Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oshkosh's 'Mom-and-Pop' Grocery Stores

Wow!  This article brings back memories.

In the mid-1980s, while Head of Extension Services at the Oshkosh Public Library, I conducted research on Oshkosh's physical development as seen through its groceries stores, gas stations, and post-World War II housing construction using the library's extensive collection of city directories. Never got anywhere close to the book-writing stage, though. Pleased to learn that Dan Radig has provided us with a comprehensive look at Oshkosh's 'mom-and-pop' grocery stores, a fascinating aspect of every ('older') community's local business (and social) history.

Link to November 28 Oshkosh Northwestern article, "Book chronicles 'mom and pop' groceries on south and west sides of Oshkosh".

Excerpt: Dan Radig quickly ate up his newest journey into the days when small family-owned and operated groceries ruled in Oshkosh.

Radig, 54, a lifelong resident of the city and admitted history buff, was casually looking through addresses and locations of former "mom and pop" groceries and suddenly it turned into something much bigger.

"From the information I had gathered I decided that I would put something together on grocery stores," he said.

After five years of pouring through city directories and archives at the Oshkosh Public Library and interviewing residents, Radig said his soft-cover book "Grocers of the South Side of Oshkosh," which has more than 600 pages and 50 original photos of former family-owned groceries, should be out by end of December.

The book features a listing of the 504 owners of "mom and pop groceries," the locations of stores and information on each of the buildings that were on the south and west sides of Oshkosh. Those groceries, Radig said, occupied about 60 buildings through the years with several of the buildings housing different owners over the years

Here are some visual representations of my 1985 research.

A brief explanation of the Grocery Store Locations key.  The 'mostly' refers to the fact a few early versions of the 'supermarket' had set up shop in Oshkosh.  'Survivors' -- there's one in the upper-left-hand corner of the map below -- refer to 'mom-and-pops' that were listed in the 1950 Oshkosh City Directory and were still in business at the same location, but perhaps under a different name, 34 years later.

Here's a portion of my mapping exercise.

Here's my mapping of gas station locations.
From this map, you can clearly see Oshkosh's north-south orientation.  (North & South Main, Jackson/Oregon.)

And finally, a color-coded mapping of post-World War II home construction.
North/Northeast Oshkosh

West/South/Southwest Oshkosh
I spent countless hours biking the streets and road of Oshkosh and Winnebago County, soaking up my environment like the proverbial sponge.  And the color-coding required frequent additional bike rides to verify my work.  Who says research isn't a fitness activity?

1 comment:

Lee said...

Absolutely incredible!