As I was walking up to my office I saw a young lady driving slowly by our driveway and I thought that she must not be looking for us. Shortly thereafter I heard our doorbell ring and when MJ answered it I heard the person say that they had our Walmart order. I have been picking up our orders at the store but now they have chosen to bring it to us…’What a Country,’ as the Russian Comedian used to say in the 70s. Also, at times Walmart will ship some of our orders to us…from Florida… Often just one or two items that they do not have in stock. It is not unusual to see many partially or completely empty shelves in our markets in Carbondale, Illinois.
In Little Egypt we have become accustomed to ordering many of our clothing items and Christmas gifts and other sundries… online…due to the lack of diverse shopping opportunities in our area. Cape Girardeau, Missouri is about 60 miles away from Carbondale but it still has a functioning mall and other purchasing opportunities. There is also Paducah, Kentucky for shopping options…but it is roughly 70 miles from us…and St. Louis, Missouri is 100 miles away.
I used to help my mom at the grocery stores in Eldorado. At least I thought that I was helping when In reality I primarily looked at the comic books, which sold for 12 cents apiece, and lobbied for Totinos Frozen Pizza, 4 for a dollar, and sometimes Pepperoni Sticks…which I considered delicious… I did help load the brown paper sacks of groceries into the car and then from the car to the house. We primarily shopped at the two supermarkets, Big Johns and the Food Center. However, in my childhood days, there were small family-owned markets throughout our small town of Eldorado. These markets served neighborhoods and their customers often walked to their local market and either carried their groceries or pulled a small cart of them…back home. Many of our little former coal-mining towns paid their grocery bill once a month and the stores extended them credit to fulfill their daily commodity needs. The grocery store owners personally knew their customers as they were their neighbors and fellow members of their churches. It really did take a village to survive in our tiny and economically deprived town.
The decade of the 60s in Southern Illinois was about having enough money to reach the end of the month and saving up for any big purchase item. Credit cards were for the well to do and nothing was worth going into debt for. When your black and white television ceased to function you called the TV Repairman and they came to your house and replaced the vacuum tube or tubes that had gone bad…the only time that you might replace the TV was in the event that the Picture Tube went bad…as it was expensive. If your shoes developed a hole in their sole…you took them to the Cobbler and had them repaired. If your socks developed holes…you darned them. Physical needs for the family of the 60s did not include air conditioning.
Somewhere along our life path, we became interested and then obsessed with making money without the production of real goods. At times these endeavors are referred to as Finance and at other times they are called Pyramid Schemes. I especially took note in the 80s and around the Christmas Season the many cashiers’ lines that I was in where virtually everyone was paying with a credit card…and if the first five offered were not accepted…the sixth one would be. It occurred to me that almost everything that I had observed being bought…was not being purchased with cash. Or, when I became aware of new homes being bought by people with little to no visible means of paying for them…and with no money down…I realized that our obsession with having more than our parents had…and having it quickly…would lead to economic downfall.
The booming 80s and 90s…led to the Great Recession of the 2000s… I wonder if we are seeing a pendulum swing to the purchase of real goods and services…or living within our means?