Frank Summerfield's insurance office on Maple Street is the present location of what once-upon-a-time used to be Clyde Arbuckle's grocery store. Clyde and Marie Arbuckle were the owners and proprietors of the shop, ably assisted by their clerk Mary Jane Forsythe.
Clyde was an amiable man, with white hair on a balding head. He was generally quite jolly and talkative as he waited on his many customers. Marie was rarely seen in the store. I generally only crossed her path when I stopped by her home to collect in my role as the paper boy for the Columbus Dispatch newspaper. Mary Jane I saw just about each day of the week.
The store was divided into two main areas...the front of the store held the many display cases and shelves where the food items were stocked. The back of the store, set off by a wood partition with a large center archway, was where the wholesale products were delivered and excess stock stored. There was a counter nearby where Clyde kept the larger slicing machine, which he used to slice deli meats and cheese to his customers' specifications.
My favorite place in the whole store was the candy case, a large display case where a variety of single candies, candy bars, and other confections were so prominently displayed.
My Mom kept a weekly account at the store. She would make her purchases - or send one of us from home to do so - and Mary Jane or Clyde would record them on a little ledger book. At the end of the week, when my step-father brought home his pay check, Mom would pay the charges for that week. Some of those charges generally included the weekly supply of sliced boiled ham which came from one of the large deli blocks which Clyde displayed in his meat case. We enjoyed those thinly-sliced pieces of savory meat each Saturday for lunch, coupled with the fresh-baked buns which my step-father's mother, Ruth Forsythe, made for us on a weekly basis.
A can or two of Dinty Moore beef stew would also appear on the list of weekly purchases. As a boy, I looked forward to the nights when this delicious concoction was served at supper time. I would place a slice of bread on my plate, and heap mounds of the beef and vegetables onto it. I loved the taste, the texture, and have continued well into my old age of classifying this dish as one of my all-time favorites.
There were fruits which might appear on that weekly list of goodies. There were lush, plump, juicy naval oranges, tart and tingly Granny Smith apples, and thick, yellow bananas. There was Royal gelatin and puddings ("Rich, rich, rich in flavor - smooth, smooth, smooth as silk..."), Bosco, Bisquick, Aunt Jemima's Syrup, Joan of Arc Red Kidney beans (part of Mom's great homemade chili), and other wonderful products which we consumed with great thankfulness during the week.
One of the great things about being a spoiled, rotten, kid was my Mom's generosity. She permitted me to stop by Arbuckle's store every weekday afternoon, on my way home from school, and purchase my favorite candy from that abundantly-supplied display case. All I had to do was to show my selections to Mary Jane or Clyde, and have the purchase recorded in the ledger.
I occasionally purchased a box of Juji Fruits, or a Three Musketeer candy bar, or some similar candy. But my real favorite was a Klein's chocolate candy bar, which was covered in its distinctive green wrapper with red letters, the precious chocolate further protected in its foil inner wrapping. And, this lucious escape from reality was only 3 cents! Imagine!
Each time I stopped by Arbuckle's, it was like a family visit. There were familiar faces which catered to my every wish. Mary Jane Forsythe was an aunt of sorts, she being the youngest sister of my step-father. We'd talk about this or that as my purchases were duly recorded in the ledger book. If it was Friday, Mary Jane would ask me to remind my step-father to stop by their mother's home to pick up the fresh-baked buns the next day - as if we needed reminding! I'd scurry out the door, and make my way home to whatever adventures still awaited me.
Today, far from the sights and sounds of North Lewisburg, I shop at a nearby Smith's Food King - a modern day supermarket. I walk the many aisles, placing the necessities and frivolities of life in my grocery cart. When finished, I push my cart up to the checkout stand. Often, the few humans who inhabit those workplaces are busy with other customers, and I am herded along to a convenience checkout...one of those where I do all of the work, sliding my foodstuffs across a grid, placing the items in a plastic bag, and then feeding my money into a large machine. Change is dispensed, a receipt is printed, and I work my way out of the store to the parking lot. As I load the groceries into my car, I suddenly realize that I have done all of this without talking to another human being. No smile of recognition has crossed the face of a clerk. No sincere "thank you" from a Clyde Arbuckle or Mary Jane Forsythe as I paid for my purchases. No weekly ledger upon which to record those precious Klein candy bars. And no Mom to get her hair and clothes just right to make that weekly excursion "downtown" to settle up her accounts. Suddenly I am old - and sad.