Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Corner Grocery Store

    My family lived in a small city in Ohio until I was eleven.  At that time my Dad thought it would be a good idea to buy a grocery store in a neighboring town.  He wanted to be his own boss and I understood that, but a grocery store?  As it turned out it was quite an adventure for our family.
    Please remember that this was the early 60’s and quite an abrupt shift for us.  It was scary to me at first, just moving to a new area and having to make new friends.  This was an overload to a girl who was kind of introverted.
    Suddenly everyone knew our family.  Because we owned a business people thought we were rich and my introversion translated to my being a snob to the neighborhood kids.  The problem for me was, I didn’t realize then, I was very intuitive.  I felt how others thought about our family, outsiders.  That is hard for all children, but especially hard for extremely intuitive kids.
    Thankfully Mom was an outgoing and likeable lady.  Later on the kids in the neighborhood would literally call her “Lady”.  Dad on the other hand was a very stern, loud, and opinionated man, his moniker became “The Boss”.  Because Mom was so friendly and good with kids our store quickly became the “hang-out”.  That was good and bad, good because it helped me and my siblings begin to fit in.  Bad because no one ever had to call or ask to come over they could just come and hang out and eventually we’d be around. 
    Living in a grocery store is a very interesting way to grow up.  We had to learn how to wait on customers, how to handle money and make change.  We also learned how to do inventory and stock.  Our store had a small meat counter where we cut lunch meats for  people and had other things like pork chops, hamburger and the like.  Howard, the butcher, came as an employee with the store.  We also had a “pop shed” that Grandpa built for us, where we kept all the returned pop bottles.  It was an average corner grocery store and looking back an unusual type of childhood.  We learned a lot and most of it was fun but some of it was kinda scary.
    The building itself had been around for many years.  There was a coal shoot to the basement where coal was stored to heat the building in the old days.  All the heat came through the old fashioned iron radiators.  We all got a burn or two from those through the years.
    Howard Hoover, the butcher, taught mom and dad how to butcher meats and he was quite the character.  He was only around the first couple of years we owned the store before he passed.  Even though he was not there physically after that he did make his presence known to us several times through the years.  A few weeks after his demise, my father was watching TV in our upstairs apartment.  He reached for his glasses case on the coffee table only to find that the glasses belonged to Howard!  How in the world did those glasses turn up in our living room?  Mom called Howard’s widow and was told that those glasses couldn’t be his, he was buried with his only pair of glasses.  Mom insisted, “They have his name inside the case!”.  Mrs. Hoover decided to come over and get them just the same.  When she saw the case she broke down in tears, “These ARE his, I recognized his handwriting!”.  That was only one of the many times he presented himself to our family.
    I’m not sure what was happening in that building or why, but all kinds of unexplainable stuff seemed to keep happening there.  The toilet would occasionally flush when there was no one in the bathroom.  The chandelier in the living room would swing around when there was no wind or anyone near it.  The rocking chair would rock by itself.  The piano would play a few notes of ‘A Time for Us’ now and then with no one at the keyboard.  The lights would turn on and off without any physical help.  Although those things may sound scary there were many other things much more ominous that would happen over the years.
    My brother had more than a few scares while doing his daily chores.  He mopped the store at night after closing and would only screw in the light on the meat scales for light so as not to have the store appear to be open.  One night while mopping the light went out.  He thought he may not have screwed the light in tightly enough, so he re-screwed the light in.  It went out again, now he was getting ticked off.  He lit the light once more, the light went out again.  This time when he went to re-do the light to his surprise the bulb was gone, it was laying beside the scales!
    Another time he was doing his nightly chores around 2 AM.  This time a cereal box fell off the shelf onto his head.  He replaced it thinking he had bumped the shelf.  Then two boxes fell off onto his head.  Now he’s getting aggravated, he put them back cussing the boxes.  At that, it was as if someone ran their hand along behind the row of cereal boxes and they all fell!  Needless to say he ran out of the store without finishing the job.
    We all had chores to do because mom had to always work the store and dad worked another job to help support a family of six.  One of Jeane’s jobs was to do the dusting and vacuuming upstairs.  While doing the dusting on one occasion she had a very upsetting experience.  
    To understand why this was upsetting you have to know the layout of the upstairs apartment.  There was only one way upstairs and at the top of the stairs you would see the living room just past a short hallway that led to the bathroom.  Now and then mom would allow salesmen to use our bathroom so we really didn’t pay attention to strangers coming upstairs once in awhile.
    So anyway, Jeane is dusting, her back to the stairway.  When suddenly a man came out of our brothers bedroom directly in front of her.  He said “Hello.” and reached his hand out to her.  Startled, she wondered how he got past her in the first place.  She ran downstairs and asked mom, “Who is the man upstairs?”.  Mom said, “There’s no man upstairs, Jeane.”.  Mom sent one of the neighborhood boys back upstairs with Jeane to check on this and of course there was no one.  Jeane gave a very complete description of what she had seen but no one could ever explain who he was, where he came from, or went to!
    Occasionally I would hear or see things I couldn’t identify.  One time I had a girlfriend over and we were sitting around having a girl talk.  Suddenly I noticed a cloud forming above her head.  It seamed to be swirling over her and getting larger with sparkling lights in it.  I told her softly, “Look up.”  When she did it must have scared her pretty badly because she jumped up and ran out of the house.  She and I remained friends but she would never come back to the store.
    You must remember that mom, my sister Jeane and I were very intuitive.  My brother and youngest sister were also, although they weren’t as actively interested in the metaphysical as we were.  Because of our activities, I believe, we energized the building.  Mom especially liked things on the scary side and sometimes played with things that would have been better off left alone.
    Once mom decided to ‘cast a spell’ of prosperity for our business.  She concocted a mixture and mopped the store with it.  Later that day she and Jeane were sitting in the store alone talking, when the bells on the front door rang.  In came a many people in single file.  Young and old, tall and short, they just kept coming.  They kept filing in until the whole store was filled.  They were all making eye contact with mom and Jeane but no one spoke.  They milled around for a few seconds and then just as quickly as they came they turned and filed out of the store.  Both Jeane and mom were speechless.  When all of the people had gone Jeane asked mom, “Did you see that?” and mom replied, “Yea, what the Hell was that all about?”.  They both ran out the front door to see where the people had gone but there was no one in sight.  They told me if they hadn’t been together and both experienced this, they would not have believed it.  They have no explanation for it, just one more weird experience at Dungan’s Grocery Store!

There are many other stories about our grocery store and I may in the future write more.

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