The village grocery, the Coop, was owned since 1941 by Milton Crocker, his wife Nellie, and their son Harry. Milton had started working as a clerk at the old Coop since 1912.
Steven Gould, 58, the present owner, remembers what it was like about 40 years ago when he worked as a clerk begiuning in 1968. Pay was minimum wage $1.60 an hour, later $1.75 with many working overtime at time and a half. Adjusted for inflation, this is well above today’s minimum wage.
Everyone was called by their first name – except for Mr. Crocker. Employees included the two clerks, Marion Jones Morris and Amelia Fenner. Lou Laforce, Tom and Gene were butchers, Herb and Ken Snow on delivery. Local boys did the heavy lifting and bagging.
Amelia would yell “I need a boy” (many rude jokes followed) at the top of her lungs when she needed bagging or carry out. Tips were occasional – usually a dime or a quarter.
The store interior was low-ceilinged. Heavy green grocery racks with dark green shelves sat on the green linoleum floor. Heat came weakly from a few cast iron radiators. The cash register was on the right as one entered the front door. A big candy bar rack lay behind. On the left as you came in were the grocery carts next to shelves with tools, screws, nuts and bolts. Farther to the left was an island with paper and household goods, with Mr. Crocker’s office beyond a low partition.
Through a door was the apartment hallway, living room and staircase to two bedrooms along with the only toilet/bathroom in building. Three rows of heavy steel and wood shelves ran front to back. A counter against back wall was where orders were “put up”. A single sink and telephone were by the back door.
Grocery orders for afternoon delivery came in all morning and were packed up in round wood slat and wire produce baskets. The green delivery van was of the very boxy Ford Econoline style, although the older panel van style truck was still in the back garage building.
Forty years ago, there were still delivery customers out on Newtown Road (many old Portuguese widows in black dresses and shawls). A few of the large estates took large orders every day. Mrs. Matile Wesson, one of the grand dames of the village, always did her own shopping, filling one or more grocery baskets– always very proper, with a dress and heels and perfectly coiffured. For Mrs. Holdstein we would carry the bags across the street.
The big day was Thursday, “freight day” when huge amounts of groceries arrived. Large trailers were unloaded from the back where steel rollers sent boxes down to the basement.
Mr. Crocker once asked: “Stevie, run up stayuze and get some fochs.” Being from southern California, this was a mystery, he asked: “Sorry Mr. Crocker what did you want?” He replied: “Go up and get some fochs.” he again apologized, and he replied: “Fochs like spoons.”
Lou, the butcher, worked at the back in a meat cutting area with butcher block tables, band saw, and meat locker. At the north end was the separate liquor area watched over by Harry.
Harry Crockers’ sons Milton and Billy never worked at the store in those years, probably sensible enough to know that their father and grandfather had little life outside the store. Although the store was closed on Sundays, both Harry and his father could often be seen working, at least for a few hours.
Nellie Crocker died in 1977, followed shortly by her son in Harry in 1981. Milton Crocker died January 1986 and the Crocker era ended.
Published in Barnstable Enterprise 15 Sept. 2011


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