Bergen Street and Lyons Avenue

by Ray Miller


In the 1930's there were no supermarkets. The term had not even been invented and shopping was much different than it is today. There were small (by today's standards) stores at which one bought groceries, other stores were meat markets, fish markets and bakeries.

On Bergen Street, just east of Lyons Avenue where there was a bank, was a commercial zone in which was included the A & P grocery. In this store customers approached a counter which ran the depth of the building. Behind it were shelves stacked with groceries. As the customer recited his needs a clerk would reach for the item and place it on the counter. He used a long pole with a grip at one end to select from the high upper shelves. When the order was complete the clerk totalled the cost with a stubby pencil on a paper bag and mentally added the figures. They used no adding machine or computer and there was no "checker".

Next door to the A&P was a bakery which emitted a delightful smell. Among the various baked goods was a paper container known as a Charlotte Russe made of lady fingers cookies and lots of whipped cream. No thoughts yet of cholesterol!

A bit further east there was a butcher shop where meat and both butchered and live chickens were sold as well as sometimes fish. I can still remember that some of those chickens carried unborn eggs that cooked hard in homemade soup. Most came complete with feathers which meant that the chicken had to be "plucked" until few if any pinfeathers remained.

Ice cream and penny candies were sold in the "candy store" which also sold newspapers, magazines, and sundries, non-perscription remedies. It is clear that the purchase of what is available today in one supermarket required visits to several individual shops. It was perhaps more difficult, but there were compensations. There was a familiarity in those stores. The clerks knew the customers by name and in turn the customers had their favorite clerks with whom they always dealt. There were far fewer products and choices, but there was a friendliness that began to disappear when the supermarket drove those stores out of business while consolidating options.


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