Thursday, February 21, 2019

Parcel Pick-Up | Lefsetz Letter

Felice asked me if I ever rode the horse outside the supermarket.

I said yes. Although I then thought about it. Surely I had, but most times my mother declined to honor my request to plug in a dime.

In return I asked Felice whether she remembered parcel pick-up.

I got a blank stare.

Then, on Bloomberg Radio, channel 119 on Sirius XM, I heard them talking about Wal-Mart’s numbers, which shot through the roof with the death of Toys-R-Us, and that the company was expanding curbside pickup of groceries to a thousand more stores…


Maybe you don’t remember, in the days where you paid for food with a check and not a credit card, in the pre-scanner era. But you’d pay for your groceries and a bagger would put the paper bags in a cart, akin to the one the postman delivers your mail in when you come back from a long vacation, and that cart would be placed on a system of rails and then you’d drive your car to the curb and they’d place the bags in your trunk and…WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THOSE?

They seem to have disappeared with S&H Green Stamps.

My mother never bothered with stamps, nor coupons, life was too short. But when we were kids, we got the books, we pasted in the stamps, and found out we could never afford what we wanted.

But King Cole had no stamps.

It was the Whole Foods of its day. The Stew Leonard’s. Opened in 1958 it had sixteen checkout lanes and even sold furniture… It was the future, right now. It was for gourmets.

You’re five years old and you’re wowed by chocolate covered ants. Yup, they sold those, along with dried grasshoppers. They were ahead of their time, now to save the environment everyone is talking about eating insects.

And by this time I was too big to ride in the grocery cart. That was another breakthrough, the built-in seat. But my sister Wendy got to. And we’d push her around the store… When you’re a little kid, you want to push the grocery cart, it makes you feel powerful as you point out all the things your mother won’t buy you.

And when we’d check out…

They had parcel pick-up at King Cole, but it went underground, to a whole new location!

This was the tech breakthrough of the fifties. Kids are fascinated by conveyor belts and Rube Goldbergesque constructions. The fact that our food went underground, that was like a ride at Disneyland, which we saw on TV every Sunday night but had never been to. We always wondered, could we get in the cart too? We were certainly small enough.

And then we’d go out to the Ford Falcon, pull up to the distant destination where our food was, actually, just across the parking lot, and drive home.

Now yesterday was not like today. Most mothers didn’t work, and most families didn’t have full-time housekeepers, never mind nannies. So, a mother would have to take her kids with her to the store. And you know kids, they never want to be distracted from their fun and games.

But if we were going to King Cole!

This was before seatbelts, when safety was a non-issue, when dashboards were made out of metal.

We’d climb over the seats while our mother was driving. We’d delve into the bags and extract some Fudge Town cookies or bread. The car was just another playground.

And it wasn’t only King Cole that had parcel pick-up, Grand Union did too. Even the A&P, where my mother refused to shop, claiming it was dirty.

This was a standard feature, you’d see the rollers right out front. There’d be a doggie door between the store and the outside. A kid could watch the parcel pick-up delivery system for the entire time his or her mother was shopping, when you got old enough to be let out of her sight.

But parcel pick-up seemed to disappear, long before the advent of self-service gas stations. Seems like something is always lost in the march to the future. Like vent windows. I bet kids today have never seen them. But before the days of auto a/c, you’d crack the vent and it would blow air right into your face and it would feel so good!!

But now Wal-Mart is delivering your groceries curbside. Will the metal rollers of parcel pick-up arrive next?

A&P 153 - Parcel Pickup

Or, comb through the pics here:

Parcel Pick-Up


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