H&R’S: Our Corner Grocery Store

Long before the existence of EJ Korvette, K-Mart and Walmart, my favorite shopping place growing up was the small corner store a half block from our house. This store was located on the southwest corner of Brush St. and Candler. H&R’S was named after the joint owners of the store, Harold and Rupe (A Norwegian name). Harold was of normal weight with salt and pepper colored hair. Rupe was a bit overweight and was balding with grey hair. Both of these men worked hard to service the various needs of our community.

H&R’S was a very small store; yet to my young eyes, it seemed to have everything a kid ever wanted. The store was divided into two parts. The front part had what a normal corner store would have. The second part was like a poor man’s five and ten store. The store building is no longer standing, but the last time I saw the building, I thought: “How could Harold and Rupe have so much merchandise in such a small building?”

Let’s go back fifty years pay a visit to H&R’S.  My trips to H&R’S would often begin with my mother sending me down to the store for an item or two. Often it would be a loaf of Silvercup Bread or maybe a half-gallon of milk. Other times, I would head out to H&R’S to buy something that I wanted. The trip to the store would take a couple of minutes. Mom would always remind to be careful crossing Brush street. I don’t remember any close calls, but you know how moms are.

Whenever I entered H&R’S, I saw clutter; yet it was organized clutter.  After entering the door to the right were two very important sections. There was a revolving rack with comic books and beyond this rack was a rack filled with magazines. I knew the day the new comics would arrive, and I would buy the next installment of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and many other titles. The comics were twelve cents a copy.   I would read the comics and then rate them in a small notebook as to my favorite story for the week.

As for the magazine stand, the only magazines that held my interest would be sport magazines, and the Popular Mechanics edition that would show the new car models for the year. Back in my day, the models would change every year. I couldn’t wait to see what they looked like.

On the wall to my right as I entered was the grocery section. This section seemed to have any can goods and food items that one might need in an emergency. Towards the end of the shelf was the bread section featuring our favorite bread, Silvercup.

Once I entered the store straight in front of me were the newspapers.  Not only did they stock the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, but also the National Enquirer and other such papers.  I still remember the headline staring at me one day from the National Enquirer which said in bold letters: “Toothpaste Causes Cancer!” Wow, I knew about cigarettes, but what could I do?  I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with teeth that were never brushed.

After walking a few paces inside the store, there was a glass cabinet which was filled with penny candy. The candy could only be reached by a clerk which was normally either Harold or Rupe. There were all sorts of treasures in that cabinet. My favorites were the jawbreakers and the Bazooka bubblegum.  I also enjoyed the root beer barrels.  I always had a great feeling leaving the store with a bag filled with my favorite candy.

After the glass cabinet was the counter.  The counter was the place where we would ask for ice cream, popsicles, pop or anything else that was behind the counter. The counter also had the most important commodity in the store: baseball and football cards!  One year, my mom, gave me a dollar for going to Vacation Bible School, I remember blowing the dollar on twenty packs of baseball cards. I didn’t care much for the gum, but the cards were a great treasure.

Going to the back section of H&R’S would make a great museum room today. My mom would buy patches for my pants there. I also remember her buying me suspenders as well.  Also, if there was a birthday party, Mom would send me down to H&R’S and find a gift. As I grew older, I would also find that H&R’S always stocked rubber baseballs for twenty-five cents.  These were always needed to play strikeout off of our neighbor’s garage.

Also, at the back of H&R’s was a small opening with bars.  I became acquainted with this spot when I made a very expensive purchase of buying a game called Strat-O-Matic Baseball by mail. I needed a money order to pay for this game. Harold wrote up a money order for the fee of ten cents behind the opening and I would soon enjoy my new game which came by mail.

There are some other memories about H&R’S. Every Halloween, I would make sure I went to H&R’S first. They would give every child a ten-cent bag of New Era Potato Chips. This would be the best treat in my bag after a long night of trick or treating.

There were many other things that I would buy at H&R’S.  For a treat, I would ask at the counter for a small bottle of Hires Root Beer. Also, my favorite popsicle was the Seven-Up flavored popsicle that sold for five cents. When Dad wanted to make homemade bubbles, he would have me go to H&R’S and buy a corncob pipe to use to blow the bubbles he made.

Like everything else, I didn’t really appreciate the convenience of having a store like H&R’S a short walk from home. I am sure that Harold and Rupe didn’t get rich with their little store, but they provided a very important service to our neighborhood. Now, many stores like H&R’S no longer exist; however, I am glad for the many happy moments that I had with my many visits to H&R’S!

P.S. Please visit my other blog where I write about spiritual matters such as: “God’s Waiting Room” “Does Jesus Care?” “Do not Fear God’s Plan, Embrace it.” The address is: http://www.markjemilbooth.com

Winter Memories in Highland Park

My friend and I in 1959 (Candler Ave. between Brush and Oakland)

My friend and I in 1959 (Candler Ave. between Brush and Oakland)

In spite of being in my fifties (I do hate to admit this), I still have a love for winter that I had as a child. Winter was not only Christmas, but it was also a special time of year for me.  My memories of winter are probably similar to other people who grew up in the fifties and sixties.

The memory of snow coming down excited me. The snow meant making snow forts, snowmen, and having snowball fights. Unfortunately, the snow in the playground at Midland School was wasted during recess because snowball fighting was not permitted.    I never tried to break this rule; so I never did discover what the punishment would have been.  It was one of those rules that I didn’t understand in elementary school.

Winter also meant cold weather. As a Safety Boy, my corner was at Brush and Ferris. It was the furthest post from Midland School. The winter meant cold mornings doing what I thought was a very important job. When the temperature reached ten degrees, all the Safety Boys would get free hot chocolate in the gym. This may not seem like a great perk, but at the time the hot chocolate sure tasted good.

One day, in second grade, the temperature went down to minus twelve degrees.  Mom didn’t see a problem with the cold; however, she did drive me to school that day. There were only four other students in our class. This made for a very long day for the five of us as well as our teacher, Mrs. Schlabach (sp?).

One year, we experienced a big snow storm.  I am sure that we had a couple of rare snow days. When we returned to school, several of us on our walk home took a detour through Ford Park. We were quite pleased to see that the city had dumped a lot of the excess snow by the track. These dumps made perfect snow mountains where we could play, hide and toss snowballs from our hideouts. This lasted for several days, which made for a very slow walk home.

Whenever we had snow, the city would do a great job of taking care of the snow on the streets and even in the alleys. Dad didn’t appreciate the snow being thrown upon his car, but we didn’t have a garage. There was also the small snow plow that plowed all the sidewalks. This was an expensive luxury which in my later teen years had ceased to exist.

As I became older, I also learned that winter meant work.  I soon would be recruited to shovel snow on our sidewalks.  To me, it seemed like our sidewalks never ended. Obviously, shoveling the snow was not my favorite part of winter.

Winter also meant that I would spend more time inside the house, watching more television than I should.  Of course, there was Captain Jolly at 6:00 P.M. and then there were the Hanna-Barbera cartoons at 6:30 P.M.  My favorites were Quick Draw Mcgraw, Yogi Bear, and Huckleberry Hound. I felt fortunate that there was an alternative to the 6:30 P.M. news. Living in the Detroit area meant that we had access to Channel nine out of Windsor, Canada.

Captain Jolly

Captain Jolly

Besides watching television, we would have family game time. We enjoyed playing Jeopardy, Password, and especially Scrabble.  I always enjoyed trying to make up my own words with the tiles given to me.  My favorite sentence was: “Is this a word?”  My mother was quite patient with me during these games, though my older brother was not amused.

One last thing about winter that I remember was how cold my bedroom would become. The heat from the basement barely made it up to my second floor bedroom.  After reading me a story mom would cover me up with several covers and give me a kiss goodnight.

The winter appeared to go on forever. The snow stayed on the ground for three months. However, the snow would eventually leave the ground. The temperatures would rise, and spring would arrive. The snowballs would be replaced by baseballs. The hot chocolate would be replaced by Hires Root Beer. With the warmth, we would return to the alley to play our favorite games. However, the joy of winter would come again.