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Super Giant: 1964

1964. The Super Giant supermarket in Rockville, Maryland. Color transparency by John Dominis, Life magazine photo archive. View full size.

1964. The Super Giant supermarket in Rockville, Maryland. Color transparency by John Dominis, Life magazine photo archive. View full size.

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A refreshing lack of "expression"

Nary a tattoo nor a facial piercing in sight.

Checking out

When I worked in grocery in the mid 1970's, with only slightly newer registers, the checkout time would be about the same as now. Good checkers could check and bag at about the same rate as now - the difference being that the checker had to pay attention and couldn't have conversations with their coworkers while checking.

The notepads have the produce prices on them. Typically, you would remember those after the first few checkouts of the same produce item per day and not need to refer back very often. Remember that the range of produce available was less than today, both because of improved distribution and widening of tastes.

The preferred checking technique is to pull the item off with the left hand, check the price, and enter the price into the register with the right hand. The register we had had plastic covers to cover the keys for anything past $9.99, since items of that price were pretty rare, since grocery stores sold groceries and not other items.

In general, we had fewer stoppages for price checks than a modern system will because of missing items in their database. The grocery stocked fewer items back then.

The flip side is that inventory management was a pain - we would manually order based on what was on the shelves and did a periodic total inventory to find the correct wastage values from spoilage and shoplifting.

I much prefer the wider range of food and produce available today.

I second the vote

For blown up sections of this photograph, a lot of shelves I would like to explore.

[Click "view full size." That's as blown up as it gets. - Dave]

Get your slob on!

I imagine that this was taken on a very hot day. No matter what the weather, though, imagine this same scene in 1934 or 1904 - you wouldn't see people out in public wearing undershirts and shorts. I wonder if there's a particular moment in time or series of events when it became OK to look "slobby" in public? No sagging pants or backwards baseball caps, anyway.

Not so inexpensive

Median income of all families in 1964 was about $6600. For female full-time workers, the median income was $3700. Median income of nonwhite males was $2800.

I'll bet they didn't think these prices were all that cheap.

I do wonder what day of the week this photo was taken - I'll bet it was a Saturday.

I love this picture

So rich. So much to keep the eye busy. Almost like a Where's Waldo cartoon. From the Plaid Elephants advertising "Top Value" something-or other, all the way down to the Quaker logo on a box of Rice Chex. And who's that woman in line in front of the chip rack? She has a BIG BUTT! (If anyone tells me that's my mother, then she's YOUR mother.)

People were slimmer back then

Other than the antiquated cash registers and the male cashiers, what has changed the most is that we are more obese now.

Brach's Candies

Scary how 21 years later, I could have been the kid looking into the Brach's Bulk Candies bin... I totally forgot about those bins until this picture.

Where's Waldo?

I think he's in Aisle 6. Very interesting photo!

Brach's Candies

The display of the bulk candy bin appears to read "Advertised in Life." I wonder how many Life readers caught the subtle product placement.

Supermarket "Where's Waldo?"

Not one of these people have bottled water in their cart and there's no gum or candy visible on the registers...

Now, find the: box of Life cereal, the Cracker Jacks, the Domino sugar, the Raisin Bran, the grape jelly, the grape juice, the box of Cheer detergent, and the anxious store manager.

What is Loon?

On one of the ends....

[The sign says LOOK. - Dave]

So much to see!

Dave, would you mind enlarging this to about six feet high? I can't make out all the details!


The lines are still as long after the "wonderful" invention of Bar Codes, Scanners and Chip & PIN credit/debit cards. One step forward, two steps back.

Look at all the Men!

I am not accustomed to seeing so much testosterone in a grocery store! Everything looks supersized, even the hairdos. It's kinda funny how high they stacked the displays, you'd need a ladder to get at some of it.


One of the more striking things here is the checkout registers where the clerk actually had to read a stamped-on price and key it in manually (after consulting a list of what might have been on discounted sale that day).
Within ten years many registers would have their displays as bright glowing fluorescent digits (later LED/LCD) vs these mechanical pop-up number tags. UPC scanning lasers wouldn't be common for another 10 years or so.

Convenient beer & wine

At least in the late 70s, Marylanders learned to spot Super Giants, because through some complicated shift of definition (like SUVs = trucks), these stores were not subject to the prohibition that grocery stores and convenience stores can't sell alcohol. Today Giant Food remains but Super Giants are gone, and it's no longer possible to buy wine with your packaged ground beef.


The checkers, the ones shown at least, are all male. This was once a well paid and somewhat skilled job if only for the sharp memory and hand-eye coordination. The gaudy merchandising hasn't changed much in 44 years but the checkout experience? Well, what do you all think , better or worse?

Look at the kid...

... eyeballing that open Brach's candy display. Those are almost unchanged from than till now. I wonder if he copped a "sample"?

The View

What strikes me about this is no one in view is morbidly obese.


I work about two miles from Rockville. Does anyone know the address of this store? Is it still there. This site is unbelievable...

Random musings

Those elephants are, like, crazy! People were thinner back then. The Clorox label hasn't changed a bit. Curious that the checkout ladies visible are all men.

It's too bad we can't see the tabloid racks at the checkout stands. I just know there's a juicy headline on the Enquirer.

Check out the checkout

I can only imagine how long it took to get through the checkout line in the days before bar code scanners. It looks like the cashiers had to consult that notepad they all have propped up against their registers.

Deja Vu

I'm amazed at the number of products which are still instantly recognizable today. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for those prices!

Life Sure Got Casual

Comparing the turn-of-the-century pictures with this one shows the remarkable change in American public attire.

The fellow writing the check in the right foreground might have been arrested for public indecency in earlier Shorpy Land. Didn't see too many men in short pants in 1905 stores.

The good old days

I worked in a grocery store similar to this. Same cash registers. Brings back a lot of memories.

Keep Going

Oh my great good God. I've never wanted a picture to "keep going" more than this one! I wish they had invented 360 degree viewing back then.

Paper or plastic?

It was at a Giant supermarket in suburban Washington in 1983 that I was first asked by the cashier "paper or plastic?" At first I was confused, thinking that she was asking me whether I wanted to pay with paper money or a credit card....

Little details

Look closely at the rack at the checkout.
One thing that stands out for me is razor blades. Lots and lots of razor blades. Now you're lucky if you even find them buried in among the 3-, 5-, 19-blade razors. (Don't even look for a safety razor today. I've tried 10 different stores here, no luck.)

Next, just above the Lane 5 sign is a Brach's candy bin. Looks like the good folks at Time-Life have photoshopped the LIFE logo onto the bin. Anyone back me up on this?

[That's not "photoshopped." It says "As advertised in LIFE." Often seen on product displays back in the Olden Days. - Dave]

How little has changed

It's funny how things haven't changed. some of the equipment looks antiquated, but the whole checkout process is still the same.

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