Isanti County resident, local historian
Today it is customary to head for the grocery store at least once a week—for the most part to a super market that stocks thousands of items.
As Americans we spend on food a lower percentage of our income than almost any country in the world. When transportation was by horse and buggy, going to the store was done much closer to home.
There were grocery stores scattered throughout the county where groceries, and sometimes other commodities could be purchased.
Some of the places where groceries could be purchased included Dalbo, Day (today famous for lutefisk), Blomford, Bodum, Bradford, Stanchfield, Grandy, Springvale, Elm Park, Oxlip, Weber and Crown.
Some of these places also had a creamery where farmers could bring their cream.
Dalbo, for example, once had a car dealership and a bank. Today you can still sip a beer at the Dusty Eagle and mail a letter at the post office, but you can’t buy groceries. Grandy still has the Brass Rail (best coleslaw ever), but no groceries. Some of these former enterprises no longer exist as the buildings that housed them have been torn down. In other cases, the buildings are still standing, but have been converted to other uses.
I remember quite well the store at Oxlip. The store building at Oxlip was two stories. There was a meeting hall on the second floor, and I recall attending political meetings that were held there.
At one time there were a lot of navy beans grown in Isanti County. During the winter months there were a number of machines at the store that were pedal operated, and were used to remove foreign objects and material from the beans as they moved along a conveyor belt.
The Oxlip store had another feature—an ice-house. During the winter chunks of ice would be harvested from a nearby lake. The ice would be sawed into rather large chunks, which would then be transported to the ice house, sawed into smaller chunks and then packed in saw dust where it would be available for later use. The ice was used to keep things cool in an ice box (the fore runner of the refrigerator).
In our case, Saturday evening was the time we went to get a chunk of ice for our ice-box. There was an honor system for the people who came to get ice (were people more honest at an earlier time?).
Anyway, when you head out to buy groceries this week, remember you once went to a rather small place to restock the larder. Incidentally, don’t forget your discount coupons.
The column originally appeared in the Aug. 26, 2010 Isanti County News.