1950s Shopping: The Butcher Shop

The Butcher Shop

Back in the 1950s Detroit, before Walmart Super Stores, big chain supermarkets and packaged meat, you got your meat from a butcher shop. The butcher would actually cut the meat exactly how you wanted and weigh it right in front of you. If you wanted your porkchops thin, that’s how you got them. Want a special cut of beef, just ask the butcher.

Because the butcher shop was usually a neighborhood store, they knew the neighborhood families and would often be generous with weighing the scales, sometimes even letting poorer families get meat on a pay when you can basis. The butcher shop was also a gathering place for the ladies to exchange recipes and gossip.

Our particular neighborhood butcher was on Conant Avenue, a few blocks from our home, and was owned and operated by a kindly old Polish gentleman who had migrated here to escape the war in Europe. He knew his customers by name and even us kids when we shopped for our parents. His English was fair, but the European accent gave it a foreign flair. I also remember that he kept a candy dish near the register for us kids when we were sent by our parents to pick up an order.

Now, my mom fell on hard times while she was between housekeeping jobs and it was getting hard to put meat on the table. So, mom started buying beef liver and kidneys to serve with our homegrown vegetables. Well, the old butcher thought we were getting the kidneys to feed our cat, so he practically gave them to us without charging. This went on for several months until, my mom began asking only for the kidneys.

Then, one day during a conversation, my mom let out that the kidneys weren’t for the cat and that we were actually eating them ourselves. The old guy was shocked. But then he realized that we were probably one of his poorest customers. After that, he would always throw a couple of pork chops or steaks into the package with the free kidneys.

Fredric Durrette served one tour in Vietnam, retired as E8 in the navy submarine service after 23 years. Major hobbies are collecting old stuff from the 20s and restoring old racing bicycles. Worked as a commercial photographer at JL Hudsons in Detroit and continue photography as a hobby. Love Sade, sixties soul, seventies rock, and all jazz. Attended Woodstock in 69!

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