Friday, May 15, 2015

Ye olde neighborhood groceries

Small neighborhood grocery stores were popular places in the early-to-mid 20th century.  And there were several of them that we remember around Chadron. Similar stores were in Crawford, Whitney, and other county locations, we're sure.   

The store shown here was situated on the northeast corner of 5th and Ann Street, just a block north of where the Chadron Middle School sits today.  Of course, in addition to meats, breads, canned goods, and dairy products, there was an ample selection of pop and candy!  Back in the day when all grades — Kindergarten through 12th — were in the same building at 6th and Ann, this was a really popular place with the kids on the east side of town.  We first remembered it as Moore's Grocery in the 1940s and early '50s.  Insurance agent Dale More and his wife Beulah owned the store back in those days.  For a short time it was owned by a fellow named Fletcher, and then it was bought and operated by Willie and Millie Rice as Rice Grocery until it closed, in the late 1950s.

As one neighbor said, "We all liked these small stores.  They had credit and they were conveniently located.  Why would you drive to the big downtown grocery store when you had to pay 12 cents a gallon for gasoline?

We remember similar grocery stores, such as Kenwood Grocery, White Grocery on West Highway 20, and Miller Grocery at 6th and Main.  There were also small grocery stores in the villages of Whitney, Marsland, Belmont and others.

Crawford also had a variety of smaller grocery stores -- several of them operating at the same time.  The most venerable of the group was Absalon's, which operated at 2nd and Main Street for more than 40 years.  It is now D & S grocery.  But even before it was Absalon's, it was owned by Ploosters for several years.  Old-timers may remember when it was Knapp's.  Then there was Quick-Serve, Star Grocery, and Lewis'.  And the Galey Little Store operated for several years along west Highway 20 before closing in the early 1990's.  It was earlier owned  by Jack Ellis -- and before that by a fellow named McHugh.

Importantly, most of these locally-owned stores extended credit to their better customers.  They were, after all, neighbors!

Alas, as a kid, I don't remember having my own personal candy account at our neighborhood store.  Nonetheless, resourceful youngsters could usually scavenger and find empty pop bottles or milk bottles and turn them in for a refund, which could be used to support our candy habits.  Pop bottles brought 2 cents each, while milk bottles were worth a whopping 5 cents.

Ah, those were the days!