Tag Archives: Dad’s One Pager

Work in a Grocery Store

I have been thinking about how grocery stores were when I was younger, and how they are now.  I started in the grocery business when I was eleven years old, but got my first job at a store, not owned by the family, when I was 16.  I worked at Cleve’s Foodland during most of my high school days.  My job included, stocking shelves, bagging groceries and checking out customers (no, not that way!) Of course we didn’t have scanners for the groceries, so we had to manually enter the price for each item.  Some items, such as soup, were priced for multiple items, for example, Campbell’s Tomato Soup was 3 for 39 cents.  Vegetable soups were 4 for 45 cents, and the expensive meat soups were 3 for 55 cents.

Sales tax had to be added at the end of the order, but it was easy in those days.  Utah charged 2% for most everything.  If the order totaled $8.45 I would multiply the dollars by two and then add a penny if it was over 20 cents, or 2 pennies if it was above 70 cents.  Therefore, tax on the above was $0.17.

We had to memorize the price for produce and then weigh it on the scales at the counter.  Bananas were 19 cents/pound.  We would sell watermelon for 3 cents a pound, and sometimes on sale it was 2.5 cents.  And we had a “plugger” so we could “plug” the melon for the customers to make sure it was ripe.

Soda pop, as we called them sold for 6 for 49 cents.  Most sodas came in 10 oz bottles, but Coke was 7 oz.  They introduced the 12 oz bottles when I was a teen.  I liked to drink pop, but they were a pain at the store.  We charged a 3 cent deposit for each bottle.  The empty case, or shell we called it, was 28 cents.  So if a person bought a case of 24 sodas, the deposit was $1.  That part was easy, but getting the dirty bottles back at the store was a pain.  We would get them at the check stand when people were paying for their groceries.  We would have to haul the “empties” to the back room and at some point, sort the bottles based on the distributor. Ugg, touching all of those bottles, knowing that people had put their lips on them.

When I worked at the Island Market, we had two check stands, but only one cash register,  Each check stand had an adding machine, so we would total the order, then use the cash register to input the total, deposit the check or cash, and make change.  Floyd Saltern, the owner was either very trusting or lazy as he would only “balance” the register every week or so.  It would have been so easy to steal money, but he only hired those who he knew really well.

I worked for Floyd through my senior year and my freshman year at USU.  After my mission I again worked there until my senior year at college.  I came in almost every day after school.  I replaced a day time worker. One worker was Meryl Olsen, Merlin’s mom the NFL hall of famer.  After I came in each day she would do her shopping.  Upon checkout, she expected me to carry her groceries to her car.  Heck, Meryl was big enough to carry her groceries in one arm, and carry me with the other.

Cleve’s Foodland

After working two summers in Grace Idaho on a farm, I decided there must be a better way to make a dollar.  As soon as I arrived back in Logan, I applied at Cleve’s on 1st West and 2nd North.  Cleve offered me a job and I started immediately, making the incredible amount of $0.85 per hour.  I typically worked 20-30 hours a week, several days after school and all day Saturday.  Initially I was a shelf stocker and grocery bagger.  Later I did other things such as produce, checking out customers and I even helped in the meat department a few times.

Cleve’s son-in-law, Glenn Covert, was the meat manager and sometimes he asked me to help him.  One day I was slicing lunch meat on the big old slicer, when I noticed my finger was in the wrong place.  The back of my pointer finger had a nice slice and it was bleeding.  I tried to finish the job, wrap the meat for the customer, without showing blood.  I put a big gauze bandage on the finger and kept working.  Later that day I was grinding a big batch of hamburger. We would first cut the meat into cubes, then do the initial grind, then put a smaller die on the grinder for the final cutting.  About 3/4 of the way through the batch, I noticed that my bandage was gone.  I had two choices to make: admit that the bandage was in the 40 pounds of ground beef, or not.

We workers would get bored from time to time, so we pulled pranks on the “new guys”.  Cleve often hired college students, but more often than not, they only worked one day.  I’m sure they were disappointed as many were married.  Didn’t stop us from pulling pranks.  One old favorite was the Twinkie race.  We would doctor up a Twinkie with shaving cream inserted in the bottom.  The race was with a new guy – the last to finish had to pay for the Twinkie.  The new guy would stuff the whole cake into his mouth and about the time he would swallow the taste of the shaving cream hit him and he would spit it out.  New guy,  pay for the Twinkie, you didn’t finish.

In those days, we had bulk vinegar in the back room.  Customers would bring empty gallon jars to the store and we would fill them with either white or amber vinegar.  While working we would get warm, so we would drink a cola and put it in the rear cooler, so sometimes in the freezer, to have a slushy drink.  Unfortunately, the amber vinegar was the same color as the soda.  I was a perpetrator of this prank very often, but I did acquire a taste for vinegar as I drank it so often.

You would think that no one would be gullible enough to fall for this, but we sent many a first day worker to another store to retrieve our “sack stretcher” which we had loaned them.  Some of the guys would go to the first store, only to be sent to another, and perhaps a third before they caught on.  One person never came back at all.  Probably still looking for the stack stretcher.

Cleve and his sons took long lunch breaks, so this was the time to raise the devil.  One day I told a new employee that we were going to put new tile on the floor, so he needed to count the number of tiles.  He wasn’t smart enough to count in one direction and then the other and use multiplication.  He was tapping his foot on each tile.  He was almost to the end of an aisle, when we came around the corner with a large hand truck – making him lose his place and he had to start over.   It is amazing I kept that job for two years.


Logan’s Central Park

One block away from our home on Center Street was a large park.  Our family and I in particular, used the park a lot.  There was some really old playground equipment.  I think it was old when I was young.  There were two slides, one higher and longer.  They were not safe by today’s standards since it would have been very easy to fall off.  There was also a swing set and a pole, with chain hand holds attached.  Kids would grab onto the chains, and run around and swing out.  If we had a kid for each of the chains, sometimes it would get going really fast.  It was also extremely dangerous if a kid let go, the chain was flying around, at face level.  I’m sure that many teeth were broken as a result of this equipment.

On the northeast side of the park was a big grass covered area and two baseball fields.  We played a lot of baseball there, and during football season, we played touch football.  Sounds innocent enough, but there was a lot of contact, particularly if you were relatively small compared to the others in the game.  Often there were some really large kids, like future Hall of Fame football player, Merlin Olsen.  He lived just across the street from the park, which has now been named, “Merlin Olsen Central Park.”

That same area was used each summer for a “fish scramble”.  The park was flooded to about a foot deep and hundreds of trout were released.  The area was divided for different age groups, and then as the siren went off, we “scrambled” into the water attempting to catch a fish with our hands.  I only remember catching a fish that way one time.

This area was also used as an ice skating rink in the winter.  The parks people would spray the field with water each night until there was a thick coating of ice and then the rink was opened to ice skating.  Everyone in the area had their own ice skates, usually used and not in the best condition. As soon as elementary school was out each day, we would race home, put on our skates and walk to the rink.  Park staff Joe and Rulon would run the place and would play music as we skated away under the lights.  At 6:00 we would go home for a quick dinner and then we were back until it closed down at 8:00.  Too bad Logan is not cold enough to do that anymore.  We would often have skating from early December through February.

Another lesser known and short lived attraction were some “rides”.  My dad’s company made the rides for some event, but they were moved to Central Park and later to the Drive in.  For a dime you could ride.  One of the motorized rides consisted of an “airplane” suspended by chains and it simply would go in circles.  The planes were old war surplus airplane external fuel tanks that had been cut open to allow two small seats in them.  The other ride was similar, but the airplanes went up and down as they went around the circle somewhat like the old “tilt a whirl” rides did.  When I rode in them I always chose the green plane with the “Abersold Equipment Company” label on the side.  I was very proud of this ride and the fact that my Dad’s company had built them.