46 Years Of Memories
I read recently that Safeway ordered all checkers to smile and look customers in the eye, which caused complaints from female checkers who say some male customers think they are making a pass at them. [The policy occasioned a complaint to the California Equal Opportunity Commission on behalf of five employees, SN, Nov. 23, 1998, Page 6.]
This incident is a far cry from the grocery business I knew from 1928 to 1974. I started as a part-time delivery boy for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. [in New York City]. We worked six days a week, and on Saturdays we often worked until midnight. [Shopping was much different then.] Very seldom did you ever see a man shopping. During the week, children shopped for bread, milk, butter and odds and ends. Then, on Saturday, after the husband brought his paycheck home, the woman did the major shopping. We always did weekend specials. Bags were scarce and most groceries were packed in wrapping paper. [As for store maintenance], the wood floors were oiled on Saturday night, and would dry by Monday. However, we still had [slipping] accidents, so we changed to oily sand. The sidewalk had to be swept before 8 a.m., as the street cleaner came at 9 a.m. with his cart. The beat cop (no cars) would give you a ticket if the sidewalk was not swept on time.
You had to get to the store between 6 and 7 a.m. because bread was left on the sidewalk in front of the store. Ice was also left on the sidewalk. It was put in wooden barrels and milk cans put in. We used pint and quart dippers [to serve] the milk. Milk was raw and we took the cream off the top for our coffee. Many of our customers later would use milk pails for draft beer, but would line the can with butter so they would not get too much of a head on the beer.
Butter came in a tub that was narrow at the base and broad at the top. You had to turn it upside down, take the clips off with a hammer and lift the tub. Than, you had to take the waxed paper from around the butter and cut the butter into slices about 8 inches wide. Slicing was done with a wire with wooden handles on each end.
[As time went on], I was offered the job of managing A&P's first supermarket, but I turned it down. That's because at the store where I was working I got a base salary of $30 per week, plus 2% of the first $500 in sales and 1% on sales over $1,000. My store was doing well, so I was making $55. The supermarket was paying $50 and at the time nobody knew if a supermarket would be a success. Later I got a combination store -- a store that sold meat -- and my salary rose to $75.
Later, I got out of the stores, and my first step up the [management] ladder was personnel manager for the Bronx unit. My store experience was helpful because store employees felt that I knew what went on in stores.
As personnel manager, I talked to newly hired employees on Monday mornings, describing what the job offered, what the company expected and the history of the company.
I retired in 1974 [after 46 years with A&P and many posts at the company] as area director of industrial relations.
A Sad Day
To the Editor:
The impeachment trial of President Clinton is now under way in the Senate, and it is a sad day for our country. Why did he ever get us into this sleazy mess in the first place? The polls say the president is still popular, but it is his fault that the U.S. presidency is a laughing stock around the globe. And now, preoccupied with this trial, the real work of the Congress will be delayed for who knows how long. That means legislative initiatives and concerns of the nation -- and the food industry -- will be put on hold until this situation is resolved. [See "Industry Drives Hit Roadblock in Congress," SN, Jan. 18, Page 1.]
I look back at Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and can say without any question that those outstanding presidents would never have gotten us into this kind of mess. We took for granted their integrity and commitment to this country and the Constitution.