It is always exciting to accession a big new collection, as it brings the promise of new researchers, new information, and because it's just fun to dig around in new stuff. Our latest big new collection is the Linewaiters' Gazette, the official bi-weekly newspaper of what is likely the world's most famous grocery store, the Park Slope Food Coop. Perhaps you've heard of it?
The Park Slope Food Coop was established as a members-only, collectively-run buying club in 1973, housed in the Mongoose Community Center at 782 Union Street (where the Coop continues to operate). Members chipped in by working on all aspects of the operation -- ordering the groceries, stocking the shelves, manning the cash registers, and whatever other jobs sprang up -- in exchange for a minimal mark-up on the price of food. That model still stands today, although the membership has grown from a small handful of souls to over 16,000 people from all over the city (of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I am one). In similar fashion, the Linewaiters' Gazette has matured from a very homemade, two-page in-house newsletter to a slick publication staffed by a cadre of dedicated volunteers. This evolution is evident in the paper's changing masthead, which went through various hand-drawn, cartoonish iterations before settling on its current look.
There was also, in the late 1970s, an identity crisis. The fine print below reads, "We think we need a new name. If you have a suggestion, drop it in the newsletter envelope near the Records Committee desk."
More than just an in-house newsletter intended to while away the time spent waiting in a checkout line (hence the title), the Linewaiters' Gazette documents the then-burgeoning and now-established movement to look at food as not just nourishment, but as the product of ethical and political forces. Organic produce, locally sourced goods, sustainable agriculture, and farm workers' rights were of as much concern to these shoppers as the usual criteria of taste and freshness. An article from April of 1974, Margarine - the tremendous hoax, heralded the current backlash against trans fats more than 30 years before New York City banned the substance in restaurants. Price lists and the periodical new product supplement, Food News, trace the changes in the organic food market and its advertising as the industry has grown explosively through the last 40 years. The Coop also has a long history of boycotting goods from companies, or countries, deemed unethical, debate over which is exhaustively recorded in lengthy articles and Letters to the Editor. In this way, the Linewaiters' Gazette reflects changing attitudes toward food politics, albeit from the perspective of its largely left-leaning membership.
As the official voice of a local institution the Linewaiters' Gazette also closely documents the community of Park Slope, Brooklyn. Fliers for dances, announcements for stoop sales, and event listings for classes and workshops give insight into the daily life of a group of Brooklynites gathered around a shared ideal. Indicators of the now-stereotypical Park Slope lifestyle abound (announcements for yoga classes and meditation workshops, impassioned arguments for ethically produced yogurt, etc.) alongside the more mundane apartment and job listings one will find in any local newspaper. The paper is not entirely inward-looking, but also includes articles on neighborhood developments that impact the Coop membership, with pieces on the city's public school system and other of-the-moment topics. It serves as a supplement to the local news coverage found in our newspaper collection on microfilm.
There is, of course, a quirkier side to the paper. Fans of contra dancing will be happy to see their hobby well-represented in the Gazette's events listings.
The timely asterisk indicates "These traditional New England social dances have nothing to do with Central America."
Goofy doodles serve as filler and comedic relief between, say, weighty articles about social injustice and rants against the genetically modified food supply.
The headline reading "Militarization of the Public Schools" is nicely offset by a whimsical rollercoaster sketch.
Lost and found lists periodically pop up in the paper, indicating a slow news cycle and an excessively conscientous membership...
...while also serving as a reminder that some things are probably better left lost.
Our collection currently runs from the Coop's founding in 1973 through 2006, with a few gaps in coverage. Issues after 2006 can be found online through the Coop's website. A partial index lists articles from 1983 - 1987 by subject. Anyone wishing to research the collection should call us at least 48 hours in advance at 718.230.2672.