Memories and Thoughts of the Grocery Store

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When I was a child most grocery stores looked the same in every village or town. It was either on the Main Street, or simply on the corner by your house. It had a human element, and there was nothing you couldn’t buy in the family-run stores. There was always fresh bread, gossip, and the grocery store was arguably one of the most important businesses in town.

The Granary on Bridge Street in Carleton Place in the old Keyes building was no different. Argue’s Grocery ran their food store in the same location in the 50’s and 60’s. The penny candy was always a favourite even though a neighbour told me her Grandfather had warned her that such candy could spread polio. In those days everything created polio, but candy was supposed to be the number one culprit. No doubt some mindful parent had started the rumour to keep her children away from the sweets.

Each store had a wooden counter that people shared conversation around. The grocer always had a pencil behind his ear, a smile, and quick precision as he wrapped a piece of fresh meat, not shelf-stable packaged, in brown paper tied with string.

Gone are the days of the clerks knowing you by name and any struggles you were going through. We are living in an impersonal age, and, sadly, most people seem to like it that way. Rural grocery stores are plagued by shrinking customers who have flocked to the big box stores for cheaper prices. Small towns should understand the old grocery store was, and still can be, a small town’s economic anchor, and a rural tourism attraction.

Shuttering the local grocery store knocked the wind out of our community. It was like losing a part of the lifeblood of what keeps a pulse going in small towns. There was a time when I felt I had to shop at the cheapest place in town but now I realize the cost difference to me isn’t that big. I now long to feed the heart of a community rather than corporate coffers. Granted living in a small town doesn’t generally come with a lot of extra income, which makes people even more price sensitive.
After all, the grocery store was always the heart of the rural town. It wasn’t the products they sold that made them special–it was the service. They took the time to talk to you, and in return you got a real feel for the community when you were there. It was pivotal to the future survival of a small town, and now has sadly become an endangered species.

Text- Linda Seccaspina
Photo– of Carleton Place’s legendary grocery counter was originally located at 107 Bridge Street –now home to The Granary, a health food store operating since 1978. Built in 1887 to replace an earlier frame store destroyed by fire, this address has been home to several grocery stores including C.W. Moore’s and Maynard Argue’s. The only way they could move the original grocery counter into the Carleton Place and Beckwith Museum was through a window! It is soon to become a permanent exhibit at the Museum.

 

Photos from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

2 responses »

  1. Clar-Mill Archives (Plevna, ON) recently held an excellent photo and history display of general stores in the Ardoch, Plevna, Ompah and Snow Road, etc area, complete with an authentic store set up with the counter, barrels, baskets, scales, string cones and samples of available goods and wares. Memorablia from all the stores was also on display.

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