Working in a Grocery Store, 1943

In 1943, during World War II, I worked in our neighborhood grocery store.   I was a 14 year old girl at the time,  and worked to help my family.  I started at 8 am and worked till 6 pm and made $5.00 a week.  There were no other employees, the owner and I were the only ones who worked there.

The grocery store was a two-room building.  When you came in the front door, the first thing you saw was a candy counter.  The owner had placed other counters on the right and left sides of the store.  The cash register was on one of these counters.  The meat counter was at the back, so the counters formed a U.  Behind the meat counter there was a butcher block and a freezer.  There were shelves along the walls on each side of the building for canned goods, sugar, flour, beans, pasta, etc.

The back room was for storage and preparation of the items sold in the meat counter.  The room had a table, sink, and a stove to heat water.  The two jobs at the store I hated most were plucking chickens and slicing liver.

Chicken did not come already cleaned and packed in plastic packages the way it does now.  We had to clean and prepare the chicken for the shoppers ourselves.  We would heat water on the stove, then the owner of the store would dip freshly killed chickens in the hot water.  I had to pull the wet feathers off.  The water had to be hot enough to scald the chickens so I could get the feathers off.  Nothing smells worse than wet, hot chicken feathers.   Slicing raw liver made me queasy and I could never get used to handling it.

Rationing was in effect then, and everyone had a ration book and coupons.  We had to keep close track of them.  Nearly everyone charged their groceries and settled their bill when they got paid. They received a little bag of penny candy when they paid their bill.  I wrote down each person’s purchases in a receipt book.  I gave them a copy and we kept a copy.

It was not always an easy job and as I mentioned there were things that I did not enjoy doing. As I look back on this experience I learned many things, was able to help my family financially and appreciate the value and satisfaction of hard work.

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