Family-owned grocery played big role while growing up

Can you remember when there was a grocery store and filling station at Eighth and Brown streets? It stood on the northwest corner of Brown Street and was called the Landreth Grocery. It was run by my grandparents, Henry and Leona Landreth, and then by my parents, Noble and Lorraine.

Being 13 or 14, I worked there after school and when school was out. I dusted shelves and the stock, like canned goods. Mom always found things for me to do, like dusting, filling the pop machine or pumping gas. The gas pumps we had were the type you pumped the gas up into the glass chamber, then if someone wanted two gallons you drained the chamber down two gallons.

I remember mom had some No. 2 cans of cling peaches; they were 12 cents a can and they would not sell. One day she stacked them out on the floor with a sign that read, “Special: two for a quarter, limit four cans.” They all sold.

Then there was this fellow who lived in Taylorsville. He drove a Model-A Ford coupe. He would pull up to the pumps and always said, “Fifty cents worth of gas, don’t spill any on the paint, wash the windows and check my tires.” Things like that were done for customers back then. I should note, gas was 25 cents a gallon.

The pop machine, or should I say the soft drink machine, was not electric. We put ice in it with water which the bottles stood in to keep them cold. The drinks were 5 cents each.

Can you believe bread was around 12 cents a loaf, lunch meat 5 cents a slice, eggs 30 cents a dozen? Those were fresh eggs, too, not cold storage.

I should note that people in the area were poor people just trying to survive from payday to payday, much like some today. Times were rough then.

The wife would come in and buy a loaf of bread and maybe two slices of lunch meat, one slice for her and one for the husband. Peanut butter also was a good seller.

Camp Atterbury was being built, and some black men were working there. They had a hard time finding a place for them to eat. However, Mom would fix them a brown bag lunch. They would tell Mom what they wanted and the next day she would fix it for them. They could not pay her each day, so they ran a bill, then on payday they would stop by and pay the bill. On the weekend if they were off, most of them would head south to their home. Most were from the South, just trying to make a living.

In closing this out, I must tell you about the day country musician Maybelle Carter and one of her daughters stopped by on the way to Nashville, Tennessee. They were broke and asked Mom if she would give them enough gas to make it to the show that they were playing at the Grand Ole Opry. Good-hearted Mom filled their gas tank, fixed them a couple of sandwiches and they were off to Tennessee.

A couple of weeks later Mom got a letter from the Carters. It had a check for the gas, four tickets to the Grand Ole Opry, plus a big thank-you!

Kenneth Landreth is retired and lives in Columbus. Send comments to editorial@therepublic.com.