Just down the way from my childhood home one could easily duck into a local, corner grocery. In one direction was A&K; in the other, Ward's (later to become Mac's) - mother's preferred site.
As a youngster I have no recollection of my mother ever going to a super market, much less a Costco or Sam's Club. Such mega shopping venues simply did not exist at that time. No doubt she did make trips to larger grocery stores, though in truth you couldn't prove it by me. So far as I knew, the entire world of edibles came from Ward's store. It also marked the southern boundary of my world as a child; a world that stretched but one block in any direction.
It was not uncommon for Dad to lavish upon me a nickle or dime on Saturday afternoon so I could make my own choice(s) at the store. Oh what a gleeful event was that! For minutes on end I'd ponder the assortment contained in the ice cream cooler or soda rack; or I'd stand in awe before the shelves of penny candy. Nothing was quite so satisfying as walking away with an itty-bitty brown bag filled with choice morsels, or to saunter home sipping from a bottle of Orange Crush.
Only one thing deterred or daunted me on my shopping escapades: the dogs that gathered outside the store. Some I recognized & trusted. Others were unfamiliar, and sometimes mean-spirited. Though my home was but four doors from the store, it seemed a terrible distance when a dog nipped at my heals. I learned to flee like the wind to escape them (even as family cautioned me to never run). With no leash laws, nothing prohibited their torments. To this day, I hesitate whenever I encounter a strange dog.
On other occasions mother would dispatch me with a note that I was to present at the store counter. On it she would list her needs: butter, flour, eggs, coffee, etc. I would wait patiently (or eyeballing the penny candy in preparation for my own, next purchase) while the owner or a clerk pulled the requisite items from the shelves. As each item was set on the counter, they'd enter it onto their charge ledger. Then, using a machine the size of a Volkswagen (or so it seemed to my wee eyes), they'd calculate the cost and give me a receipt. Little did I know that these stock items weren't free; and that my Dad would pay the grocery bill at the end of every month.
I cannot think of simpler times without Ward's Grocery coming to mind. It is reminiscent of the vitality that was associated with a neighborhood, or equated to the original context of community. As far as I knew then, the whole world existed but a few houses, or churches, or parks, or grocery stores from my own home. On some level, it still does.