The other day, I stumbled across an old journal of mine. In this journal, I found stories that I had written about memories from my childhood. It’s like my blog before there were blogs! These stories were written years ago, but the memories are still fresh in my mind. So, I thought I’d share some with you all…updated, of course, to use more adult language than I used when I wrote these stories. (I figured I wrote most of them when I was about 19!)
I grew up in a little town called Markes, PA. You know these towns. It’s one of those towns that if you blink as you go through, you’ve missed it. The town was big enough to have its own store though, and that is the source of this memory.
Gluck’s Grocery Store was in “down town” Markes. Not only did they sell groceries, but they also sold gas from the one pump they had on the front porch. Being that my grandparents didn’t travel very far, they would often do their grocery shopping here and I’d go along. Selection was limited, but you could get pretty much everything you needed as long as you weren’t particular on the brand name or size of the item. I remember this place so well, because it was a place that I went to on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis.
As you went up the steps to the entrance, you immediately took notice of the big windows on either side of the door. What treasure troves were in those windows!! My favorite window was the one on the left. It always contained things that interested children. There were barrels full of kites and boxes of little airplane kits to put together. Stacks of coloring books and a basket of balls also graced the window. The other window was not as exciting for a child but excited the adults. Barrels containing new brooms and mops, yard sticks, galvanized buckets, and garden tools filled the window.
As you stepped inside the door, it was like going back in time by today’s standards. I only wish I had a picture of the actual store but this one I found on the internet comes close to describing how it looked.
To the left of the entrance was the candy counter. Mrs. Miriam Gluck spent most of her time behind this counter. I would be given a nickel or dime to spend at the candy counter. There was all sorts of penny candy to choose from! Boxes of gummy fish, licorice whips, sour balls and wax bottles lined the case. There were boxes and boxes of candy bars and Lifesavers, nearly any kind of candy you could think of. Grandma would always go with me to this counter so she could get her supply of her favorite candy. Mrs. Gluck would scoop pink, white or green Canada mints from jars and put them in a brown paper bag for Grandma. She would mark the price on the bag with a black wax crayon. Grandma also wanted to spend time here for another reason.
Behind the candy counter, the wall was lined with narrow shelves. On these shelves were tiny shallow boxes filled with sewing notions. All you had to do was tell Mrs. Gluck the color and she would expertly pull the box from the shelf and give you your desired skein of embroidery floss or spool of thread. Other sewing supplies were available. Small boxes of thimbles and needles were on the shelves as well. Grandma sewed a lot, so this was always a stop when we visited the store.
If you went toward the right when you entered the store, you would see the ice cream freezer. Hershey’s confections filled the freezer. You could purchase ice cream by the half-gallon or pint. Pappy would often select several ice cream treats and have Mrs. Gluck’s daughter, Carolyn, fill a bag. Ice cream sandwiches, fudge bars, banjos, and popsicles would fill the bag. Pappy always made sure to get some root beer flavored popsicles (my favorite) and plenty of fudge bars!
Along the back wall was the meat and cheese counter. What ever you wanted, Carolyn would remove from the case, slice it if need be, and wrap it in brown paper and tie it with string. She too would write the price on the paper with a black wax pencil. Eggs were also kept in this case along with butter quarters. Near the meat counter was another cooler of soda and a pot-bellied stove with a bench beside it. Here is where the men from Markes would sit and exchange news and gossip. Blair Deaver was a fixture on this bench. He was pretty much always there. Pappy would go to the back of the store to “get the latest” on what was going on in the area and he’d pick up his newspaper while he was there. He’d also eye up the hardware items behind the counter. There were tools, nails, nuts and bolts, and screws for sale all sorted out according to size.
One last stop was the center aisle in the store. This aisle contained bread and rolls, cookies and snack foods. We would take any items we had accumulated up to the counter (it was on top of the ice cream freezer) and Carolyn would check us out. She had an antiquated adding machine that she would add the purchases on. She’d punch in the price of each item and occasionally pull a lever to add the total.
It was during the check out time that if you needed any “personal” items, you asked for them. I recall several times going with my mother who would ask for feminine napkins. These too were wrapped in brown paper and tied with string so that no one knew what you were purchasing! Once all your items were bagged, Carolyn would pull the lever on the adding machine to get your final total and you were “checked out.”
We often would get gas before we left. Pappy would pull the car up to the pump and Carolyn would come out to pump the gas. Motor oil was kept in a locked green cabinet on the porch. You’d pay for your gas and you were on your way.
Glucks grocery was a great place to stop in for ice cream or a cold soda on a hot summer day. We would often visit Glucks in the summer to grab some chips and soda to go with hoagies for a quick lunch. I would often leave with candy or a small toy of some sort. My mom and I bought several kites over the years from the barrel in the window.
Slowly, Glucks Grocery began to die. First Miriam Gluck passed away. A lot of the sewing supplies were stopped after that. Keeping up with those and the rest of the store was too much for Carolyn to handle. Then paper routes became popular and people had their paper delivered instead of stopping in to pick one up on their way home. Blair passed away and no one sat on the bench in the back of the store any more. Then the ultimate demise came when Jane’s Market came to Mercersburg. It was a big-sized grocery store and had much more to offer than Gluck’s. Soon, Carolyn stopped selling gas and many other things.
I hadn’t realized that Glucks was dying. I figured it was doing well still selling candy, ice cream and soda to kids in the neighborhood. I was wrong. I was about 19 years old and was in need of a new ice scraper. I decided I’d stop in and see if Carolyn still had any for sale so I wouldn’t have to go the whole way into town. I was filled with sadness as I walked in the door. Many of the shelves were empty. The adding machine was still there and there was still a fair amount of candy to chose from in the candy counter. The ice cream freezer was still running, but over half of the freezer was filled with Carolyn’s own food supply. The few cans that were still on the shelf were dusty. The bench and pot-bellied stove in the back of the store was still there but looked as though it hadn’t been used for some time. I knew in a moment there were no ice scrapers there. Carolyn made some chit chat with me and asked about my parents. She looked sad. I asked her if I could get a candy bar and she opened the case for me one last time. “It’s on me,” she said. I think she was just grateful that someone had stopped in.
A few years later, the store officially closed and Carolyn passed away too. The store still stands, but now it’s someone’s home. The windows are different and no longer filled with a treasure trove of items for sale.
I somehow felt a little resposible for Gluck’s demise. I was now a Jane’s Market customer. But, every time I eat a Canada mint, fly a kite, or eat Hershey’s ice cream from a box, my mind is taken right back to this place that held so many fond childhood memories. There was a lot of love and care wrapped up in those brown paper packages and many memories that I will always have with me.