At Shur-Way, my parents always carried a ticket. Shur-Way was our local grocery store in Ashdown, Arkansas. On the facade of the building, it was proudly written: “Our meats are better”.
It was a well-known truth.
My dad always said they had the best center cut baloney you could buy.
The package still said “bologna”, but that was what we all called it. Baloney was also the best term for a lot of things my dad used to say.
The Popes owned Shur-Way. The whole family ran the store. Mr. Pope and his son ran the meat market in the back. Both mother and daughter operated on the forehead.
That’s where my parents’ ticket was kept. Up front in a box that had individual slots and spring-loaded metal bars that popped when they took the ticket out or put it back in.
When you check out, you can pay in cash or say, “Please put it on our ticket”. At the beginning of the following month, my mother would pay our bill.
This was all done on the honor system. It was like using a credit card, but without the card or the interest.
You didn’t need photo ID.
“You really look like your mom, Johnny,” said Mrs. Pope.
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am,” I said.
“Of course, Johnny,” she said. “You tell your mum and dad that we said ‘hey’.”
At Shur-Way, looking like your mom was your photo ID
Most families back then had an income and a car. Dad worked, mom stayed home. So it was easy to put your kid on their Huffy bike and send them out onto the streets to pick up some stuff.
My sister had a basket on her bike, but she hardly ever went to the store. It was my job.
I carried the groceries home in a bag in one arm, riding my bike with the other.
I could have taken my sister’s bike, but I wouldn’t have been caught dead on a girl’s bike. Too bad I didn’t have more common sense.
In a small town, everyone knows each other. So when a kid comes for a pound of nonsense, a bag of Fritos and a six-pack of bottled Cokes, the Pope knows who you are.
Try to get it anywhere today. Self-checkouts don’t offer much conversation unless you’re talking to yourself. Or, when I try to operate the self-checkout. The machine just screams until an unsmiling manager shows up to type in a 37 digit code and tell me to make sure to “keep the scanning deck clear when paying”.
We have come a long way. Not a good way, but a long way.
Cycling to the local grocery store also taught you patience. And stamina.
Heaven help you if you were accused of venturing out on a mission to come back with some nonsense, Ruffles, and a Dr. Pepper six-pack in bottles and you dropped or ran over anything. Especially your father’s balony or your mother’s Dr Pepper.
This would have led to a tanning session at 10, 2 and 4.
Bike trips to Shur-Way started when I was about eight years old and continued even after I got a license to drive a car.
My last trip to Shur-Way was while visiting my parents several years ago. As I browsed the aisles looking for what mom had on her list, I noticed the selection was sparse.
It occurred to me that they were selling what they had left and going out of business.
Scoop up an extra pound of this highly prized, center-cut baloney; a bag of crisps; and Dr. Pepper, I went to the checkout.
There would be no ticket this time. Early next month would come, but Shur-Way would be gone.
The money changed hands as I looked around the store one last time. I said to the other members of the Pope family, “thank you”.
That’s what I was trying to say.
My family had received so much more than personalized service. We had received trust and appreciation.
It was a great feeling to live in a time when you didn’t need a credit card or background check to charge for your groceries. Your word was good enough.
Local families supporting each other, that’s how the world turned.
And it was a surefire way to build memories.
© 2021 John Moore
(John Moore graduated in 1980 from Ashdown High School who lived in Texarkana and worked at KTFS Radio in the 1980s. John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol.1 and Vol.2, are available on his website, TheCountryWriter.com. His weekly John G. Moore podcast appears on Spotify and iTunes. You can email him through his website at TheCountryWriter.com .)