Party line or online, ordering is the same


Time Pieces

Sunday afternoon, I was trying to catch up with ironing and had the television blaring, as usual. I convince myself that I am actually pacing myself with that noise box, knowing that I have to be at certain spots in my project every time a show is over and a new one begins.

That afternoon, I started keeping a mental note of the different commercials that were advertising online shopping and then pick-up at the store, and others that advertised online ordering and free shipping.

I joked that I could totally survive without ever stepping a foot into another store. All I needed was a full-service gas station, and then I would have it made.

First, I could order groceries on the supermarket’s website through my telephone or computer and then roar across town, pull into my designated parking spot, finalize the transaction, and go on my merry way.

If they don’t have what I need, I’ll repeat the same process at the other store on the edge of town.

Television tempts me with the ads for the “meal in a box” special deals where a complete meal, including the tiny packets of salt and pepper are included with the meat entrée, starch, vegetable and dessert that are shipped, many times overnight, to the consumer. What a deal! All I have to provide is the credit card and elbow grease to prepare it.

Finding the time to go shopping for clothing can also be a challenge, but nowadays, but that’s made easier since two or three fashion magazines seem to come every day in the mail.

It’s even possible to subscribe to a clothing company, and never face another dressing room line again. The shopper can go online, fill out a survey as to taste, color and style, give a few measurements for size, and then periodically, receive a box of clothing. Garments that do not fit or are not desired, can be returned or exchanged.

Same goes with cosmetics. There was an advertisement for a sample box of cosmetics. There was the $10 variety, and if that wasn’t enough, I could choose the $100 box.

Oh, darn, I knew I forgot something … I forgot to buy cat chow for my felines.

No problem. I can go to that pet food and supply website. There, I can purchase just about any brand of pet food I need, make my transaction and have it delivered for no charge.

-syg-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 online, it probably isn’t even being made or I don’t need it.

Even back in the 1930s and ’40s, people had their way of on-line ordering … they placed their orders 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 out 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.

The eggs, cream and butter that were traded would usually pay for the staple groceries. This was the early day barter system.

Other than staples, like sugar, flour and coffee, farms were pretty self-sufficient.

Everyone had a garden with vegetables and fruit and livestock provided meat for the family. Vegetables and fruit were canned or dried and cabbage was made into sauerkraut.

Neighborhoods and families organized beef butcher clubs. Members rotated providing a head of beef that they all butchered and divided up so that each family had fresh beef until it was time to butcher again.

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

On order day, it was important for the housewife to call to town to place the order for the groceries that were needed. One household would dial to Fredericksburg and the other households along the party line recognized the time and would lift their receivers to listen in and also place their orders. (I guess you could say they participated in a conference call!)

The typical order might include sugar, flour, coffee, milk cow feed, laying mash for the chickens … and if it was spring time, perhaps some baby chicks.

After the driver had unloaded the farm’s weekly order, he would load up the eggs, cream and butter which were traded to the produce company. If there were any laying hens not living up to their expectations, they were also sold, because a hen that was not laying was not making any money for the family.

Before leaving for the next farm, the driver would usually have a candy treat for the children. So during summer vacation time, the children always made an effort to hang around the house when the order arrived.

Periodically, other salesmen would also make their rounds.

There was the Watkins salesman who offered soaps, shampoos, creams, salves, ointments and first aid items. He also had vanilla and lemon extracts, spices and many more things for the kitchen and home.

Sometimes, the dry goods salesman would come by. Packed in his car was basically everything in the clothing line that might be needed.

When the housewife needed any cosmetics, he usually had a wide variety from which to choose.

So, in reality, times haven’t changed that much … it’s only the way in which things are done.