Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
The grocery store
During the 1930s and early ‘40s, most people in Marysville did their grocery shopping in the center of town, in a two-block area along both Main and Fifth Streets. There were a couple of grocery chains in that area, Kroger and A&P. There were also three independent groceries, Bakers, Springs and Swinks, plus Asman’s meat market and a green grocer named Ben Borenheim. Not bad for a small town of maybe 3,000 people or so.
At one time or another, I was in all of those stores because my grandmother, Hettie Tracy, often took me along when she went shopping. She sat me in my wagon and pulled me down the sidewalk along Fifth Street. After buying her groceries, she put them in the wagon with me, and the two of us headed for home. It was a lot easier for her than carrying those groceries, and it was fun for me.
There was one other grocery store she went to occasionally. It was Braun’s Grocery, and it was located about half a block further east, at 219 E. 5th Street, where the parking lot for the Old Bag of Nails is located today. Braun’s was my very favorite grocery store, and I would like to tell you a bit about it.
Unlike the others, which tried to “modernize” their stores by putting in new display cases and things like that, stepping into Braun’s was like stepping back in time. When you opened the screen door and walked in, you found yourself in a deep, but very narrow room. There was some sort of meat counter at the back, but my memories of that are pretty vague. The wall on the right was full of shelves, nearly to the ceiling. That’s where Mr. Braun kept most of his products. In front of those shelves was a long wooden counter.
I don’t remember any glass display cases, but I am told there was one at the right end of the counter. That was where Mr. Braun displayed a few candies, plus several tobacco products – pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and snuff, plus small bags of smoking tobacco with cigarette papers for customers who “rolled their own.”
Then there were wooden barrels on the floor in front of the counter, but I’m not sure what they held. At the left end of the counter there was a keg that held vinegar. Customers could bring their own bottle, and Mr. Braun would fill it from the keg. I always liked the smell of the vinegar, and even today when I smell it, I sometimes think of that old grocery store.
As soon as my grandmother and I entered the store, Mr. Braun would pick me up and seat me on top of the wooden counter, right next to his string holder, which was shaped like a beehive. Then my grandmother would tell him what she wanted, and he would fetch the items off the shelves and set them beside me on the counter.
After he filled her order, he would take out a pad and pencil, add up the price of all the items, and hand it to my grandmother. Then, when she paid him, he would take a penny out of his cash drawer and show it to me. He would ask, ”Whose picture is this on this penny, Billy?” And I would answer, “Abraham Lincolnton.”
I guess I just got George Washington and Abraham Lincoln mixed up, so I called him Abraham Lincolnton. Mr. Braun thought that was so funny that he would laugh and then give me the penny. I thought that was great, because all I had to do was say “Abraham Lincolnton” and I was one penny richer.
At some point, my parents corrected my pronunciation, and I identified that guy on the penny by his proper name. But I wasn’t stupid. I mean, Mr. Braun was giving me those pennies because I was mispronouncing the name. So I pronounced Abe’s name correctly when I was at home, but when I was sitting on Mr. Braun’s counter, that guy was still “Abraham Lincolnton.”
I can’t really tell you how long I kept this up, but it was the easiest money I ever made. No wonder Braun’s Grocery was my favorite store in town.
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at email@example.com
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