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About 1943, my town got its first supermarket, the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, forever known as the A & P. Before then there were small shops comprising of the green grocer for fresh fruits, vegetables and dry goods, such as cereals and canned soups; the bakery; the butcher’s shop; the fish market; any dairy products were delivered to the back door. Now they could all be bought in one convenient, large store on Seventh Avenue in Garden City. It was an immediate success and I now wonder what happened to all those independent food suppliers. Many, I’m sure, went to work at the A & P. During World War II rationing was in effect and sugar was one of the scarce items to be regulated. Besides the sugar one put in one’s coffee and tea or drizzled over one’s cereal, it was used in baking, especially in the days before boxed mixes. Birthday cakes, cookies, pies, brownies – all that good stuff – was in short supply. Corn syrup and maple syrup were often substituted for the real thing. Early one Friday morning we were awakened by the bleat of the fire alarm. It sounded much more incessant than usual. The radio, our only source for instant information (besides the telephone), interrupted a regular news program to announce that the Garden City’s A & P was on fire. Our first thought was about the sugar that had been delivered on Thursday and would be available today for the customers who had adequate ration stamps to buy it. All Thursday evening we planned what was to be baked with the sugar, what deserts to have that required a dash of sugar on top and which cereal to have for breakfast on Saturday. Saturday arrived, without the precious sugar. The fire department announced that the A & P was open for limited business. All of us, Mom, Dad, my sister and I, plus numerous neighbors arrived at the store and lined up like bees returning to the hive, to wend our way through the smoky-smelling and darkened interior to the bins where we sadly passed by the blacken lumps of burnt one-pound sugar bags, looking just like the used logs in our fireplace. And they were just as appetizing. Another month passed before the A & P had a sugar supply. By then we were thinking of those ‘sugar plums that danced in the air’.

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 Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company,fire,rationing,supermarket,World War II
  Garden City, Long Island, NY
May 19 2024


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