other workers at the store included Farrell Barger and Frank Crocker. Ms. Barger was the personable and efficient individual who was at the check-out counter while Frank was the rather nice old grouch and a butcher. Charley also did some of the work at the meat counter.

My duties were pretty much all encompassing. My primary responsibility was (I suppose) sacking groceries and carrying them to the vehicle of our customers. Also, I took the egg crates to the back room from the ladies who were going to trade their eggs for groceries. Transferring their eggs to larger crates to be sold to the produce company I inspected them to a degree. From time to time, I would find a whiskey bottle (belonging to Charley I presume) hidden into the depths of the dividers of the empty crates. I would silently but dutifully hide the bottle in another empty crate for my good boss.

Another job was to stock shelves and dust them for a good appearance. The extra cans and supplies of grocery items were kept quite neatly (after I arrived) on storage shelves in the back room. I would also slice luncheon meats and salt pork and bacon and pork jowl should Frank or Charley be absent or busy. Should it be needed I would check out groceries. Out back was a vinegar barrel (with the enclosed 'mother') which I would tap to fill the customer's large glass vinegar containers. Also, I would sack pinto or navy beans into cellophane containers from large burlap bags. Another job was to sack potatoes in ten pound paper bags and trim daily other vegetables (such as lettuce or cabbage) so that they would have a positive appearance. It is remembered that Charley sometimes would go a little wild in purchasing (for instance) too many bushels of peaches from Colorado for the ladies to can. The extras would spoil and would leave a mess for me to clean.

My weekday hours of work in the summer would (I believe) be from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM and from 8:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night on Saturdays. Goodness, would it ever be exciting on Saturday night as the streets would be full of people, cars, and pickups as people would visit and shop and attend the movies for 35 cents at the 'Leonard Theatre'! Many folks would attend the dances at the pavilion where most every week there was a real 'honest to goodness' fist fight. Some of the later years while I was working my future wife (Pat Oltjen) was one of the soda jerks at Whitney's Drug Store.

We were not open on Sundays but often I would work by myself in late afternoon after everyone else would go home and would "close up shop" for Charley. Everyday after school I worked until 6:00 PM (or after). This left not a lot of time for social life but never have I enjoyed myself more than while working at 'Crescent' or later at 'L.C. Adams Mercantile Company -Grocery Department'. (After finding liquor bottles under the aforementioned egg crates, under shelves, and other various locations and finding it necessary to "not notice" ... acceptance was made to a job offer. I joined my friend Don Shaffer to work for Maurice Smith at 'Adams' after Jimmy Hill didn't show up for "inventory" one January 1st. (An increased raise to my wages was received from 40 cents to 50 cents hourly when I moved to the "big time" store. Certainly, I still am indebted to Mr. Woodruff and Charley and Maurice along with Hubert and Harold Cox who owned and managed the *Adams group for allowing me to gain such valuable experience.

* Though previously mentioned it should be noted that this was a very large enterprise. A grain elevator, feed business, hay business, men's store, woman's store, hardware store, grocery store, funeral home and furniture store were all operated by this mercantile company. Most likely; other businesses not remembered or known were operated either at the time of my employment or earlier. Grocery competitors as remembered for Crescent and Adams at the time were Moon Grocery [next to the bank] and Foster's [at Jess Fosters gasoline station] along with a grocery store "up the street" from Crescent.


Gary White said...

I must have succeeded you at Crescent Grocery. Your descriptions fit my experience to a T. I don't remember finding as many liquor bottles as you seem to have, but everything else fits my memory exactly.

DFCox said...

You do such a good job Phil in recounting your memories. I don't see how you remember all those details. For the life of me I couldn't recall what I was payed as a stockboy for Adams Grocery--only that I was enrolled in Social Security at a tender age and that was a good thing.

Farell Barger, I guess, is the grandmother to our fellow blogger, Sherry. Frank Crocker had a restaurant across the street from the Crescent Grocery before he was employed there. Chuck Fields didn't live to old age and his wife, Norma, developed Altzmeimers in middle age. Maybe someone will tell us more about these people.

Anonymous said...

I remember sometimes when Charley Fields was playing second base, he had a little trouble walking a straight line and smelled like the bottles must have been emptied.

Don Shaffer said...

Phil, what a story! Riveting! It confirms your character and courage, and your cognizance of "Wild Turkey" embedded among cartons of eggs! Your grocery store experiences were right on "target!" You mentioned Jim Hill. If there was ever a natural comedian, it was Jim! He would flirt with the old ladies, much to their embarrassment, and would "paw" his foot and snort when a pretty girl walked by! Well, I could go on, but I better check with Jim first!

Keep those stories coming, Phil! They make me feel young!!!!!

Pat Pate Molder said...

Great story, Phil. I knew about Crescent Grocery Store, but if I knew the Woodruff family owned it at one time I had forgotten that. Charley Fields rented a room from my grandparents when they lived in the house on the highway between the two schools. When he and Norma married they bought the house. That didn't seem right to me because there was no reason for my grandparents to sell. Maurice Smith has been mentioned several times in the CV Memories. Maurice led singing at the church of Christ. I often sat with him on the second row from the front on the left. He would let me help choose the songs and then would write the page numbers on the sole of one of my shoes. I felt special. My memories of the Lester and Helen Smith family are some of my best. Maurice died in October 1992 from Alzheimer's Disease. His wife, Mae, lives in Tulsa.