Groovy Decay

18 Oct 2007

When I was 15 to 16 years old, around 1984, I worked after school and on weekends at Loblaws grocery store in the Harborcreek Mall, Harborcreek, Pennsylvania (near Erie).

This past Sunday, the 14th of October, 2007, I took some photos at this site. I was a bagboy and cart-fetcher, a “cleanup in aisle five” guy, a “go clean the bathroom in the break room” guy, occasionally doing a little stocking and pricing. Every night while the store shut down, I swept the whole thing.

Things I remember: endless sweeping and mopping. eating junk food on my ten- or fifteen-minute breaks. Punching in and out. Assisting an elderly woman who had slashed her hand open on a broken jar of pickles and who was dripping blood all over the floor in the refrigerated food section. (It was a different age; there was no lawsuit involved.)

Sending a tower of plastic milk jugs crashing down while restocking the dairy section, making an enormous mess. Changing long fluorescent tubes and throwing the burned-out tubes into the dumpster behind the store where they exploded, releasing toxic mercury, which I promptly inhaled.

Retrieving rounds of change. Carrying the cash box with the manager to the bank’s night drop. Running the box-crusher. Running the deli slicer in a pinch, although I was not legally old enough to do so.

The sign used to read “Loblaws: Your food store… and more”

It is hard to imagine that I used to spend my evenings out in this parking lot, wearing an orange reflective vest, trying to push a whole column of shopping carts across this parking lot and back into the store, while dodging cars and pedestrians. The asphalt is so destroyed that it seems to be breaking down into new topsoil in places.

I worked most school nights, either 4-10 p.m. or 6-11 p.m., then came home and watched the Letterman show before doing whatever schoolwork I needed to do, getting to sleep sometime around 1:30 a.m., and getting up at 6:30 the next morning. On weekends I could work longer shifts. Some weeks I would work up to 39.5 hours (carefully kept just below full-time, since a full-time worker would be entitled to benefits).

The grocery store closed down sometime later in the 1980s and with the anchor store gone, the last tenant soon followed.

I was sorely tempted to try to break into the building itself, but did not. The whole site is marked “No Trespassing.”

My brother informed me that he did his illicit high-school drinking and bonfire-making, while I was off in college, in the woods behind this property. My memories of the place are not particularly happy, but not particularly unhappy. I do remember being very tired every night.

In one of those unexpected ironies that sometimes make me laugh out loud, as I drove off, the local radio station I was listening to was playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”

Creative Commons Licence
This work by Paul R. Potts is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The CSS framework is stylize.css, Copyright © 2014 by Jack Crawford.

Year IndexAll Years IndexWriting Archive