The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

November 3, 2013

Grocery stores provided jobs, delicacies

Georgetown resident Zigmas Mokaitis, who used to work at Szilagyi’s Grocery 60 years ago, said shoppers could purchase local ethnic delicacies such as Polish sausage and garlic sausage made fresh at the grocery’s meat counter.

“I did that in high school and actually a little in grade school, too, in the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s,” he said of working at the store.

Mokaitis wore many hats when he worked at the grocery store in Georgetown, one of three stores Henry Szylagyi owned and operated. The other Syzlagyi’s Grocery stores were located in Kellyville and in Cayuga, Ind. Szylagyi’s brother, John, ran a gas company.

“I was a butcher and a stock boy and whatever else,” he said. “I delivered groceries, too.”

Mokaitis recalled that some mornings he would be getting ready to go to school when he would get a call from the store’s manager.

“Goldie would call and say the butcher was drunk, so I would go to work instead of going to school that day,” he said.

Szylagyi’s Grocery stores “had a little bit of everything,” Mokaitis remembered.

“There was a slaughterhouse in Danville and we would get the sides of meat and break them down,” he said. “I would make the Polish sausage and garlic sausage.

“Back then, people would buy groceries on credit and run a tab.”

Mokaitis said he also has several canning labels from Webster Grocer Co., which had its distribution warehouse at 301 E. North St., back in 1915. The warehouse is gone and all that’s left is an empty lot at the southwest corner of North and Washington streets.

“I had a truckload of them,” he said of the labels. “I sold some of them and I gave some away. I got them at a sale.”

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