A sequel to Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job
GETTING MORE TALE #803: The Grocery Gang
I started working at the grocery store in fall 1989. While it was nice finally having a real job, it was immediately disruptive to my life. I worked every Thursday, which meant that I was missing at least one Pepsi Power Hour every week. If I pulled a Tuesday shift too, no Power Hours at all! I had barely missed an episode in four years. Now I was missing more than half of them.
That was a monumental shift. I prided myself in keeping my fingers on the pulse of hard rock and heavy metal. Keeping up with school work wasn’t hard. Keeping up with music was! I felt so out of touch with whatever the latest singles and new releases were. The Power Hour was my main metal lifeline!
When a door closes, another opens.
I might have been missing the Power Hours* but like a see-saw, music swung back into balance. Every work place introduces you to new people and new music. The grocery store was like that as well, but those guys liked heavier music than I had been listening to at home. Specifically I remember Metallica, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Those guys were not interested in Bon Jovi or Motley Crue, two groups I was really hot for in 1989.
There were three places I could be assigned to work at the grocery store: Packing, parcel pickup, or cart collection. That was the order of prestige involved. Cart collection was considered the best assignment because you’d be out in the parking lot with a buddy collecting carts with no supervision. It was a big parking lot so you could get lost and buy a soda at the convenience store for a minute or two on a regular day. Parcel pickup was also cool because they had a tape deck down there you could listen to. It was on that tape deck I heard a lot of my early Sabbath, Zeppelin and Metallica. I wasn’t sure about Zeppelin yet. They were telling me about this song “Moby Dick” that was a 10 minute long drum solo.** And those guys didn’t care about Peter Criss’ drum work on “100,000” years.
I started absorbing the music. There was one guy a few years older than me, Scott Gunning. I went to school with his brother Todd. I credit Scott for getting me into early Sabbath. All I had was Born Again and Paranoid. I’d never heard “Sweet Leaf”, “Black Sabbath”, “The Wizard”, “Supernaut”, “Changes” or anything else. I decided to buy We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘N’ Roll and it quickly because a favourite. Bob Schipper also worked at the grocery store, in the bakery. He was already over early Sabbath and seemed bemused that I had bought it. He much preferred solo Ozzy. But I was really into the Sabbath, much more than I expected. “Sweet Leaf” took over during the spring of 1990.
As discussed in Getting More Tale #709: The Stuff, I had no idea what “Sweet Leaf” was actually about. I also don’t know if Scott Gunning though I’d gone drug mad, so much did I love “Sweet Leaf”. But there I was in the parking lot, collecting carts, and singing “I love you, sweet leaf”.
Packing groceries indoors was the usual job, however. It was a rare treat to be on carts. Indoors, all the packers raced to pack for the young cute cashiers. There were only a couple of them. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, with her jet black hair, was the newest and most popular. She was really nice. She’d drive me home in the winter so I didn’t have to walk. But other guys with more seniority would make me go pack somewhere else with the older ladies.
In fact, one guy had only about six months seniority on me, but he sure used it. He kicked me off Kathleen’s lane more than once! The funny thing about this guy is that his older brother would later be the owner at the Record Store. I would regale the Big Boss Man of the times his brother kicked me off any cute girl’s lane.
Since the grocery store was located in the local mall (the same one the Record Store would later occupy) I could go music shopping at the Zellers before my shift. It was there I bought the compilation Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell, loaded to the gills with metal rarities like Ozzy doing “Purple Haze”, the only studio recording of that lineup with Geezer Butler on bass. I still have that. I also still have my copy of Back for the Attack by Dokken, that I paid a co-worker $10 for, because he was tired of it.
I left that job in the summer of 1990 with lots of cash and new music in my back pocket. I was off to new adventures including a week in Alberta that also featured a ton of new music. The grocery store was good to me but I never went back. I wanted to focus on getting into the school I liked most (which I did) but I also got my Pepsi Power Hour back for another year. (It was replaced by the inferior Power 30 in ’91.) Still I met some great friends there like Scott, and, oh I almost forgot, bought my first Flying V guitar from a guy that worked in the bakery too! I can’t deny that the grocery store had an unexpected but indelible effect on my musical history.
* No, I didn’t set my VCR to record the shows. When I usually taped the Power Hour, I sat there with my finger on the record button, ready to grab every video I wanted. I didn’t record entire shows. I didn’t have a way of transferring one tape to another. I preferred missing the show entirely, to recording it and not being able to keep the videos I wanted for my collection. I’ve always been picky that way. The result is the VHS Archives that you enjoyed in 2019.
** Live version.