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When the Grocery Looked Like That: 1947

When the Grocery Looked Like That: 1947

My father in his San Francisco store, the De Luxe Groceteria, not exactly the proud, optimistic-looking fellow thirteen years before. The neighborhood was going to the dogs, charge customers were running up three-figure balances and paying a couple bucks on account when the mood struck them, plus riding the bus back home across the bridge every night with a briefcase stuffed with quarts of milk was probably getting old. Three years later, he had the place sold and was continuing in the grocery business in a lower-stress capacity, one that had a pension to boot. View full size.

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I remember

This looks like the Ed Adkins grocery on Lawrence Ave. in Toledo when I was little. Supermarkets existed then, but were not all that common yet. You told Ed or Larry, his assistant, what you wanted and they went and got it, much like a modern auto parts store today.

[This was a self-service store.]

Oh the memories!

I remember stores like that. I never really liked the goods behind the grocer. :) Now, I'm not THAT old but I grew up in small towns in Kansas that still had stores like this.

Balance due

That would be something like a $5,000 balance today! And that's only for a single customer. Glad your dad was able to get out of it.

Grandmom's Store

My grandmother had a neighborhood store. She would let us eat Fudgesicles and drink NuGrape sodas till we were sick.

Grandmom had to deal with shoplifters mostly. One attempted armed robbery. The guy ran away when she began to pray out loud.

Groceteria artifact

Unfortunately, we don't have any of the cool product signage, but here's a page from my father's account pad, showing the kind of balances some of his customers ran up. Too bad he didn't put the real date in, but I suspect this is from the 1940s despite the old "193_" pad.


Gazing at the advertising displays lining the walls (Royal Crown, Butter-Nut), I am seized by ephemera-envy. I don't suppose any of those survived?

A Shorpy education

Wow, I learn things on Shorpy I never knew before, even about my own family.

The Layout Explained

Here's my thoughts on the layout changes from the 1934 picture to the 1944 picture:

A new wall was built where the row of columns once stood. In the 1944 picture, you can see the outline of the old counter on the floor in the middle front. You can also verify that this was the right edge of the counter because the row of lights in the earlier picture ran along that right edge. This looks like it's about the same distance from the wall as the original counter was from the row of columns.

Using that as a location marker, I would say the two windows in the earlier picture are covered up by the Butter Nut poster and the poster behind it (looks like a wine ad?). I think the wall from the 1934 picture was knocked down, thus making visible the windows in the back of the 1944 picture as well as the ceiling vents. If you follow the floor of the later picture, you can see a slight change in texture that lines up with the wine poster on the right wall, thus further verifying that this was the placement of the back wall in the 1934 picture.

[See the definitive answer below, under "alterations." - Dave]

Excellent picture

Many of our grocers shops still look like this in England (except for the leaking ceiling!)

Quiz Show

"Hint Hunt" was a radio game show sponsored by Armour Star Meat Packing. Not sure when it started, but it was canceled in 1949.


The answer is that the landlord decided to remodel the building, making more room for the middle business in the building, a bar. The new wall is where the columns were. The side windows were closed over, and the ones in back were boarded up, because there had been break-ins, and petty cash was taken. And the back wall to the storeroom was opened at the top, so you can see the two small windows that had wire mesh over them on the back wall. Father was angry at the landlord, because he had less room for his wares, and the rent was the same.

During the war a large housing project was built in the neighborhood which was for workers in the war construction industry. Business was still good while the war was going on, but later when the ship yards and other industries were shutting down, and letting off workers, people had less money and took advantage of the credit that he let them have. And then used what cash they had to buy their groceries at the new supermarkets that were coming into the neighborhoods.

Milk wasn't the only thing he brought home in his leather valise after work. It had a cloth bag with the contents of the cash register. Thank heaven he was never mugged.

As far as robberies, I remember our father talking about the time a "young punk" came in pretending to represent the "Black Hand" and trying to get protection money from him. He said he grabbed the thug by the throat and told him if he ever came back he would get the **** beat out of him. He never did.

Love all of your pics

I have enjoyed all of your pictures. Keep them coming please. I was born in 1967. Love all of your photos.

Lights and columns and windows, oh my!

Hi! I'm new here... only been lurking the last month or so. I like the contrasts provided by a "before and after" with a ten-year gap. But like someone else noted, the columns look different (they're gone in the later shot). So do the lights (two rows of lights earlier, one row of lights later). And the windows (they switch walls). Many other differences between the shots showing progress (?) and change in the ensuing ten years. The neighborhood outside may have been "going to the dogs" but building maintenance must have become a challenge, too. There are big patches in the ceiling of the later shot. Leaky roof or pipes in the ceiling? Condensation from air conditioning ducts? There's a ceiling vent that's not in the earlier shot. And who could have known back in the day that arch-rival brands Butternut and Wonder Bread would end up stablemates in the same company? also
Very cool! Thanks for sharing. I've been turned on by so many new (well, old) things by tracing the Library on Congress sources for some of your shots. Thanks again!

The ceiling

The ceiling seems to be flaking, leaking or otherwise displaying signs of damp issues.


Still trying to figure the layout from the earlier picture in relation to this one. Where are the columns from the first photo? Are those the same windows?

Hint Hunt

Could Hint Hunt be a punch card game? Some kind of lottery?

Dad's almost-grocery

There was a similar store in my neighborhood in the '50s and '60s. They carried a lot of credit as well, all registered by hand in those little account books. They hung on for years despite a modern supermarket being open since 1958, less than a mile away.

I think the owners tried to sell the store more than once. My old man considered buying the place but could not deal with staircases in the building due to a war injury.

They finally unloaded the place in the mid-'60s. The new owners (with no prior experience) were out of the grocery business after about four years. They tried selling blue jeans for awhile, but they didn't last long doing that, either.

The state of the neighborhood

From the earlier posting of this picture I learned that your father's grocery store, in a neighborhood that went "to the dogs" back around the end of WWII, was just a block away from where I used to live at Valencia & 14th Street.

Back when I lived there in the late '80s and early '90s the area was still a little dodgy. But you could see the gentrification coming then, and from the evidence of Google Streetview it seems to have arrived with a vengeance. Your father's old store is now surrounded by new apartment buildings with huge windows. I sure couldn't afford to live around there anymore.

None of my beeswax BUT

did your father ever get robbed at gunpoint by a thug or have any other "close calls" with bad guys? I currently live in middle America where I always thought people were safer but it seems like convenience store clerks and those who manage small grocery stores get robbed more than taxi drivers and pizza delivery people and often are shot and killed for a paltry sum of cash. To be alone managing a small store these days seems like an invitation for trouble. It probably was not considered a high risk job in 1944.

On my shopping list

Now I know where I may find some Shinola White shoe polish, Nucoa oleomargarine, and Nuchief fruit all in one quick and convenient stop.


"Digitally remastered from archival materials, with new commentary track."

Fresh Frozen Fryers??

They can be fresh. They can be frozen. They cannot be both. Just sayin'.

Any new baseball cards

Today, Mr. Terrace? No, well I guess I'll have a candy bar with that cold pop then.

Way to go

Gotta tell ya tterrace, your father knew how to display his wares. In both pictures he shows how beautifully he laid out his merchandise.

The well done run dry

Has tterrace finally run out? He posted this pic two years ago.

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