One of my memories from growing up in Buffalo was walking with my mother to the Mohegan Market on Bailey Avenue at East Amherst Street. Most people went shopping daily or every other day back then. There were no big box, wholesale stores where you could buy a package of toilet paper that would last six months. This is the present site of The Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Children’s Academy.
Mohegan was a small independent grocer based in the Buffalo area. They had four stores, one at 2228 Seneca at Buffum, one at 95 Grant at Breckenridge, another at 2643 Main at Fillmore and this one at 3149 Bailey. You would enter thru the front door and there would be fresh produce on the right side and a register and the meat cases on the left. There was always a friendly butcher wearing a blood stained white apron leaning on the case ready to cut your meat to order. This was a true “old school” meat market with sawdust sprinkled on the floor.
I recently found an advertisement from December 20, 1954 listing some of their prices. They had whole Chickens for $.29 a pound, cooked hams, Pork roast for $.29 a pound, Chuck roast for $.49 a pound and something they called Hamburg steak at 2 lbs. for $.69.
If you went past the meat cases to the back of the store and took a left, you were in the area where they had the dairy case, canned foods, pasta, paper goods and bread. There was no aisle after aisle of frozen food cases but instead they had just one reach in frozen food case with a clear sliding top. You could get some “Birds Eye” frozen vegetables that came in a rectangular box (no bags) or maybe a frozen “TV” dinner from this section of the store. Your home refrigerator freezer wasn’t much larger than a cubic foot so you didn’t have a lot of room to stock up on frozen foods. Frequently you would leave out the ice cube tray to gain more room.
The fish monger used to deliver their order in an ice filled wooden box. Mohegan used to put the box out behind the store to allow the ice to melt. If my friends and I would find this, we would have a snowball fight in the middle of summer. This ice, although smelly, gave us a cooling diversion. One day I “copped” one of these boxes and loaded it on my radio flyer wagon. I then dragged it home. I made a fairly respectable “soap box racer” out of it using some old wagon wheels that kept us entertained one entire summer.
My mother would give me fifty cents to go and get a loaf of Wonder bread and a quart of Sealtest milk. I could keep the change and I frequently spent the change on penny candy like Hot Tamales, Atomic Fire Balls, Turkish Taffy, Boston Baked Beans or a Chuckles Jelly Candy. Back then, candy bars cost a nickel. They also had a few glass gum ball machines at the door filled with gum balls and Ike and Mikes to entice the last few pennies out of you. I would throw the groceries in my bike basket and pedal my way home fueled by sugar and the desire to get home so I could play with my friends.
I remember one day when I found a dollar bill on the floor. In the fifties, a dollar was a small fortune to a preteen boy. This prompted a trip to the corner store to buy my friends and me penny candy (which actually cost a penny) and comic books.
Most of the small neighborhood grocers are gone where the clerks all knew you by name, you would bump into your friends and the butcher would custom cut your order for you and I miss them.