Ordering online...the party line, that is

Last Monday night, before “putting my computer to bed,” I jumped on-line to order from one of hundreds … or rather … thousands of firms that offer on-line ordering for their merchandise.

With all of today’s technology, it’s not even necessary to go to the store anymore. I have discovered that if it is not available on-line, it probably isn’t even being made.

Almost instantly after hitting the “go” button, I had confirmation that my hair gel would soon be on its way. And by golly, Saturday morning, there it was when I opened the mailbox.

Even back in the 1930s and ’40s, people had their way of on-line ordering … over the party line telephone. And, a day or so later, their merchandise was delivered.

Back then, two local produce companies – Knopp and Metzger Produce and Schneider Produce – would send trucks into the rural communities to make deliveries to farms as well as to pick up eggs, cream and butter.

Every farm had chickens and milk cows. No one ever thought of buying milk and eggs at a supermarket as we do today.

Other than staples, like sugar, flour and coffee, farms were pretty self-sufficient. Everyone had a garden with vegetables and fruit, while livestock and chickens provided meat for the family.

The fruits and vegetables were canned or dried and nearly all families participated in beef butcher clubs whereby a group of families would cooperatively butcher a calf every week or two.

Eggs, cream and butter that were traded would usually pay for the staple goods.

The delivery trucks had their regular routes to all parts of the county and every farm had their regular delivery day.

On order day, it was important to call to town to place an order for the groceries that were needed. One household would dial to Fredericksburg and the other households along the party line recognized the jingle and would lift their receivers to listen in and also place their orders (… an early-day conference call!).

The typical order might include sugar, flour, coffee, laying mash for the chickens … and perhaps some baby chicks.

Back then, the laying mash came in printed cotton bags. When placing her weekly order, the housewife would request a specific print, because she might need several of one kind in order to construct a dress, blouse or night gown.

For the rest of this story, read this week’s print and online editions of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. If you are a print subscriber, your full online subscription is free. All you need to do is call 830-997-2155 to get a password. If you are not a subscriber, call 997-2155 or click on the ‘Subscribe’ button on the left side of the home page and sign up today!


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