Tuesday is "Paper" Day
For as long as I can remember, the weekly grocery flyer insert or advertisement was a highly anticipated piece of reading material in my house. The retailer's choice of what stocked its shelves was the starting point of creating the grocery list for what would replenish pantry items for the week. My mom has never liked reading, but Tuesday was "Paper" day.
Our local paper was published by The Wave Publishing Group and delivered in a rolled bundle tossed on the lawn in the early mornings. Nobody better touch that rolled gold. Otherwise, you would hear that plaintive wail, "Somebody took my paper." I can still remember the look on my mother's face on the few instances when it would happen. It was as if she had been cheated out of lottery winnings.
When she did have her paper in hand, she would check what we needed before making a trip to ABC Market on 54th street. That's another story. My mom's memory is not as reliable as it used to be. But you know what she still looks forward to on Tuesday? The grocery ad flyers. And now there are several stores printing ads. She is not a fan of driving anymore in her old age and with COVID I do the shopping. She makes sure I have looked through the "papers" too before I make my grocery list and go shopping.
When did this grocery store advertising all start? The oldest publication in a Library of Congress searched, pulled up a paper from January 18, 1879, in "The News and Herald" of Winnsboro, South Carolina. Page three lists grocery items under the heading, "Fresh Goods! Just Received" posted by D.R. Flenniken, "All of which will be sold cheap for Cash."
The second oldest grocery ad is from March 29, 1901. "The Goodland Republic" newspaper in Goodland, Kansas, on page three there is an ad for a store called, "J.B. Penn." The ad is for sweet, fresh, home cured hams and bacon. One paragraph reads, "Don't forget to contract ice early in the season with J.B. Penn, as he is the man that has ice all the season through." In the same column, J.B. Penn's competitor C.M. Millisack (that name seems made for marketing) invites shoppers, "Bring your price lists to Millisack's grocery department and compare goods and prices."
No, my mom was born some time after 1901, but her grocery buying habits follow a long history of responding to ads published by the local grocer and shopping what stocked the shelves there. I will always remember that Tuesday is "Paper" day.