Hello again Maple People,
Recently we had a memorial service at the Old West Church for our dear friend Rena Robinson. Rena was "Jack of about everything" here at Morse Farm for years. As expected, lots of folks showed up and many had words to share about Rena who was one of these people who spent her life doing for others. After the service, we all got in our cars and drove the country mile to Maple Corner for a pot luck gathering at the Maple Corner Community Hall.
It was there that I found myself in the kitchen helping to serve sugar-on-snow in Rena's honor. Elaine Fitch and her daughter Judy had worked hard to organize the pot luck and, as the sugar-on-snow was about to be served, they were busy washing the China plates that had been used for the first course. I commented to Elaine how striking it was that the community club used real China instead of plastic or paper plates.
"We got those plates a long time ago with stamps from the A&P store" she said, adding "You're probably too young to remember the A&P." I thanked her profusely for the momentary gift of youth but assured her that I did, indeed, remember the A&P. Her mention of that wonderful store brought back shelves stocked high and deep with nostalgia.
The old A&P building stands at 11 East State Street at the edge of a parking lot for about thirty cars. I recently drove through the parking lot of what is now the Vermont Center for Independent Living and estimated the building to be about 60 by 120 feet. Of course by today's standards, that is puny for a supermarket but in the eyes of a small hungry boy in the 1950s, it was massive and had a staggering array of "soup to nuts". Come with me, I'll take you shopping.
We enter the two single front doors, doors that pull for entering but are pushed when leaving by the bumper of a steel shopping cart which is always handled by an apron-clad male employee. We grab a cart and head past the store's checkout area and the accompanying array of impulse items…some things never change in marketing! In the first aisle, a wall of cereal boasts new colorful and sugar-coated brands like Fruit Loops and Sugar Smacks. I beg my mom for something more interesting than the same old Corn Flakes but lose.
We follow a heavenly aroma to a huge display of "Eight O'Clock" coffee in the next aisle, the source of my life-long caffeine addiction. My mother picks up a pound bag full of whole beans that will soon be reopened by the cashier for grinding. I look forward to that second heavenly whiff! The adjoining aisle presents row upon row of Jolly Green Giant canned vegetables. While Mom picks up some of the "Giant's" green beans on sale, I go on ahead to peer around the next corner. There stands Mr. Jarry, the A&P's manager. I'm thoroughly convinced that Mr. Jarry, although not green or wearing a leafy toga, is the Jolly Green Giant…strange what an eight-year-old mind will do! After my mother selects a couple cantaloupes and some fresh New Jersey sweet corn (the word "organic" has yet to be invented) from the produce section at the end of the store, we go on to the third and final aisle, the meat section. Mom gets some pre-packaged hotdogs and a pound of hamburg, the kind that makes its own grease and sizzles in the frying pan. On the way to the check-out counter, I walk backwards, marveling that the Jolly Green Giant actually works at our own A&P Supermarket!
Mother wheels the cart up to one of two check-out lines and after a short wait, I help her put our items on the counter. The female cashier greets my mother by name and, while keeping up a running conversation, starts grabbing items, rotating them to read the price, and punching buttons on a massive electronic cash register. The most memorable A&P thing of all, however, is the way she brings the groceries forward. A wooden "cradle" surrounds them and a worn wooden handle stands upright within her reach. She periodically grabs the handle and pulls my mother's groceries forward. If the word "multitasking" had been invented, I'd say she was doing just that. And, of course, "Wonder Woman" was not around in those days but she was my Wonder Woman. At the end of our shopping, the apron-clad gentleman pushes our shopping cart to our car and places our bags of groceries carefully into the trunk.
Rena Robinson wearing her wreath decorating hat
And speaking of wonder women, we said goodbye to one the other day with our memorial to Rena Robinson. She was a great employee, person of faith, friend to all…great American! I'll miss her so much but then, that's where nostalgia kicks in…good memories are here forever, memories of great folks like Rena, great institutions like the A&P, and great experiences like when a little boy actually saw the Jolly Green Giant!
PS: As the Forth of July approaches, Morse Farm can help with your summer cookouts: two of our products, Grade B Maple Syrup and Elliott's Pure Granulated Maple Sugar, can enhance just about anything that is grilled or barbequed. I'm so anxious to spread the word that, from now through July 11, we'll enclose a free 1/2 lb. package of Elliott's Granulated Maple Sugar in every order of Gallons or 1/2 Gallons of Grade B Maple Syrup. Just use code (NFV) for your free 1/2 lb. of Pure Granulated Maple sugar.