The Shell of the Former Corner Grocery Store at Alliance and Spear in Arcata
(A repost of last year from my old blog)
In the neighborhood where I grew up in East Bakersfield, there were four neighborhood grocery stores within a five or six block distance from our house. In those days, the nineteen-sixties, people from our class of neighborhoods frequented these stores. We had nearby supermarkets where our parents did the bulk of their shopping, but the corner store was something that all of us frequented. This was especially true for us kids. We took our allowances, and I took my lawn-mowing earnings and spent money in the small store on candy and soda pop. It is just what we did.
I think another reason these stores survived is that many of them offered charge accounts. One of my friend’s mother often sent my friend and I to fetch some things for her, including cigarettes. The store clerk would write down the total on a card that was kept at the register. I suspect that charges accounted for a large part of their sales, and I am sure that they helped keep the store going.
Nowadays, I think the corner/neighborhood store was replaced with the newer style convenience store, and with the little stores in gas stations. I am uncertain as to what caused the demise of this store in Arcata. I think as of ten years ago it was still operating. It looks to me that it will not be restored. It looks like it is being allowed to decay, and I wonder how long before it becomes a hazard. I wish I knew its name.
I have been wanting to photograph this structure for quite some time, but I would only think of it whenever I drove by on some other errand. Last night when I went to bed I told myself to wake up at six. I repeated the command a couple of times, and at exactly six, I woke. So I went photographing in the dawn light.
BLACK AND WHITE RENDERING
I’m not one to jump on the “Good Oldl’ Days” bandwagon, the one that takes us back to a time when “things were better” but…there are certain aspects that I do miss and they generally involve a sense of community. I visited my folks a few years ago, still living in a semi-rural setting at the time, and found a small, neighborhood market close by their home. I could tell that many of the people who walked in and out of there knew someone. Even if it was just the cashier they’d checked out with on numerous times, there was still conversation and some small connection. This is one thing I mourn about passing of the corner stores. Another is the fact that bigger is not necessarily better. My bad knees tell me that a little extra money spent at a smaller mart is a much better value than walking a hundred yards or more to save a buck.
Don Mahler has a photograph of this store from back in the days. It was called “Alliance Store” if I recall correctly. I’ve lived here and been past that corner 100s of times when it was open, going btwn HSU and my grandmother’s house out near the MRCH. I have a photograph of it, too, in the state it’s in now. It’s alluring to me, for much the reasons you state. I think you need to go back and get closer.