Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy 2010, and welcome as we launch a brand new year of Pleasant Family Shopping, where we take a look back at the destinations of everyday life – supermarket and discount store chains, department stores, and maybe even one or two of those wild new "indoor malls"!

The thing is, even the “everyday” can be fascinating, when you look back at it and see how much even basic things have changed through the years. Here, we delve into some of the history of the companies behind these chains, and we look at how changing times affected the companies, the people who shopped at their stores, and of course, the styles – architectural, clothing and otherwise.

Best of all are the photos – digitally remastered (sort of) for display on today’s hi-tech computer screens!

Let’s start the year off with a circa 1964 (dramatization of a) real-life supermarket checkout scene! Notice how the lady’s outfit is perfectly coordinated with the store’s tile floor (which is only proper, if you really think about it). The checkout man is definitely on top of his game where it counts - courtesy, accuracy, and most importantly, artistic placement of food items on the conveyor belt.

At the time, all of the items shown, minus the produce, cheese and bread, were products of General Foods Corporation, for whom this photo was taken. A number of them, as I’m sure you well know, are still staples of kitchen cabinets all over America. Probably my favorite item here is the bottle of Tang, favorite of aspiring young astronauts everywhere. Just need some Space Food Sticks to go with it!


  1. I have no idea why GF got into the soapy-steel wool pad business (SOS pads, which have sinced passed to several different owners)

  2. Happy New Year, Dave!!! While I always enjoy the atmosphere of Pleasant Family Shopping on a regular basis, any chance that once in a while you might tackle some Pleasant Family Eating? I love food, not so much shopping for it, but consuming it and remastered restaurant photos are just as fun :D

  3. The family certainly had an addiction to General Foods coffee lines. I would have thought caffeine, but the Sanka, at least, indicates a coffee addiction. Yuban, regular Maxwell House, and instant Sanka and Maxwell House. In a few years, 1968, eating General Foods products would become more convenient, as her family would be able to eat at Burger Chef to fill their GF addiction.

  4. Interesting photo, Dave.

    I was noticing the NCR cash register that had the green light on the side, indicating that the register was "clear", apparently to show the customer that they were only being charged for the items being entered into the register at the time and that nothing was entered prior. The only store I ever recall seeing those registers in was the A & P in La Jolla, CA back in the mid sixties.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Happy 2010! I'm with Didi, Dave - how about some eating? Just having returned from eating my way through Chicago, I'm ready to tackle another retro subject near and dear to my heart! Here's to another GREAT year at PFS!

  6. Happy New Year! I love your blog and was happy to see you mentioned Space Food Sticks. I ate far too many of those as a kid, but no one else seems to remember them! Keep up the good work.

  7. Happy New Year to you as well, my dear!

    I do enjoy your blog so much. Do you know what pleasure you bring to others? Sure hope so!

    Also, so many of those items on the conveyor belt were purchased by our family! What ever happened to Gaines Burgers and the like?

  8. Hey, we used to feed our Standard Poodle Beau "Prime" back in the 60s. They were these little red chunks that were designed to mimic beef. I broke down and tried one once. Not tasty.

    The most notable thing about this shot, though, really, is that there is an adult at the checkout. When's the last time you saw a real adult ringing up your chow?

  9. I remember gaines burgars. i used to feed to my dog this. when everthing had to be rung up by hand.ever item was marked by someone with a price gun.

  10. Oh my - Space Food Sticks were so nasty tasting! And so was Tang for that matter. But they definitely had a high coolness factor - the future is now! Thanks, Dave!

  11. Jamcool – A number of the biggest consumer products companies have been into both food and household products (cleaners, detergents, etc.) over the years. Lever Bros. (now Unilever) comes to mind, and the biggest example is probably Procter and Gamble, although P&G has sold off quite a few of their food brands in recent years, like the Jif peanut butter line that is now owned by Smucker’s.

    Didi – I have a lot more on retail chains than on restaurants, but the few restaurant photos I have are pretty interesting. I might just try to slip some in for fun!

    Ken – Someone in the family must have worked for them! :) And they were definitely into coffee. Good point you bring up about the Burger Chef connection. I miss the “Burger Chef and Jeff” commercials, and we actually did eat there once in a while!

    David – I think so too, David, glad you liked it. The vintage cash registers (which nearly always seem to be NCR’s) are an interesting part of these scenes. I (and several faithful readers of the site) miss the mechanical sounds they made, especially compared to today’s electronic POS systems, save for the “beep” scanner acknowledgment.

    As mentioned, I’ll bet the ancient La Jolla store you shopped at was a beauty, if it’s anything like the other 30’s-50’s era-built Southern California stores I’ve seen pictures of.

    Happy New Year to you!

    Adrienne – Happy New Year to you! Any snow there in the greater Akron area? :) I’ll try to mix in a few fondly remembered fast food joints (because they’re the only restaurants I have anything on!) Thanks so much, as always!

    Retrocandy69 –

    Thanks, and I hope you have a great New Year as well! My mom bought Space Food Sticks for me just a couple of times, but as many TV commercials as they ran for them, it seems like they were a staple of our diet, looking back!

    Vicki – Thanks so much again for you kind, wonderful comment. I really enjoy doing this, and I’m so glad it brings pleasure to you and others.

    I don’t think that Prime or Gaines Burgers are even available any more, and my guess is that they were pretty expensive products to manufacture. They sure advertised on TV a lot!

    And Happy New Year to you!

    Drew – They looked like “real meat”, but I’m sure didn’t taste like it! And I’m not sure that fifty-ish looking males were that commonly seen behind the checkouts even then, but I agree the average age was probably older than it is today.

    Pmb – I can remember as young kid watching the grocery stockers strip off the top of the boxes and hand stamping the cans inside. The stampers made another distinctive, long-gone sound.

    Carl – That’s for sure! (I was never sure what kind of “food” they were going after with Space Food Sticks!) But we ate ‘em anyway strictly for the “coolness factor”, as you say!

    Thanks for the comment!

  12. General Foods is the forerunner to Kraft, in many ways. Look at the items...nearly all of them are now Kraft.

  13. General Foods was actually bought by Phillip Morris and combined with Kraft I think in the mid-80s or so. Eventually they dropped the GF name altogether, opting to re-brand with the Kraft name on all the old GF products they didn't drop.

  14. Jonah - It was the literal forerunner of Kraft - for a while the company was known as "Kraft General Foods". A big chunk of the "Kraft" portion is formerly Nabisco (they still use the brand name, of course), which was part of the infamous RJR Nabisco fiasco of the 1980's.

    Drew - Good point about the Philip Morris connection. Like RJ Reynolds, PM invested heavily in food companies in the 80's, presumably as a hedge against full dependency on tobacco product sales.