As a child, Friday was always a special day in the week of my family, the Pfeiffer family. It wasn’t just A Friday, but EVERY Friday other than Christmas and New Year’s Day for 52 weeks of the year, every year during my childhood and beyond. It still was a day of toil for my farming parents. But Friday always brought uniqueness to the ordinary weekly pattern of labor as we depended on our Creator for a bountiful crop and better-than-average prices for the crops and livestock produced on our diversified farm. Let me share a chapter from my life’s story that touches on the events of that extraordinary day.
When I was 6 years old, Dad was diagnosed with beginning stages of rheumatoid arthritis. So, Snowball, Blackie, and Pet were no longer required to serve as the source of my family’s milk, cream, and butter. Dad’s hands could no longer withstand the pain of milking those friendly bovines. However, Mr. Arthritis could not quench my dad’s spirit as he continued to run or at least briskly walk from the moment he stepped outside our home in the early-morning dawn moving from one completed task to the next in his daily farming routine.
The money Dad and Mom earned from those three milk cows was our household money. So when that part of our weekly income was removed, something needed to take its place.
That’s when laying hens first came to our farm and their care was entrusted to each of us: Dad, Mom, Older Sister, and 6-year-old Me. Also that’s when Friday took on its own set of circumstances that would become the new normal for that day.
My dad was a natural-born peddler. Dad’s entrepreneurial spirit initiated a fresh egg route in Prairie Capital City. Now this is where Friday comes into play.
Early every Friday morning, the car trunk would be loaded with cases of eggs, and the entire back seat of our 1957 two-tone green and white Buick would be stacked from floor to back-seat window with individually packaged cartons of a dozen eggs tied with heavy white cotton string.
Mom and Dad then motored 11 miles on US Highway 10 to Prairie Capital City where Dad’s fresh egg route took him into the homes of common folk and elite.
Even our Prairie State’s Governor enjoyed eggs laid by our chickens. Dad and he had been boyhood friends, having played in the dirt together as youngsters and then having continued that friendship as high school basketball players at their small rural school. However, this friendship then took different paths into adulthood. One friend had chosen the path of speaking for the people. The other had chosen to feed the people.
In the summertime, Older Sister and I joined the egg expedition. We proudly carried two or three dozen eggs, accompanying Dad with his armful of cartons while riding the elevators of downtown professional buildings as he delivered eggs to executives and their secretaries. He was jolly Mr. Customer Service and knew no stranger! We watched him make change using the coins from his clean striped right overall pocket while politely thanking those who bought our product.
After a dinner laced with hardy German food at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, we were back into the car to complete the weekly route.
Often by 2 o’clock, Older Sister and I were accompanying Mom into the retail establishments of the great downtown, spending some of the bills and coins that Dad had so graciously received that Friday morning.
I could go on and on about those shopping times because their imprints are in the forefront of my mind. But as a baker, Dear Reader, you must accompany me to the store that we weekly visited which now, even after 50 years, is still my favorite…the grocery store.
This was the time in our country when the grocery store came into prominence, having replaced the general store. Shelf upon shelf was overflowing with neatly arranged colorful canned goods and vividly dyed cardboard boxes of cleaning products. Commercially baked breads and treats rested on guarded shelf space especially reserved for them. Fresh produce and dairy products in pristine white refrigerated coolers along with a well-stocked meat counter occupied the perimeter of the store. Hidden behind doors of lower-profile freezers were ice cream and ice cream bars, popsicles, and frozen foods. And, wouldn’t you know, even then, candy bars and chewing gum displayed at the checkout enticed little ones to beg. I did!
I can still smell the aroma lingering in the air after sweeping compound had been used to clean the darkly stained narrow wooden floor boards during closing hours.
Empty shiny metal grocery carts parked right at the inside of the doorway put on their happy faces, beckoning Mom to “take me, take me!” as we entered with well-honed grocery list in hand.
Oh, what fun my sister and I had those few times Mom would let us take turns standing on the front floor of the cart opposite her as she pushed it from aisle to aisle!
And don’t you know, the times I got to push my own little shiny metal junior-sized cart, I felt so very grown up! The handles of those kiddie carts had shiny plastic covers of red, yellow, blue, or green. Even before entering the store, I yearned to get my little hands on the one with the bright, sunshiny yellow covers. That is, unless some other little pee-wee shopper didn’t already have it noisily rolling on the wooden floor.
And then, there was the grocery store cash register! Be still my beating heart!!! Oh, those well-trained checkers operated the tills like a well-oiled machine—manually pushing the numerically labeled buttons here and there and then punching the larger rectangular knob with the right side of their fist so that the machine could record the price of the product, all to the sound of a “cha-ching.” It was poetry in motion! The smiling checkers concentrated on their task and performed it with the speed of a gazelle. And they were still chatty to boot! The colorful buttons on that money-harboring machine caught my eye, and with watching the entire operation, this little girl knew there couldn’t be a better job in the world than to be a grocery store checker! Why, in no time at all, our grocery cart was emptied, and our order rung up and paid for, again from the earnings gained with the partnership between our laying hens and my family.
Of course, we didn’t leave the grocery store without having received free S&H Green stamps, given in thanks for trading there. The more dollars we spent for groceries, the more stamps we received. Then, as soon as we returned home, my sister or I hastily licked that awful-tasting glue on the back of the stamps and pasted them into books that in the future would be redeemed at the S&H Green Stamp Redemption store in Prairie Capital City.
Each time I accompanied Mom into that store (on a Friday) I stood beside her in awe thinking that we could get anything in that store for free (or at least to my young mind, it was free). With our well-managed income, money for extras such as a card table and chairs, croquet set, badminton set, and portable ice chest and picnic basket just wasn’t available. Those trading stamps helped provide “bonus” items; they were the “frosting on the cake”!
Ah yes, Friday…the happenings during which my rural upbringing expanded from the farm to the world beyond. But how else would I have learned about treating the customer fairly; learning the value of a dollar; the financial outcome of responsible caretaking of an investment; the satisfying result of a family working together; and, of course the wonderland of a grocery store…all of that because of Friday.