Grocery Shopping in 1929 Meant Locating Bargains

Today is Saturday, August 17, 1929 and we need to do some grocery shopping. Our first order of business is to examine the Johnson City Chronicle to see if there are any specials being advertised in the local grocery stores.

We are frugal people so we are willing to walk or drive all over town in order to save a few pennies on our purchases. We don’t know it but the Great Depression is just around the corner. Although there are 103 mostly “mom and pop” retail grocery stores within the posted limits of Johnson City, most do not advertise in the newspaper. Their bargains are generally posted on their store windows.

Given that we plan to buy numerous provisions, we take our family’s 1929 Model AA Ford pickup along because of all the additional space in its bed. We drive to downtown Johnson City and park near the Arcade building in the 200 block of W. Market. Five of the stores we will be visiting are located in that general vicinity, allowing us to return to the truck and drop off our purchases after every visit.

We begin our shopping spree with Miller Grocery Co. at 124 W. Market and McClure and purchase four items from their store: 12 packages of Post Toasties ($.25/3 pkgs.), a 2-pound can of Maxwell House coffee ($.49/lb., $.20/lb. cheaper than Sanka), 2 large cans of Carnation milk ($.10/can) and a 12-oz. Bottle of Vermont-Maid maple syrup ($.29).

Our next stop is Jamison’s Chain Grocery Store at 130 W. Market. At this location, we buy six items: a 4-pound picnic ham (pork shoulder, $.20/lb.), 4 packages of Brown Rice Flakes (Comet Brand, $.25), two pounds of Armour’s corn beef ($.19/lb.), a large box of Duz detergent ($.20), a quart jar of pickled pigs feet (Black Hawk Brand, boneless, $.45) and two quarts of Welch’s grape juice ($.55/qt.).

We exit Jamison’s and enter Lay Packing Co. next door at 132 W. Market. We tell the meat cutter to give us three pounds of Cloverleaf cured ham ($.28/lb), one pound of Cloverleaf skin-off sliced bacon ($.33/lb), five pounds of Family beef steak ($.25/lb.), two pounds of veal chops ($.25/lb.), one pound of Cloverleaf bag sausage ($.30/lb.) and two pounds of Mutton Roast ($.26/lb.).

We next visit Piggly Wiggly two doors west at 136 W. Market where we buy three cans of Campbell’s tomato soup ($.25), three bars of Lux toilet soap ($.25), a pound of Brookfield creamery butter ($.45/lb.), a 5-lb. fryer ($.33/lb.) and a pound of Compound lard ($.125/lb.). We have two more stops to make.

Our next business is The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, known succinctly as the A&P located three doors west at 142 W. Market (other locations at 206 N. Roan, 109 Buffalo and 408 S. Roan). Our list shows four needed items: a loaf of Grandmother’s bread (15 oz. Pullman loaf, $.07), three cans of Norwegian sardines ($.25), two packages of Shredded Wheat ($.19) and a large watermelon ($.55), which the grocer plugs for us to taste. It is delicious.

We will drive to our sixth and final store. We hop in the truck, motor west on Market, turn right onto Boone, bear right onto King and travel to the end of the block at Roan.

When we arrive at the E.W. Brown Cash Store at 200 N. Roan and King, we are greeted by Eugene Brown the owner. This business is known as “The Store with the Yellow Front.” They sell E.L. McCleod meats and are agents for Mrs. R.L. Tranum’s homemade cakes. Our final purchase consists of two 16-oz jars of raspberry jam ($.25), a 10-pound bag of Irish potatoes ($.25), three pounds of Kentucky Wonder green beans ($.25) and 24 pounds of Brown’s Special flour ($.91).

Our Saturday grocery-shopping mission is now complete. Our purchases totaled $14.86 and we did it without a credit card, debit card or check. We used cold, hard cash. Bon appetite and bon voyage.