It’s been 40 years but I can remember it as clear as if it was yesterday. It was Christmas season 1980. You walked in the front door of the grocery store P&C Foods. Gumball machines straight ahead. To left, a Rite Aid department store. To the right, you stepped on the “magic mat” and the door opened to the P&C Foods grocery store. There was an orange wall to the left and then five checkout counters. Shopping carts on the right. Grab a cart. I push, mom is behind me, my sister trails along. The electronic cash registers are clattering their receipt tape as we pass by, register five, four, three, two, one. Delores was always at register two, Betty was always at register one. Then came register six, an express lane that was never used. A short woman named Anita watched over everything from the courtesy desk that was elevated; the never used express lane was attached to that. The colorful globes indicating the checkout number had been removed and replaced with stickers on the front and side of the cash register. To the right, bird seed and big bags of dog food. Beyond the courtesy desk (which faced into the store, away from the entrance lane), on the left were a few plants and then a little alcove with three walls of bread. Make our way around the alcove, left turn, left turn, on the right were loaves of Italian bread in wax paper. They were marked 79 cents with a purple “BAKERY” price sticker. I loved that bread. Mom would get a loaf. Would Betty or Delores press the “BAKERY” key on the register? Delores usually did, Betty did not, she just hit “GROCERY”. It would be years before scanning would enter into the picture.
Before we turned out of the alcove and into produce (vegetables on the left, fruit on the right), there was a small section of free standing shelves. On those shelves, from top to bottom, Archway cookies!
During the holidays we’d get the Archway Cashew Nougat cookies. Little white cookie delights with pieces of cashews in them. I could eat a whole package myself; the package was a three-quarters height cardboard arrangement with cellophane over the top. How I loved those cookies. They beat the Girl Scouts by a mile.
This past weekend, my husband and I were breezing through Target (in a socially responsible manner) and I saw a small assortment of these Archway cookies on display. The packaging is different, the logo has been modernized, and neither Delores, Betty, nor Anita were at the checkouts. When we departed, we used register 12. There was a glad shield between us and the cashier, the printers did not clack out a receipt, and there was scanning.
The cookies taste similar, but not quite the same. The sweetness is different. It’s stronger than it used to be. The texture of the cookies is the same, but something is different with the balance. Maybe it’s high fructose syrup or something. I don’t want to look. I’m just happy I can taste things. It means our breezing through Target has not been detrimental to our health.
The P&C Foods was one of two chain grocery stores in our little village in Upstate New York, though by December 1980 the Acme Markets had departed the building on the north side of the village and had quickly been replaced by an independent chain called Super Duper. The owner of the new Super Duper in the old Acme building used to be the manager of the P&C. They had Archway cookies as well, but they were last, right before the registers. There were just four cash registers at the Super Duper and they were leftovers from when Acme had the space. They were large and brown and mechanical and made by National. Register three was replaced with an electronic FJay Cash Register shortly after Super Duper took over; the National from the late 1950s apparently had bit the dust. There was no bread alcove, just a wall of bread with no purple “BAKERY” price stickers.
But there were Archway cookies there as well. Better pick an extra package up for the holidays