Re: Your Corner Market - N.E. corner 43rd & Balboa

11/02/06 - posted by Paul Judge

I don’t recall the name of the store on the N.E. corner of 43rd and Balboa but in the 1950s and 60s it was operated by Mr. and Mrs. Carroll and it served as our emporium of need when a quick arm full of essentials might be required to put dinner on the table. It was a pocket sized market that maxed out with 6 to 8 customers standing practically elbow to ribs holding their small basket of items. If mom asked one of us to shag something during the early evening we’d try to time our purchase between the press of homebound passengers disembarking from westbound Muni streetcars or buses who would step in to shop for their groceries.

Typical of most Mom and Pop markets throughout the City in those days, the Carroll's stocked the basics of bread, eggs & dairy items, a bit of fruit & vegetables, canned goods, baking ingredients, etc. The worn, uneven wood floor creaked as you walked on it. The shelves were painted a pea green and plastic tabs held in place on metal brackets marked the price of the items on each shelf. At the counter next to the mechanical cash register a wide selection of candy bars were displayed. Behind the counter sat Mr. Mrs. Carroll on their stools offering a warm hello or amusing comment. On the wall shelves behind them were the cigarettes and the wine and liquor that didn’t much interest me.

Us kids on the block loved to frequent the store. We’d scrounge for pop bottles to return for their deposit money. With a few bottles and the small sum we got for them we’d spend it back on popsicles, fudgesicles, penny gum, wax novelties, and nickel candy, or depending upon the season, baseball and football trading cards (Now there’s a thread to the WNP, what games did you and your pals play using your sports trading cards? I always seemed to get swindled of my star player cards!). If we added a little more change from our allowance, two bits per week, we might get an ice cream drum stick covered with chocolate and bits of nuts or, Holy Cow, occasionally even a bottle of pop. About the only thing the place lacked in our estimation was a rack of comic books for sale. We learned the basics about thrift, and boom & bust economics.

Another thing that I learned about was getting and holding onto a job. The Carrolls employed a high school kid to fetch inventory to restock their shelves or to give a hand to someone with their bag of groceries. It looked like a cool job to have. For years Mike Scott who lived down a block, between Balboa and Cabrillo, worked afternoons and weekends as the Carroll's stock boy. He’d sit perched on a wood milk crate a few steps up at the doorway to the stockroom in the rear of the store. I had a secret wish that Mike would one day give his job up and I might get a shot at it. When Mike did leave the job passed to my friend Ken Berzin, a heck of a soccer player and good chum from school and the playground. One day during soccer season Mr. Carroll asked if I wanted to fill in at the store for Ken when he was playing for his team. I was thrilled at the offer, I couldn’t believe my luck. Mr. Carroll told me to come at such and such a time the following week and he’d show me what to do. I left the store floating off my feet. But I inhabited the swirling fog of adolescence and I plump forgot about the whole proposition. A few weeks later I stopped at the store to buy something. As he was pondering my change from our transaction Mr. Carroll’s attention seemed distracted. Finally with the last coin of my change suspended between his forefinger and his thumb Mr. Carroll said, “I’ve gotta ask ya something young man. Didn’t you and I talk a few weeks ago about you workin’ here for us?” Boy! I about shrunk into my socks with embarrassment. I couldn’t summon the words to explain to myself let alone to Mr. Carroll how I had managed to flub my first chance at getting a cool job. I never had the courage to tell my parents about that one and I still can’t account for my lapse in the matter.

Like many such neighborhood stores this one didn’t survive the economy of scale and disappeared in the early 1970s.

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