Retro Memories

I think I’m going to start a new series here in ye olde journal where I detail some strange, interesting, or strangely interesting facet of growing up in the 70’s and 80’s.

I mean; I was there, man!

For example, you’ve probably used the term “Generic” before, but did you know that back in the early 80’s generic was such a big deal there was literally a “Generic Store”?

I’m not kidding; an actual store full of nothing but plain white wrapper stuff with block-print stating what it ostensibly was. Even the store’s sign was in this style, and simply said “Generic Store”.

The ‘Generic’ age came right before the dawn of the ‘Store Brands’ era which we live in now. Back in the late 70’s / early 80’s most stores had a Generic aisle full of not-quite-up-to-snuff stuff placed into plain white packaging and sold at a discount, and it was just a matter of time before someone made a free-standing store out of the idea…

My mother shopped at the Generic Store quite a bit.

See, my mom tended to treat grocery shopping like a personal conquest to try and squeeze every penny until it screamed. She would spend each weekend clipping coupons, and spent about a week before every monthly grocery run planning meals around whatever coupons she had acquired, and woe be unto the grocery store that offered things like ‘double coupons’…

It often took just as long for the person at the register to go through all of the coupons as it did to ring up all of the groceries, and if mom was on her game she’d drop the cost from around $50 to $30 or less… And, being the 80’s, $50 would literally fill the back of mom’s Opel 1900 wagon, seats to tailgate.

But all of this frugal had its own cost… I ate a lot of garlic butter baked cod, spaghetti, kielbasa and potatoes, hot dogs in stuff (mac-n-cheese, baked beans, etc), sloppy joes, quiche… Anything that could be made cheaply, in bulk, and kept well in Tupperware.

So, mom and the Generic Store had a bit of an illicit affair for a while, and I remember making a few trips to the unhappiest place on earth… The store was dimly lit, filled with gray colorless boxes, tins, and cans, and full of slow moving old people in shades of ash.

Walking into the store was like walking into a black and white TV.

Fortunately the Generic Store was fairly short-lived. I seem to recall it only being around for a year or two in fact.

Another Generic thing that happened at about the same time, though at the other end of Longmont, was “The Hamburger Stand”.

The building was white and black, the packaging was white and black, the employee uniforms were white and black, and most of the stuff on the menu was $0.39. Burger? 39 cents. Fries? 39 cents. Drink? 39 cents…

There was other stuff on the menu, like a 49 cent cheeseburger or corndog, but no one bought the expensive stuff.

About once a year my father would head over to the Hamburger Stand and buy like $20 worth, bring them home in several sacks, and we’d eat cheap burgers for far too long. But it was only once a year, so it was still a treat. 🙂