Last week, I wrote about the old North Main Grocery store in Portales. Like Portales, many Small Town Americas had many mom and pop stores. They were a lot like today’s convenience stores, but with several major differences.
These mom and pops supplied. Unlike today’s ready-to-eat meals toasting under hot lamps at your 24-hour convenience corners, mom and pops catered to the cook, selling flour, potatoes, freshly cut meat and other cooking supplies. They also catered to the sweet tooth, as I mentioned when I wrote about the “Sugar Shack” last week.
Another major difference: People were not as hurried and so mom and pops were community gatherings rather than today’s community “run in and out” places.
In North Portales alone, North Main Grocery was the one that stuck in my mind the most as a child. But with some recent brainpicking and some help from my Facebook friends, I realized there were more than a half dozen mom and pops on that side of town alone at one point.
Today, many small Southeastern New Mexico towns are riddled with convenience stores and are lucky if they have even half a dozen actual grocery stores, with Wal-Mart counting as one.
Specialty stores only exist today, for the large part, in big cities. In Small Town America, we had our specialty mom and pops stores.
We knew where to go for our candy bars and soda. North Main Grocery. Nona Oldham Rhoads told me, via the Old Portales Memories Facebook page, that she would go to one mom and pop store for candy and then to another one, located across from the current Allsup’s in North Portales, to buy and trade comic books. And then she would go to the old Spear’s store, behind the current Allsup’s, on West Fir, which turns into the Floyd Highway, particularly to buy lemons and cinnamon suckers.
Spear’s was the store on North Avenue B and West Fire Street that had gas pumps in front of it and later became a pool hall before closing in the late 1970s. And talk about temptation, Ernest Aguilar reminded me about a small store cat-a-corner to Lindsey Elementary School in north Portales that was the ultimate candy shack.
“The store across from Lindsey school was the downfall of many little elementary students,” another Facebook friend, Kenya Heap told me. “It was so easy to go to the store during lunch hour. Candy and sugar galore. I remember the Sugar Babies and what they did to my teeth.”
According to Keith McCrary, Spear’s was first Borden Bros and then sold to the Spears in the 1950s. Also there was a store called Turner’s further up the Floyd Highway along with several other mom and pops on that side of town alone. It is amazing to think how our communities could support all of these businesses, but they did.
About a month ago, I wrote about how many pieces of history — photographs in particular — are being lost because most of them are not being printed. There are no hard copies, only digital copies. However, with social media, it is nice to know that some parts of history are being preserved, or, more like revived, remembered and shared through Facebook pages like Old Portales Memories. Tucumcari Memories and more.
Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at: Helena-Rodriguez@hotmail.com