HUNT & PECKER

     I’m a strange bird in many ways, and I admit to that.  As a prime example, even as a fledgling writer, I’ve never learned to type!  Yes, I’m what’s called a ‘Hunt and Pecker.’

    Once I actually attempted to learn, or should I say, was encouraged to learn.  That was way back in the early days of computers, with their ever present keyboards.  Some folks believe that ‘typing’ is required.

    I began (full-time) work for Jitney-Jungle in the fall of 1967.  Those first few years typing was never a requirement, as I was producing silk screen and hand-painted signage for the company.  I’m sure that by today, somewhere, there’s a silk-screen apparatus that has a key-board… but back then… none was required.

    Because I’d formerly worked in the advertising department of the Clarion Ledger Newspaper, the heads of state at Jitney decided… why ‘farm-out’ print advertising when we have a warm body already on the payroll who can do that!  So, I moved across the street and into the main corporate office, hired a couple of co-employees, and we began producing the weekly print-ad artwork, camera-ready for the newspapers.  

    Our first ‘typesetting’ machine was among the first photo-typesetters on the market… and it didn’t even have a keyboard!  Although electric, it was in no-way electronic. Each and every type-font came on a large plastic disk about the size of an old LP record.  Oh, and each type-font SIZE had it’s own separate disk!  Early expense requirements meant that we could have only a limited number of type fonts and sizes.

     The way this machine worked was: in a darkroom, the 35 mm paper onto which the type would be ‘exposed’ was fed into a loadable cassette.  The type machine itself looked somewhat like a cross between a record player and a pinball machine.  To produce the words ‘Chuck Roast’ you placed the desired font/size disk onto the machine, inserted the cassette into the side, advanced the paper to the ‘expose film’ area, then turn the font-disk until the ‘C’ lined up correctly.  Then with your left hand you pressed a lever which locked the font-wheel into the correct position, and next with your right hand you pressed a corresponding lever on the right side which exposed this first letter onto the film.  ‘C’ was now done.  Then you moved the font wheel to the letter ‘h’ and repeated the left right, lock-print lever dance.  Next came ‘u’ followed by all the others.  Needless to say, it took quite a bit LONGER to print out ‘USDA Choice Boneless Chuck Roast’ than it does today!  You see, knowing ‘how to type’ was of absolutely no benefit in ‘typing’ with the Varityper!  It was basically ‘Hunt and Pecking by default!’  

     Also, there were physical limitations as to the type size we could use.  The minimum was 14 points (about 1/8 inch tall) and the largest was 72 points… around 3/4 inches tall.  So, for the larger PRICE NUMERALS we often had to use ‘clip art’ numerals, especially for the larger ‘featured’ items.  

    All of these various ‘labor intensive’ requirements required that these earlier four and eight page ad ‘tabloids’ displayed only a minimum number of items per page… something in the neighborhood of six to fourteen items.

     Because type-setting was such a long, labor-intensive process, there were many, many times, (in order to be home with the family) I’d take the Varityper home after 5 and set type sitting at our kitchen table!  Like I said, there was no NEED to learn how to type.  ANYONE can ‘hunt and peck’ 2 words a minute!

     But things changed when computers came along, and with them, computer-generated type-setting.  The next generation of computer assisted ad layout meant that type could be set directly in position and onto a page layout clearly and accurately presented right on your computer screen!  Now, typing was almost a requirement!  So… Jitney sent me to TYPING SCHOOL at the then new R & D Center!  

    I must not be ‘cut out’ for typing.  I was a miserable failure at it… much like I was at learning to play the piano during grammar school!  Oh I played (a bit) but my piano teacher, Miss Nellie Robinson, told Mom that I was not learning the notes… but playing by ear!  Typing was like that for me also.  So, folks at Jitney finally ‘gave up,’ by saying that I could type with two fingers far better than I’d ever be able to using all ten!  They were right.  I typed this using only two. 

    In my ‘can’t type defense,’ when I was hired on full-time at Jitney we had only 22 Jitney-Jungle stores.  Our little corporate in-house Advertising Department was instrumental in ‘growing’ that number, within a couple of short decades, into a mega-chain with the largest number of employees of any home-owned and home-operated company in the entire state.  Yup, I can’t help but be proud of what my two little fingers, ‘Woody left’ and ‘Wood’ right, helped to accomplish! 

Bill Murphy

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ONCE A GROCER, ALWAYS A GROCER

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

I suppose it’s simply ‘in my blood,’ this GROCER thing.  But I come by it honestly.  It’s actually something rather difficult to ignore, as I was practically born, bred, and raised in the grocery business.  It was almost the same for my Dad.

Dad’s first and only other job in his entire work-history was a short tour of duty working in the Dairy at Mississippi State College in the early 1930s.  And then he moved to the ‘big city’ of Jackson and found work as a stock-boy for the then new Jitney-Jungle.

I’ll skip forward to 1951.  I was in the 5th at George Elementary on the corner of Winter and Gallatin.  Dad had been the successful manager of Jitney #2 next to George, so when the new Jitney #19 was built and opened in Mart 51 at Terry Road and Highway 80, he was made manager of this new store.  Dad hired me to ‘help out’ after school Thursday and Friday afternoons and the weekends.   

I work there at Jitney #19 until I started my Freshman year at Mississippi Stare in the Fall of 1959.   You see, the grocery business is in my blood.

But I wasn’t finished with the grocery business!  In the Fall of 1967 I was called back into the grocery business when Jitney Jungle decided to form it’s own in-house ad agency and print shop.  This time as full-time… until the very senseless end of Jitney-Jungle in 2001.

I said all that to say this…  This very morning Carol sent me to Kroger for a few grocery items.  I found a spot to part right near the front of the store.  Great!  The store was crowded, even for a Friday morning. 

When I returned to my vehicle after shopping, I noticed that the nearby rack of returned grocery carts was completely overloaded with returned carts… most of which had be hurriedly and carelessly dropped off in willie-millie fashion!  Empty carts spilled over into the adjoining parking spaces!  My ‘grocer in the blood’ kicked in.  It simply overpowered me.  I couldn’t help myself.   It was like it was 1951 all over again and Bill had his grocery cart responsibility again!

Yes, I did!  After I’d packed my vehicle with my purchases,  I took my empty card over to this fine MESS… and quickly and efficiently did my work, in the true spirit of a good grocery company individual.  It didn’t take me long, perhaps 2 minutes at most, but it sure made me feel good about doing it!  I’m sure there must have been another customer within sight, scratching their head and wondering, ‘Why is HE doing that?’   

Why? Because it’s in my blood.  I can’t help it.  I’m retired now, and I miss doing ‘grocery stuff.’  Besides, those 5th grade years were among the happiest of my young life, and it was a barrel of fun this morning, an 80+ year old man, back again doing ‘fun’ 5th grade work!  It make me realize that I’ve still ‘got it!’

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