18 September 2006
Shopping in Old Frenchtown
In my great-grandmother's day, nearly everyone in Frenchtown had a vegetable garden. They shared what they had with neighbors. Some kept chickens or rabbits. There were a few markets on the next street, and I am sure Memére made good use of them.
I've heard though, that in the fall, Pepére and Memére took the train to Green Bay to buy canned goods and other supplies for the winter. It must have been quite an event.
Today a quick trip to Green Bay or Milwaukee or Madison is no big deal. Funny thing is, we still go out of town for our major grocery shopping. A few months back, we compared prices after a trip and calculated that we saved $26 on just 10 items. Most of the time, a $200 grocery spree saves us $40-50 over local prices.
So while we are happy to support local grocery stores 75 percent of the time, we do a major shopping 2-3 times a year in a sprawling, employee-owned supermarket out of town. It just makes sense, even in these days of high gas prices. Combined with the always-affordable farm market (which runs July-October), shopping out of town keeps our food budget reasonable.
I often think of Pepére and Memére as we load up the van with bags and boxes. How much easier it is for us, not having to lug all that stuff on the train or maybe have it delivered.
The photo above was taken, I am guessing, in the 1930s. The behemoth of a building at the right rear is an elementary school. The family home is three houses to the right. The commercial buildings in the photo are long gone, but I believe they included a food market, dry goods store, meat market and a tavern or two. The building at the left forefont was a gas station.
The neighborhood also included a packing plant, boiler works and a sash-and-door company.
I suspect the photo below is from an earlier decade. It's taken from the foot of the old wooden bridge looking north.