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As It Was: Modern Grocery Shopping Comes to Medford, Ore.

Today’s shoppers wheel carts through stores and head for the cash register.  It wasn’t always that way in Southern Oregon.

In 1920, grocers William A. Gates and William H. Lydiard opened the first self-service store in Medford.  They called it the Groceteria.  Shoppers using new-fangled, four-wheeled basket-carts strolled the aisles selecting items and visiting with neighbors. 

The Groceteria started as a small store in the Woolworth Building but soon moved to the corner of Central and Sixth streets. In 1930 a West Side Groceteria opened at Sixth and Grape.  In 1946, Gates remodeled the Grape Street store, adding other goods for sale, including a bakery, meat department, fountain-lunch counter, and an egg candling department.  Gates’ idea was to provide good, low priced food and a friendly shopping environment that promoted what he called “dinner table harmony.”

The friendliness theme carried over to a radio show, “Friendship Circle,” sponsored by Groceteria and broadcast by KMED radio for 21 years.  At the time it was believed to be the oldest show in the United States broadcast on a single station with only one sponsor.


Sources: "Geneva Street (Humphrey-Knight Addition) / Old East Medford." News: New News is GREAT News. 8 Sept. 2012. Web. 18 Aug. 2014. http://www.oldeastmedford.org/; “Hometown Boy A Boy’s Life in Medford 1935-1945.” Webfooters. 17 Apr. 2009. Web  12 Aug 2014;  “Medford Pioneers, William A. Gates.”  Ed. Tina Truwe. Medford mail Tribune, 1920-1956. Web. 8 Aug. 2014. http:/idmind.net.

Luana (Loffer) Corbin graduated from Southern Oregon College, majoring in Elementary Education.  The summer after graduation she was hired to teach at Ruch Elementary, where she taught for 32 years. After retiring, Corbin worked for Lifetouch School Photography and then returned to Ruch as an aide helping with reading instruction and at the library.  More recently, she has volunteered at South Medford High.