Commentary by Ward Degler
A young friend couldn’t wait to tell me about the latest internet development. “You can order groceries online, and they will deliver them right to your door,” he beamed. “You never have to leave the house.” He was smiling so hard his teeth looked like a white picket fence.
“Not to burst your bubble,” I said, “but that’s nothing new.”
“Sure it is,” he said. “They just started it last week.”
For a moment I thought about conceding and letting him glow in his discovery. But then I remembered the glee my parents had when they announced to me that the brand new song I had just heard was one they had danced to in high school. That’s when I told him about Willard’s Grocery store.
Willard’s was a local IGA store at the corner of Clark Avenue and Chestnut Street. Mr. Willard was the son of the original owner, and even though he had added an addition to the back of the store for a freezer section, the place was laid out pretty much the way it had always been.
The walls on both sides of the store were floor-to-ceiling shelves. There was a long counter in front of one wall, and barrels of bulk rice and beans crowded the end of the counter. Fresh produce was on a table in the center of the store, and unopened cartons of canned goods were stored in the back.
On Thursday my mother would write out her grocery list and call Willard’s on the phone. Occasionally, she talked to the part-time clerk who worked there, but most of the time she talked directly with Mr. Willard.
While Mom slowly read the list, Mr. Willard would copy the items down on a pad he kept next to the phone. Then he would walk down the row of shelves, pulling out bags of flour and sugar, boxes of Mother’s Oats and cans of peas and Chef Boyardee and putting them into a cardboard box.
At the meat counter he would select the pork chops and weigh the hamburger. Fresh carrots, a head of lettuce and a stalk of celery were added to the mix. When the list was filled, Mr. Willard would tally up the bill and put it in the metal box he kept under the counter. Dad would settle up on the first of the month.
“Then he would load the box of groceries into his pickup and deliver it to our house,” I said.
“Seriously?” my friend asked.
“And you know what else?” He shook his head.
“Mr. Willard would bring the groceries into the house and put them away for Mom.” I asked if the Internet would do that.