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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Not Loving My Neighbor

Bill Murphy  2021

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.   Matthew 5:43-48 

I’ve been a church goer since birth, and a Christian since I was knee high to a grasshopper… but there was a time in my life when I chose to turn a blind eye toward this all to familiar verse.

It began in 5th grade at George Elementary on Winter I do believe.  There was a boy in my class named J. D. Hudson, and he and I seemed to be in a constant clash.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but if I’ve ever ‘hated’ anyone in my life, it was J. D.  I you are reading this now, J. D., I pray that you will forgive me.  I’m long over my dis-like of you, I promise.  But I do confess, that I harbored that grudge for far too long!  And perhaps, that was my gravest sin!

J. D. had become such a bitter taste to me, that this emotional dislike actually became a part of my life… and this was a very shameful and troubling part of me!  I tried for years to simple ignore it, but without success.  Why could I not simply let it go?  It wasn’t as if the boy had killed my little sister, or maimed my mother or father… nor did he even kick my dog!  It was just oil verses water gone too far on my part!

Many years ago, some how, God in His mercy helped me to clean those nasty cobwebs out of my soul.  It felt so good to have that cancer melt away!  It was a blemish on my psyche that I’d created on my own, and somehow allowed to exist for too many years… a scar that, praise God, is no long there!  Oh how I hope that J. D. Reads this.  I hope that he’s doing well now, and has prospered all these years, and that he’s somehow forgiven me for my stupid grudge against him.  J. D., I am truly sorry!  I am. 

REMEMBERING GRACE METHODIST CHURCH

Grace Church copy

©2018  Bill Murphy

Grace Methodist Church sat diagonally across the street from George Elementary School, on the north/west corner of Winter and Union streets.  Why is it that you fail to take a snapshot of those people or places you most want to remember?  Above is a photo taken by my mother sometime in the very late 40s, of a George School activity.  I suppose I’m in there somewhere.  Behind us is the old church building, before it was remodeled in the early 50s.  The parsonage is immediately to the right.  The white frame structure to the far left is the adjoining Sunday School rooms.

Grace was a neighborhood church, with no church parking lot.  There was ample parking on the streets for those who drove.  I walked to church many times.

This was my home church for my first 19 years.  Dad was on the Board of Stewards, and Mom was Superintendent of the Primary Department.  I sang in the choir when in high school.

Our family was always there – dependable, we were.  Sometimes we did miss a Sunday or two, but only for a valid reason… such as vacations.  Driving to Quebec, lower Florida, Vancouver, or deep into Mexico… on those pre-interstate 2 lane highways, you needed all the travel time available.  But our family attended church as we traveled – so that my sister and I could still be in the perfect attendance category.  One Sunday morning in Utah, we couldn’t find a Methodist Church anywhere – so we attended a Mormon service held in the Bryce Canyon Lodge.

I dearly loved Grace Methodist Church.  I am who I am today largely because of the instruction, foundation and examples I received from Grace Church.

I’m blessed to have participated in many memorable, spirit-filled, soul-jarring, life changing worship services in other churches over the years, yet I can truthfully say that none of those ‘pinnacle’ services compare to a typical service at Grace Church.  How? Why?

Because Grace Church was what it was!  I miss those wonderful days there, the place we thought of as “God’s House.”  We considered it to be a Holy Place.  And why did we feel this way and why did we feel such awe in simply entering the building?  Because… as small kids, we were taught that it was not just a building.  We were taught that it was “The House of God,” as if He dwelled there!  We learned to reverence it, respect it, and love it.  It was special… very, very special.  And because of this, we expected Him to be there with us and among us each time we entered that Holy place.

Were we lied to?  Was this some adult trick or ploy to make us behave?  Hardly.  Scripture plainly tells us that where two or three are gathered together in His name, then He is there! (Matthew 18:20).  And we knew to respect and reverence not only His presence which actually was there, but also His ‘house.‘  It was all real, very real.

Grace church was never locked when I was a child.  It was alway open to those who wished to enter, to feel His presence and love, to come kneel and pray.  There was a water fountain in the hallway of the ‘education’ department… and on hot summer days, we kids often entered the church to cool off and drink.  Although just a hot and sweaty pack of 8, 10, or 12 year olds, our parents may as well have been watching over our shoulders.  When we passed over the threshold, our very countenance transformed, automatically.  Why?  Because we knew to respect and to reverence that place, be it Sunday morning during church service or Tuesday afternoon.  We had been taught to give honor where honor was due… and God’s ‘house’ was due our honor and respect!  We neither talked loud nor ran in the hallways.  We had ingrained respect for where we were – because we’d been taught to have that respect.

I appreciate those life-lessons more and more each day that I live.

We didn’t have a ‘praise and worship leader’ at Grace Church.  But we had praise… and we had worship.  We had both in bountiful measure.  We had a choir director, but his duty was to direct the choir, not to serve as a cheer-leader.  We didn’t require a cheer-leader, because we knew that God was there, in our midst.  One could not help but feel His presence.  It was easy to worship Him at Grace Church.  This was His House!  And we respected it.  We hallowed it.  I think that it was this ‘attitude’ of respect and reverence that we brought with us to church that made it so easy, so natural, to worship.  We passed through the door expecting to meet Him inside!  And we were never disappointed!

My very favorite memories of Grace Church were the Sunday night services.  After 2 or 3 songs, and the announcements were read, the pastor gave his message.  Then we sang another hymn.  The lights were lowered, giving one just enough illumination to see, and then the pastor told us that the altars were open for those who wished to come and pray.  I always went forward.  There, in that darkened and quiet time, in that Holy place, it was as if I was not among dozens, but rather, alone with God.  It was so easy to feel His presence, His loving hand on my shoulder, His breath on my cheek.  It was just the two of us.  I worshiped Him.  And He filled my young heart with His presence, and His love.  It was like Heaven on earth.  I treasure those memories.  To think that the creator of the universe paused long enough to spend quality time with me!  A reverent soul is but putty in the hands of God.

Alas… Grace Church is no more.  Even the new building grew old… and time marched ever onward.  Folks prospered and moved away to bigger and better things.  Due to his strong work-ethic, Dad continued to get promotions at Jitney Jungle.  He and Mom moved away from Evergreen, to a larger, nicer home in north/east Jackson.  The congregation of Grace Church began to dwindle… until it was no more.  Sitting unused and uncared for, the leaking roof began to collapse.  A few years ago, the building was leveled.  Where the House of God once stood, and where heaven once opened its doors to a young boy… is now but a vacant lot.

Grace Church may be gone – but Grace Church is not forgotten!  Not in this heart anyway.

 

 

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Little Sailor Boy

Sailor Copy copy© 2017 Bill Murphy

My deep interest in World War II history began in George Elementary School. In the library I discovered a book relating the exploits of Naval Aviators during WWII. In this book was a photo of the ill fated Torpedo Squadron Eight – which was decimated early in the Battle of Midway. Only one man, Lt. George Gay, survived. For some reason, this story made a deep and lasting impression on me. Today, I have an autographed copy of his book about the battle. This began my collection of famous aviator autographs, and aviation history books.

I was born 10 months before the United States officially entered the war. My early childhood toys were mostly war-related toys. One such toy eventually led to my long and endearing friendship with Art Simmons, a WWII war veteran. My kiddie petal-car was styled after the Curtiss P-40 Flying Tiger.

And, I have several photos of me in a kaki Army uniform – and also in a white Navy uniform. But a few weeks ago, I learned something truly amazing, and of deep significance to me.

We were in Carthage, Mississippi at the annual Murphy Family Reunion. I was chatting with my 1st cousin Ray Cochran, a little less that 2 years younger than me. We were discussing family heirlooms and mementos that we own. Ray then told me a story that I had never heard before.

His father had served in the Navy, in the Pacific. When he returned home after the war, he brought home his uniforms. Because my mother was a seamstress, his mother (Aunt Joy) gave my mother a set of Uncle Raymond’s white uniforms, and had her make from them a little sailor suit for Ray.

Ray then told me that not only was he photographed in this suit, but also all of his sons, and all other young tykes in his family. He still has the original little suit! WOW!

I sent Ray copies of my photos in ‘my’ little Navy suit – and he tells me that they look to be the same! His only concern is the possible size.

Personally, I choose to believe that this is the same suit. Why would my mother make two suits? But, possibly she did. After all, from a uniform belonging to an adult male, it would be all together possible to make two kiddie uniforms! At any rate, Ray’s story thrilled me to the very core!

All these years I’ve thought that this was perhaps just a photographer’s prop, or simply store-bought. But no longer. No!

Now I see myself in those photos, proudly smiling in a little US Navy WWII Sailor Suit made from fabric that actually saw combat in the Pacific! And that makes those old photos all the more special!

Thanks Uncle Raymond. Thanks Aunt Joy. Thanks Mother! And thanks Ray for the story of that little sailor suit!

 

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BC, AD, and BAC

Fanning copy

©2017 Bill Murphy

We’re familiar with the terms BC and AD. From the Julian calendar: BC (Before Christ) and AD, (anno Domini, in the year of our Lord.) For the purpose of this post, I suggest a 3rd – BAC. BEFORE AIR CONDITIONING.

The past is nothing more than HISTORY, and because I lived it, I believe I can speak FOR it. Heaven knows my grandchildren are baffled by it! In spinning these yarns about the good ole days, I consider myself simply ADDING to their education!

That said, I well remember BAC. The first A/C school that I attended was COLLEGE! Our old home on Evergreen had no A/C. And we really didn’t think we needed it.

The windows in our house were made in two sections, upper and lower. The lower section was RAISED 12” to 18” upward, and the upper section LOWERED by this same amount. Because warm RISES, warm air near the ceiling was allowed to flow OUT of the upper opened section and cooler (outside) air could flow INSIDE through the opened lower section to replace the hot air. On days when it was not HOT, we didn’t need the attic fan. Adjusting the windows to the above configuration sufficed. The windows in George Elementary School, Enochs Jr, Hi and Central Hi all worked this way. But on days when the house got HOT inside, we had our large attic fan.

This 36″ fan was located in the attic over the small hallway in the front of the house. It lay HORIZONTALLY, blowing UPWARD into the attic. When turned on, all the INSIDE hot air was sucked up into the attic and expelled through vents to the outside. Outside air was sucked INTO the house, to replace the air expelled OUTSIDE. Hey, it WORKED! Or at least we thought it did. (It also sucked in dust and pollen!) But honestly, I can’t remember being miserable.

Yes I do. I remember that 2 or 3 times, CHS was dismissed around Noon or 1 PM because of excessive heat. But we survived. My great-grand-kids cannot relate to living through that.

A/C came to merchants long before it came to Evergreen. And those businesses who ‘bit the bullet’ and paid for that huge ‘extra’ expense was duly proud of their outlay – and flaunted it! Plastered across the front entrances they proudly proclaimed, “We Have Air Conditioning,” written in blue lettering with snow on top of each letter and icicles hanging below! Dad’s old store, Jitney No. 2 on Gallatin didn’t have A/C, but when Jitney No. 19 was built in Mart 51, it did.

We never had central air on Evergreen. Later we had window units.

And my first personal window unit (during college) was not a true A/C. It had no compressor, and no coils, and of course, no REFRIGERANT. It was basically a metal rectangular box, with a deep ‘pan‘ at the bottom. It had a fan which pulled air through a thick screen of something resembling MOSS. A garden hose was attached at the top (outside) and water was allowed to ‘trickle‘ through this moss as air was sucked through it and blown into the room. A pump brought water up from the pan and back down through the moss. The garden hose was to re-supply water that evaporated. Yes, it did cool – slightly. But the air it expelled was also very HUMID!

Our last vehicle without A/C was a ’55 Chrysler, which we took across country to Vancouver and San Francisco. Dad purchased a new-fangled automobile ‘window unit’ just for that trip. It was nothing more than a 9″ metal cylinder about 18″ long, with a trap door on top. It attached to the window, and held in place when the window was raised. When filled with ICE, air entered the front air scoop, over the ice, and out through a vent that opened to the inside the car. It was rendered useless by the deserts out west.

I believe it was ’67 before I lived in a house with CENTRAL A/C. And yes, I really do appreciate the BLESSING of A/C. When you’ve lived WITHOUT something of value like A/C, you don’t take it for granted.

I suppose that’s my ‘lesson‘ in the post.

 

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