Tuesday, January 15, 2013

REMINISCING ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD GROCERY STORE: CARL'S SUPERMARKET


(Photo scanned from a 1978 school yearbook.)

Supermarkets are called supermarkets because....well, they're super fun when you're a kid! Oh, yeaahh! Going to a supermarket with a pocketful of allowance was kid euphoria to the max! My euphoria hit once a week when we visited our local grocery store, Carl's Supermarket. My visits were usually during the summer on each Wednesday of the week. That was Mom's regular day off and the day to replenish the pantry with groceries. Whenever Mom said those eight magic words, "I'm going to Carl's. You want to go?" my brother and I would stop whatever we were doing and jump in the Plymouth Satellite with thoughts of the four Cs - Candy, Comics, Cards and Cereal!

(I've included a ton-o-links in this post to help with the nostalgia rush. Be sure to keep an eye out for them!)

1980 Mr. Pibb Robot and Me

The mopped-haired, blue boy with the tube socks is me and I'm posing with a Mr. Pibb Pibbot. The photo was snapped inside Carl's way back in 1980 and you can read my previous post about this memory here. This snapshot is a window to so many good memories. When I think back to Carl's Supermarket, I primarily think about the time ranging from 1975 to 1983, from age five to thirteen. Those were the glory days of kid-dom grocery shopping.   

(The original Carl's Market neon sign! It was leaning up against a local sign shop in 2005.)

Carl Williams opened Carl's Market in the mid-1950s in Osage Beach, Missouri at the junction of Highways 54 & 42. It was smack dab in the middle of a popular tourist area known as the Lake of the Ozarks and the store benefitted greatly from tourist traffic. Carl was always up front near the store's entryway greeting customers and keeping an eagle eye on everything. He was a slender man who always wore a suit and tie and usually had a toothpick in his mouth. I always liked Carl and looking back, I appreciate his simple kindness towards us kids. He always asked how our school or summer was going and sometimes gave us a hard time about all the comic books we kept buying. 

Carl's brother-in-law, Lee Mace was the Lake area's main showman and promoter, either through his country western show, Ozark Opry or from his TV show Lee Mace's Lake of the Ozarks Travelogue. In one of his shows from the early 1980s, Lee visits Carl's Supermarket and interviews cashier Cathy Whitfield. Click here to watch the video clip.


Wanna see the the sign in motion? Click here for a few more seconds of video.

We weren't there when Lee Mace showed up with his TV crew. If we had been, I suspect my brother and I would have been directly behind where the cameraman was standing. That's where the comic and magazine stands were located. Our favorite go-to spot in the store! When we entered the store, Mom would grab a shopping cart and go to the right towards the soda aisle. Fresca anyone?  Pat (my older brother) and I would veer to the left and make a beeline straight to the comic books.   

(Some of my childhood comics I purchased at Carl's!)

It was A-ok with us if our mom took her sweet little time grocery shopping, 'cause we could spend hours flippin' through the funny books. Carl's always had a good crop of comics to choose from. Pat was a DC kid and spent his allowance on Superman and Batman comics. I always made mine Marvel with Spider-Man, Iron Man, Star Wars and Rom comics. I don't think we ever got out of Carl's without buying a comic book or two.  

(Magazines that came from Carl's magazine stand!)

When we finished perusing the comics, we took a few steps to the right and checked out the mags! The magazine stand was massive, filled with every slick periodical known to man. Well...maybe not that many, but it was loaded. Magazines always put us in a dilemma. A certain issue could wipeout most of a week's allowance. I got three bucks a week and I always had the difficult decision deciding between the latest issue of Famous Monsters or more Spider-Man comics. When a comic was 35 cents and a mag was two dollars, the choice should have been obvious. Not so easy when there were so many cool movie, video game and sports mags on the stand. Sometimes we would split the cost of a magazine or resort to the old "sneak the magazine in mom's cart" trick. Depending on the issue type, this strategy sometimes extended our spending spree. 

Next up were the shelves stocked with candy and trading cards, conveniently located next to the check out aisles.        

(Trading cards from Carl's or the 7-11 down the street!)

Trading cards was my bad habit. It was so bad that I should have been enrolled into some sort of help group for kids. If it was a small stack of cardboard wrapped in a wax wrapper with a piece of bubble gum, it was a good chance I bought it. Really, I was a four waxpack-a-day kid. At fifteen cents to a quarter a pack, I usually had two dollars left over. I've always been a big sports fan, so baseball and football cards were my favorite, followed by Star Wars cards, Wacky Packages, Weird Wheels, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Kiss, Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Battlestar Galactica and the list goes on. (In the photo of me and Pibbot, I'm holding four packs of Empire Strikes Back cards.)   

(A few types of candy I remember buying at Carl's.)

Oh the candy at Carl's! There was always a huge selection of sugary goodness to choose from. One early memory was buying sour grape gum. For years I've thought about this gum but could not remember the brand. The mystery was solved when my pal Jason from CollectingCandy.com posted a photo of some Adam's Sour Grape and Sour Wild Berry packs. That gum was so good I can still taste it!!! Both my brother and I were Willy Wonka aficionados. Gobstoppers, Tart'n Tinys, Bottle Caps, Wacky Wafers and Daredevils were some of our favorites. Carl's was the place that I was introduced to Bubble Yum Bubble Gum! I loved all of those block type of gums like Hubba Bubba and Bubblicious. Other favorites were the novelty plastic candy containers like Mr. Bones, Garbage Candy, Munchy Mummies and Fireplug Candy. Candy always went good with a lazy day of comic book reading!

Usually with my hands full of comics and candy, we'd make my way to the toys. Of course, on our way we had to walk through the liquor section and visit the Hamms Beer Bear. For years Carl's had a tall Hamms Bear store display!

I hardly ever bought toys at Carl's. Carl's had a better selection of toys than most grocery stores, but mostly they were knock-offs and misfit toys. Also, Carl's prices were kind of high compared to Wal-Mart and the Sears Wishbook. I did buy my share of rubber snakes, plastic bugs, water guns and toy cars there. Carl's was notorious for keeping non-food items on the shelf until it sold. The price was never rarely reduced. It was fun to play the "How long will that toy remain on the shelf?" game. This was especially true for many toys and books. I remember that a Big Foot board game by Milton Bradley stayed on the shelf way into the 1980s. I always wanted that game, but it was too expensive. One toy that I never wanted as a kid got the prize for hanging around the store way too long.  It was one of the goofiest toys ever produced.    

(The original Zem-21 from Carl's Market!)

Zem-21 was a lame Star Wars knock-off made by Ideal Toys and part of the S.T.A.R. Team toy line. I remember back in 1978 when Zem showed up on Carl's toy shelves. Even as a kid, I knew he wasn't worth my allowance, especially at $8.98! Heck, the real 12" Star Wars figures sold for under eight bucks back then. Zem-21 was a proverbial rip-off!!  

(Carl's original 1978 price sticker on the Zem-21 action figure.)

Year after year, six Zem-21 figures sat on the shelf collecting dust. Year after year we counted to see if any of the Zems had sold and year after year we always counted six. From 1978 until 1993 they sat undisturbed for $8.98 each. My brother and I and some friends finally broke down and bought some Zems for a nostalgia kick. After all these years of laughing at them, I guess we finally felt sorry for the green headed misfit toys.

After the toy aisle our kid patience was close to the breaking point. One last "fun" thing to do and that was to cruise the cereal aisle. We were true cereal connoisseurs at picking out just the right cereal for the week. Usually it had to do with the prize advertised on the box. We were lucky kids as our mom left the cereal decisions to us. This was a good thing, because if she hadn't, we would have been stuck eating Corn Flakes all through our formative years. Some of our old standbys were Cap'n Crunch, Monster Cereals, Freakies, Fruity Pebbles, Honeycombs and Super Sugar Crisp Cereal.

I've been a collector of old cereal boxes and kids food items for many years, but way before I started collecting, I ended up saving one cereal box from 1984. (If only I could have had the foresight to save boxes from the 1970s.)

 (A box of C-3PO's cereal that was purchased at Carl's)

Below is a fun photo of some of the products that could be found in my mom's shopping cart at Carl's back in the 1970s or 80s. 


It was very appropriate that you could buy Hillbilly Bread at Carl's Supermarket! 


If we had any pocket change left over from our purchases we usually dumped it into the gumball machines next to the exit. The candy is all gone but I still have a few trinkets that survived from childhood.


Carl's had a full hardware store connected to the grocery store. All the in-store haunts mentioned above came in handy when we went to the store with my dad. It seemed like he would be in there for hours! Luckily for us kids, Carl's installed an arcade game in the early 1980s. The Ms. Pac-Man machine became a good friend as she helped us pass the time when Dad was chatting it up with someone or stuck in the hardware store.

Carl's Supermarket always had plenty of competition in the Lake area, but Carl's always survived. Everyone said when the big ultra modern Consumers moved in a few miles down the road, Carl's was done for. Nope, Carl's kept surviving.

In the early 1980s, he expanded and opened Carl's Two in the Arrowhead Plaza on Business 54.   



Here's another video clip from Lee Mace's Lake of the Ozarks Travelogue and in this one he interviews Carl Williams and the store manager, Lonnie Ice during the opening day of Carl's Two. Click here for the video.



In the early 90s, Carl's expanded once again in the Lake area with Carl's Village Market & Hardware.

   

(Back to the original Carl's.) I'm not sure when the color scheme changed from red to gray but I'm guessing sometime in the 90s. I snapped the photo above in the late 90s.


The Deli sign, seen in the first video, was retooled into a snazzy looking new sign.



As an adult I didn't live in Osage Beach anymore and hadn't shopped....or as my Grandma used to say, "traded" at Carl's in years. Around Christmas time in 1995, I walked around the store, visited with Carl and bought the above Marvel Super Heroes Christmas coloring book. I didn't need it, but it brought back so many memories of buying comics and everything else that I mentioned above. Besides, it made me smile because it had been on the shelf since 1984. 

I don't know the exact year but sometime in the early 2000s the original Carl's Supermarket closed. A new highway was on the horizon for Osage Beach.  


The old store sat vacant for few years, just waiting for the bulldozers. This shot is from 2007.


Finally in 2008, the building of the new highway began and Carl's Supermarket was demolished to make way for....um...progress. 



Carl's Supermarket was a friendly place that I'll always remember with fondness. Thanks to Carl Williams and all the rest of the Carl's staff through the years for creating such an enjoyable place to grab some groceries....and comic books!

(All of us have fun memories of the grocery stores and supermarkets from our youth. For some more nostalgia check out the fantastic flickr group, Vintage Supermarkets, Grocery and Convenience Stores.)

9 comments:

Mike Middleton said...

Great post! Makes me want to break out the Fruit Loops and Star Wars cards.

Jason Liebig said...

Wow... what an amazing post. This one brought back a ton of memories of my own childhood supermarket.

Mine was a Jack & Jill store, but became a "Joe & Al's" in the late 80's. It managed to survive until just last summer, the Summer of 2012. The last several years I always made an effort to visit the place during every trip home - it was always a bit like going back in time.

Thank-you for collecting all of these great reminiscences into one place. With Lee Mace and all of the great Ozark magic around, I can imagine how awesome this place was for young Todd Franklin.

Brilliant!

Eartha Kitsch said...

Loved this walk down memory lane! And look at cute you with that Pibbot!

Scrapatorium said...

What a great post! Being a supermarket fanatic too (second only to the five and dime), I really enjoyed reading this! Brought back many good memories. Thanks!

Brian said...

Isn't it great that everyone has their own version of this story?My local market was Bagliani's, a very Italian version of a full service supermarket.A fresh produce department and butcher shop were the big attraction,but ,like your Carl's,There was a toy section and candy aisle.I remember finding a Jaws Jigsaw puzzle in there once.Baggie's(local slang)also employed my teen self for 4 years.The market still stands today, but the grocery shelves have been eliminated.They focus on selling produce and prime meats,along with a new parner who sells Artisan cheeses.At age 44,I still drive 35 minutes to my Hometown to pick up my family's Thanksgiving turkey from Baggie's and I always get a warm welcome from the owners(who never forget faces or names).Now for the kicker...when I was taking down Christmas decorations from the attic this year,I came across a box full of toys, Including a Zem 21 doll!I also have to add, My Bigfoot game was introduced to my girlfriend and her daughter during a snowstorm in 2010 and has become a winter tradition for us.

Kal said...

Great post. I have had a few places like that in my life and you forget what a comfort they were because they were reliable. I had my grocery list that I had to make sure got filled by going shopping with my Mother. I hated getting puffed wheat over regular sugary cereal like Apple Jacks or Captain Crunch.

Todd Franklin said...

Mike - I'll bring the milk and bowls!

Jason - Thanks Jason and thanks to your amazing collection for helping put with some of my faded candy memories! Yeah, the Lake of the Ozarks was an amazing place to grow up!

Eartha - Thanks! Pibbot is the cute one in that photo!

Scrapatorium - Glad you enjoyed it! We didn't have any five and dimes in my hometown, but I always enjoyed going to Ben Franklins in my grandma's town. I'll have to post about ol' Ben one of these days.

Brian - Great that you still have your childhood store to visit! Sure you didn't do all of your Zem-21 and Bigfoot shopping at Carl's?

Kal - Comfort is a great word describing the stores from our youth. Thanks for commenting!



Tom said...

I have similar memories of Saturday morning grocery store trips to Kroger's with my mom and sister. Saturdays were free sample days and I would load up on cheese cubes, crackers, cookies and whatever else they were peddling that day. There was a bank of gumball machines that took many a quarter. I still have some of the miniature trolls from those machines. In the same retail center was a K-Mart. Kroger's had some rack toys, but K-Mart was my main supply for wind up R2-D2-esque robots and Mego Comic Action Heroes (at 50 cents each). If I had days to choose to live over, one of those trips would be near the top of my list.

Tom said...

I love those gumball machines that displayed the plastic eggs. You never knew what the prize was inside.