A visit to Battle Creek’s Leila Arboretum and grocery shopping with my mom

Leila Arboretum

In 1961 my mom took me for a visit to Battle Creek’s Leila Arboretum. Leila Arboretum is a horticulturist dream come true. The Arboretum is located along West Michigan Avenue at 20th Street east of Limit Street and west of Ridgemoor Avenue. The park is home to the Leila Arboretum Society’s Children’s Garden, Kingman Museum and a championship disc golf course. Other amenities include hard surface walking paths, access to the Linear Park, a water fountain, large open green space over hilly terrain, and picnicking area including a 60-by-30 feet shade pavilion.

At the time of my visit there were no gardens, disk golf course, or walking trails. Only the high old museum building. Everything was very interesting. Two displays stand out in my memory. The shrunken head displays and the growth of a unborn baby display.

Shrunken head at Leila Arboretum

The shrunken head was obtained from somewhere in South America. It was gruesome and brought to the front some macabre thoughts. Who was this man? What was his life like? Did it hurt to be shrunken? These were questions that I had no answers for. However it was very interesting to me a young boy of six.

Fetus in jar

The unborn baby display held my interest also. The display was set up in a series of formaldehyde filled containers. Each container contained a human embryo starting from an early stage of growth to a full grown baby ready to be born. The containers were placed on the top floor around a railing that circled the top floor. If you looked over the railing you could look down to the ground floor. The display was very interesting to me.

A typical butcher shop in the 60s

I had a great life with my mom. Saturdays were grocery shopping days in my family. I would go with mom to Krogers to buy groceries. Mom let me push the cart admonishing me not to push the cart into anything. Especially her legs! I remember helping mom grind coffee in the coffee grinder and then put the coffee into the bag. And then walking around the store filling up the grocery cart. Groceries back in the early 60s for us cost around 20 dollars a week. Very inexpensive in today’s economic climate. Very expensive back then. My dad made around $4.50 an hour back then. And when my mom went back to work about half of that. So twenty dollars a week was all they could afford. However you got more bang for your buck back then. Twenty dollars would fill the shopping cart. Mom and I continued around the store and completed the grocery shopping for the week.

Mom did not buy meat at Krogers. She went to a butcher on Cliff Street in Battle Creek. I do not recall the name of the butcher. However he was a nice man and he would often hand me something to eat when we visited. Either candy or a Slim Jim or something else. I always enjoyed visiting the butcher.

And then we would drive home and I would help my mom bring in the groceries. Very pleasant memories of way back then.

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