Ah, the joys of childhood.
Like getting a whole 25 cents from mom and her OK to run on down to the corner store to buy some candy. And there was nothing better than watching the store clerk putting that second scoop of ice cream on the cone, then push it down to make room for a little more.
Indeed, Galveston has its share of corner grocery stores, which provided not only the material necessities of life – the onions and garlic, toothpaste, coffee and of course, toilet paper – but they were a social hub as well.
Island corner stores were so popular, in fact, that folks would even drive across town to visit them – even if there’s one right down the street. Corner businesses like Ferguson Drug Store (now closed) at 1218 35th St., and Stiglich Grocery at 2728 Ave Q kept neighborhoods alive and thriving.
John H. Lienhard, of the University of Houston’s College of Engineering, shared his perspective on his radio show, “Engines of Ingenuity” on KUHF (Houston Public Media):
The corner store was a practical answer to real need, back when few people had automobiles, and primitive ice boxes were all we had to store food. It was normal to walk to the store and to buy in small quantities. Small stores were spread throughout the city. My bicycle gave me ready access to six or seven of them.
They were corner stores because that's where they were visible in residential neighborhoods. And, since they had to be staffed for long hours with the whole family pitching in, we often found them in the half-basement of an apartment building with the family living upstairs. We used our pennies to buy candy on the way home from grade school. Some of the family owners would tolerate us; others would let us know that we were pests.
In his book, “Through the Lens of the City: NEA Photography Surveys of the 1970s,” author Mark Rice observed:
The grocery stores generally are owned and operated by families who are independent, hard-working people with a fierce pride in what they do.
The corner store holds an important and special place in American life. Collectively, corner stores and the entrepreneurs who have lived and worked in them have a played an integral role in the history and development of America.”
I could not agree more. No doubt, my childhood wouldn’t have been the same without our wonderful, quirky and quaint corner stores.