Woke up, fell out of bed dragged a comb across my head…no, I’m not channeling the Beatles, but that song from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to describe a typical day working in the store with Fred and Lucy. My parents were both up before 5a.m. in order to receive the fresh milk and bread from the delivery men.
My mother had Jane and me up by 6:30 in order for us to have enough time to get dressed and help out with the morning hour business before grabbing our schoolbags and running off to school. I hated working the morning. Our customers were tired and anxious to get back home to get the kiddies off to school. Why they waited until morning to realize that they were out of lunchmeat and bread to make lunch for the kids, I’ll never know.
Fred wasn’t in a good mood either that early in the day because as soon as the milk delivery was made, Fred, who was the poster child for OCD, had to rotate the milk as soon as it arrived. That meant Jane and I would be on our knees pulling out the day old milk to the front and placing the fresher milk to the back.
Mom was always dressed nice even for the store
The flooring behind the counter was hard wood, but because it was in bad shape, Jane and I were always pulling out splinters from our knees. We had to do the same routine with the sliced bread; moving day old bread to the front and fresh bread in back, but the customers weren’t dumb and they would just toss the older bread to the side and grab a fresh loaf.
Aunt Helen and Jane with our cousins aka The Stock Boys
After school, Jane and I would change into our work clothes and either help out behind the counter or go help the stock boys bring up the cases of soda or canned food. Yes, Fred called my cousins, Jerry, Michael and Anthony the stock boys, but when they messed up or broke a bottle of soda (the bottles were made of glass back in the days) then he would call them, “Dumb asses.”
Jane and I worked out a technique of doing our homework in between waiting on the customers. I would sit on the edge of the potato bin and do my homework while Jane would do hers sitting on the freezer that held the ice cream. After homework was completed and while there was a lull before the next rush of customers, Jane and I watched American Bandstand and practiced all the new dances.
Michael and Lucy were still young, so they helped my mother in the store while Jane and I danced to the music on TV, and Fred took his nap upstairs. My father was very protective of his naps and heaven help you if you disturbed him during this time.
There was only one reason he would allow for his nap to be interrupted and that was only if “God himself needed to ask Fred a question.” All other interruptions were discouraged at the risk of early death.
When Fred was rested and back at the store, Jane and Lucy would help mom with the cooking while Michael and I worked the store. When it was time to eat, we ate in shifts and took turns waiting on the customers whenever the bell rang as a person entered the store. We learned to eat fast or suffer a cold dinner. Some things stay with you forever, and unfortunately, I find myself still speed eating.
Jane and I being the oldest worked in the store until 10 p.m. and then we went to bed to start all over the next day. It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure and sometimes I feel that we four kids missed out on our childhood…that could be why we were so wild when we did get out.