Credit Where Credit Is Due

A 1978 photo of some of the employees of Shur-Way Grocery from columnist John Moore’s hometown of Ashdown, Arkansas. Photo by John Moore

At Shur-Way, my parents always carried a ticket. Shur-Way was our local grocery store in Ashdown, Arkansas. On the front of the building, it proudly said, “Our Meats Are Better.”

This was a widely-known truth.
My dad always said they had the finest center-cut baloney you could buy.
The package always said, “bologna,” but baloney was what we all called it. Baloney was also the best term for lots of things my dad would say.
The Popes owned Shur-Way. The whole family ran the store. Mr. Pope and his son ran the meat market in the back. The mom and daughter operated the front.
That’s where my parents’ ticket was kept. In the front in a till that had individual slots and metal bars that were spring-loaded that popped when they pulled out the ticket or put it back.
When you checked out, you could pay cash, or say, “Please put it on our ticket.” At the beginning of the next month my mom would settle up our bill.
This was all done on the honor system. It was like using a credit card, but without the card or the interest.
You didn’t need photo ID.
“You sure do look like your momma, Johnny,” Mrs. Pope would say.
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am,” I would say.
“Of course, Johnny,” she would say. “You tell your momma and daddy we said ‘hey’.”
At Shur-Way, looking like your momma was your photo I.D.
Most families back then had one income, and one car. Dads worked, moms stayed home. So, it was easy to put your kid on their Huffy bike and send them down the street to pick up a few things.
My sister had a basket on her bike, but she almost never went to the store. That was my job.
I would carry the groceries back home in a sack in one arm, steering my bicycle with the other.
I could have taken my sister’s bike, but I wouldn’t have been caught dead on a girl’s bike. Too bad I didn’t have more sense.
In a small town, everyone knows everyone else. So, when a kid comes in for a pound of baloney, a bag of Fritos, and a six-pack of Coke in the bottle, the Pope’s knew who you were.
Try getting that anywhere today. Self-checkouts don’t offer much conversation, unless you talk to yourself. Or, when I try to operate the self-checkout. The machine just screams until a smile-less manager shows up to punch in a 37-digit code and tell me to make sure to, ‘keep the scanning deck clear when paying.’
We’ve come a long way. Not a good way, but a long way.
Going to the local grocery store on a bicycle also taught you patience. And stamina.
Heaven help you if you were charged with venturing out on a mission to return with baloney, Ruffles, and a six-pack of Dr. Pepper in bottles and you dropped or ran over anything. Especially your dad’s baloney or your mom’s Dr. Pepper.
That would have led to a tanning session at 10, 2, and 4.
Bike trips to Shur-Way started when I was about eight-years-old, and continued even after I received a license to drive a car.
My last trip to Shur-Way was during a visit to see my parents several years ago. As I walked the aisles searching for what mom had on her list, I noticed the selection was sparse.
It dawned on me that they were selling what they had left and were going out of business.
Picking up one more pound of that highly prized, center-cut baloney; a bag of chips; and some Dr. Pepper, I made it to the checkout.
There would be no ticket this time. The beginning of the next month would come, but Shur-Way would be gone.
Cash exchanged hands as I looked around the store one last time. I told the remaining members of the Pope family, ‘thank you.’
I meant it.
My family had received so much more than personal service. We had received trust and appreciation.
It was a great feeling to live at a time when you didn’t need a credit card or background check to charge your groceries. Your word was good enough.
Local families supporting each other was how the world turned.
And that was a sure way to build memories.

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