Recently I thought about the way the old stores in Minden and Shreveport used to be. When you entered the store you were greeted by a salesperson and asked if they could help you. You told them what you were looking for and they assisted you. The aisles were wide and merchandise was placed on racks or on tables. There were no extra racks and tables placed in the aisles where it is almost impossible to walk through the store without knocking something off a rack or a table. Now that I am in a wheelchair I hate to ask someone to push me since they will find themselves in a jumble of clothes that we cannot negotiate. Sometimes it is almost impossible to find an employee of the store to check on something, or to find something.

The Market

The changes are also different in the grocery stores. Especially do I find the meat markets so much different. I can remember going into Mr. Wise’s store and back to the meat market. I would tell him that I needed eight cutlets or however many I needed. He would go to the cooler, take down a quarter of beef, and make my cutlets while I waited. That would include tenderizing them. I still remember the way they cooked so tender that you did not have to use a knife, a fork was sufficient to cut them.

Now the stores have stacks of canned goods at intervals, spice racks, bread racks and many other items placed out in the aisles. It is almost impossible for two buggies to pass in the aisles today.

The Butcher

Other meat markets had butchers ready to cut whatever you needed. And then came the self-service meat markets. That was both bad and good. One day I was in the A & P store on Union Street. I wanted a chuck roast. The ladies in front of me pulled the price tag off a rump roast and replaced it with a tag from a chuck roast; then they put the rump roast price on the chuck roast. That made the chuck roast too expensive. I called the budget, who was Buddy Moreland, and asked that he weigh the roast and indicated that the tag had been changed. He immediately called the women by name. He said they often did that. They were elderly widows, sisters, and he hated to make a scene with them. I did not hate to make a scene if I had to pay the price of a rump roast for a chuck roast. He had such a tender heart.

Now the good part of selecting your cut of meat was that you could choose the lean meat, the ones that had the least amount of fat. Also I am “picky” about how my roasts are cut. I always had thought that the flat roasts were desirable, until a butcher pointed out that the rump roasts that came up to a point, and were triangular in shape would slice nicely with the grain. And so I could look for the one that I wanted among those that were already cut and labeled.

Searching and Reaching

That self-service type store required far fewer clerks. But when you can’t find what you need, you long for a clerk to be present to help. Wal-Mart moves their merchandise around so often that you tire yourself walking looking for the missing items.

Also another pet peeve of mine is the practice of placing items far above the head of the customers. It is necessary to find a store employee to climb up and bring down what is out of reach. Certain times of the night and early morning it is impossible to shop in Wal-Mart because of the huge carts that are being used to restock the shelves.

I had not thought about the changes until a friend, Melba Lowery, called my attention to the problem of trying to get down aisles in stores. She has no idea how hard it is to do that in a wheelchair, as I have to do.

Drive-Thrus

The drive-in windows at drug stores are such a blessing when you can pick up your prescription without parking, and going into the store. Also, the fast food drive-ins are so convenient, too. Saves time when you are short of time. I cannot forget how nice it is to do your baking at a drive-in window. I notice that Regions Bank calls theirs “drive-up” windows. I guess that is correct because we surely don’t want to drive in. The boxes outside the post office that you can mail your letters are another convenience I enjoy. The Light & Water office at the Civic Center is helpful and I wish it didn’t close so early, around three or three-thirty each day.

Customer Service

While I am mentioning the Light & Water Department, I must tell you how nice they are tot his old lady. One who is especially nice is Pa Williamson. I misplace my bill, or the post office does not deliver it when I think I should have it, so I call, and very patiently she looks up my bill and tells me how much I owe. I hope not many people make them do that, but I am so grateful for their help.

All over town people are so kind to little old ladies like me. I know sometimes we can “try the patients of Job” but they still take time for our questions. At least they have been so nice to me.

Have you noticed how cluttered the aisles in stores are today? I believe that is a legitimate complaint, don’t you?

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.