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Mom and pop stores and full-service gas stations


Let me take you back to the days of mom and pop grocery stores and full-service gas stations. Remember them?

If you lived in North Rapid in the 1940s and 1950s you could find a mom and pop grocery store on Anamosa Street between the Catholic Church and Lemmon Avenue. I don’t suppose any of us in those days even knew the names of the small stores in town, but we frequented them quite often.

The mom and pop on Anamosa was close to home so my brother and I often stopped there on our way to church. We could buy a Baby Ruth candy bar and an RC Cola for about 25 cents and the Baby Ruth was twice the size as it is now.

There was a mom and pop store on Rushmore Blvd. that the Rousseau boys, from the Cheyenne River Reservation, Marvin Gleason, a big towhead kid, and I used to frequent usually to pick up something for our parents, but once in a while Neil and Dale Rousseau would squeeze in a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes on their mother’s charge account telling the clerk, “It’s for our mother.” And then we’d find a nice bench at Wilson Park and light up.


Up by Canyon Lake just past the Sioux San there was a mom and pop store we always stopped at when heading for the lake to swim. My cousin, who will remain anonymous here, put a piece of candy in his pocket one day and was spotted by the store owner. The dressing down he got that day stuck with him for the rest of his life and he never, ever shoplifted again. Today they probably would have called the police, arrested him, threw him in jail, and ruined his life.

And then there were the full-service gas stations. Many of us got jobs at one of them because they were always hiring. As station attendants we washed your windshield; checked the air in your tires, checked your oil level and then filled your car with gas, or in the case of most teenagers, we put in about 4 gallons of gas which came to a whopping one dollar. Yep, gas was about 25 cents a gallon back then.

Just as soon as we were old enough to drive we set out to get a car. My first car was a 1933 Ford with a rumble seat. There was a shallow, rocky place in Rapid Creek, near the bridge on 5th Street and we used to drive our cars into the water and wash them. We didn’t realize we were polluting the water with our soap suds.

I got a job at the Black Hills Oldsmobile and Cadillac Garage on 6th Street when I was 16. Back then when a customer brought their car in to be serviced they got the works. We had a stall where we washed their cars, cleaned the windows inside and out, and vacuumed them, and that was standard service back then.

The mom and pop grocery stores are gone, put out of business by the chain grocery stores, and the full-service gas stations have gone the way of the dodo bird. The big stores are putting more and more self-check out counters in place and soon grocery clerks and cashiers will become obsolete. The remnants of the old mom and pop stores can still be found on Indian reservations simply because the giant chain stores have not figured how to add the reservations to their bottom line.

People will still have to go to a gas station to get gas, but they can order everything from groceries, clothing and furniture online. A lot of jobs will go to the wayside replaced by a computer or cell phone. And that makes those of us from the “greatest generation” wish we could turn back the clock.

(Contact Tim Giago at

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