Friday, May 8, 2009

The Little Man....Memories of Small Town America

I snapped this for you this morning when I finished with my haircut! Talk about bein' Mayberry! I didn't feel comfortable taking photos inside the store...but it's a really cool little dimestore, I LOVE it!
There are still a few of these old-fashioned Ben Franklin's the rare small town that has shunned the super centers and mega marketers. The town might be tucked away in an -out-of-the-way 'burg that is surrounded by old, modest, yet picturesque homes that peek from behind maple, oak, or elms: the giant trees shading the avenues with the same names. The fact that there are still a few of these left for sure has something to do with the tenacity of the small, independent retailer. It ain't easy bein' the little man.
This little gem might be in line along the street with parking meters that eat quarters, a three-story Masonic Temple, a reliable old-fashioned barber shop with the spinning red, white and blue pole, a prim insurance office, tucked in between a corner and an old-fashioned pharmacy--the one with the mortar and pestle painted on the plate-glass window. When you walk in, there might be an old wooden and glass showcase, with special items inside, and an elderly cashier. Her little bent-over and elderly husband comes out of one of the aisles, and asks if he can help you. They've been saying those words for over fifty years.) You thank him, but tell him you're just looking around. "Well, if you need anything, you just be sure to let me know!" I will, I reply. But I won't need any help. I don't really need anything.
Actually, I'm just remembering.
You grab one of the small, folding canvas shopping baskets in red, yellow and blue and fold up the red metal handles and your mind starts the recall, the detail. The special sound of the wooden floor, creaking beneath your feet. You remember your excitement when, as a kid, you were brought here for "shopping". Shopping was not an everyday occurrence. It was a treat.
Sometimes it was for Christmas with the quarter allowances you'd saved since Labor Day, sometimes for a birthday of one of your siblings, or maybe for that "special" Mother's Day gift. Perhaps for Mom it was a rain bonnet in a snapping plastic case. Or maybe you bought her a doily or dishtowel with daisies or teapots embroidered on them in the half-an-aisle sized domestics department, or if you were low on money, a package of Doublemint gum or a Mr. Goodbar! (She had her secret stash of Mr. Goodbars, you know--we weren't supposed to know where--and would eat part of one every single morning with her cup of tea while she read her Bible passages for that day!)
For Dad on his day, I'd head to the glass-fronted candy case from which a glorious sweet smell emanated--the one where the lady with the beehive hair-do asked if she could help you....with the adorable mini white paper bags and clanking little silver metal candy scoops! For daddy it would be for black licorice: either ropes or jelly beans, or maybe even Good 'n Plenty! (He loved licorice!) Perhaps you'd put money together with another sister or brother and do some big-time spending with a purchase of (another) screw driver or screw assortment!
Your little eyes take in neatly displayed "knick knacks" on the front glass shelving. That's where you shopped for mom for Christmas, or for your older sister when she grew too old for toys, you'd get her a birthstone-jeweled girl figurine holding a birthday candle. Then, down each narrow aisle, you're remembering the excitement of spring and buying (with your carefully saved nickles, dimes and quarters) your first jump rope, or yo-yo, jacks and balls or a Little Golden Book.
You recall what a wonder that was mom's patience as she helped each of her eager shoppers find their special item, the many questions asked of her: "How much do I need for this?" and those answers that sometimes made you jump for joy (if you actually had enough!) and those answers of "No, honey, you don't have enough money for that." might make you moan or even whine! (Whining in the store was NOT tolerated so you were asking for trouble if you did that.)
Shopping for a birthday or special holiday would require a stop over in "stationery" for a card perhaps and your choice of wrapping paper, all lined up in their perfectly square packages.
On the way out the door, which was directly in front of the glass-front candy counter, you'd smell those chocolate covered raisins, point them out and say to your sis "Next time we come back, I'm going to get me some of those!" Then she'd show me what she really wanted next time, and then we'd skip back out the door to the car, where we climbed into the old station wagon and head home to wrap and hide those gifts in anticipation of giving them to their recipients.
Sometimes I miss those days of having less, simpler times and fewer choices. I think we've robbed a lot of kids of some special memories when there's so much available to them all the time. (Step into a cereal aisle sometime, and you'll see what I mean.) I remember taking really good care of that jump rope or those jacks and balls or marbles, because visits to the store were few and far between.
That's why, when I run into something like this, the memories come flooding back and now that I have a blog, I can share them with all of you and see if you remember, too!
God Bless the "Little Man"
Do you remember the old "Dime Store" or "Five & Dime"?


Farmgirl Cyn said...

yes, indeed I do! We had a Woolworth's and a Kresge's, as well as another family owned 5 and 10. Brings back many happy memories. I used to take my birthday money and go to the five and dime and buy yet another Bobbsey Twins book! I loved those kids!

Donna said...

"rain bonnet in a snapping plastic case" Oh my, did that memory come flooding back! LOL! We had a Woolworth's about a mile from our home. We didn't get to go often, but it was quite a treat when we did. My mom surprised me and bought a fluffy white stuffed kitty one time after seeing me admire it. She didn't have the extra dollar to spend, and I wasn't about to ask for it. (That just wasn't done back then.) Thank you for that sweet memory, because I'll be able to thank my mom all over again this Sunday when I call her!

Shari from Big Yellow Farmhouse said...

Oh, what a wonderful post. I remember all these things! We used to have a Ben Franklin in our old neighborhood. They had some penny candy bins up by the cash register where you could take a little paper bag and pick your choices from an amazing variety - bubble gum, banana bikes, those long skinny tootsie rolls - and each piece was a penny.

When we went to visit our grandparents in their little Iowa town, we would walk downtown to Kresge's or Woolworths. They had soda fountains with twirly stools and ice cream sundaes. I miss those days for sure! I think you are exactly right - today's kids have been cheated by having way too much. We were much more appreciative of little things and more easily amused.

Sue said...

Oh yeah...Woolworth's Danner's five & about soda fountains @ the local pharmacy?

I remember when shopping was an adventure with my Mom. (The timing of this post...Mother's "Mommy" has been gone for 30 years this June and I still miss her!) We always ate in the cafeteria @ Woolworth's.

We lived in the country and on the days I didn't go "to town" with her, I always asked her to bring me back a comic book or two. (12 cents each) Later on, it was, "please bring me a record" with a particular 45 in mind. (69 cents each). Man, thos were THE DAYS!!! Thanks for the reminder...

Elenka said...

Ah, yes, the simpler times....Just went to a new super walmart in our neighborhood that opened about 1 week ago....Way too big......I couldn't even deal with it...Way, way too big.

Helen said...

Oh, my. You've put a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. That was one great post. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Oh I love five and dime stores- adorable!

Pink Slippers said...

What a WONDERFUL place!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Oh My Yes! I do remember...Ben Franklin, Woolworth's and where Daddy grew up, simply the "Five and Dime" and it's still there! Still owned by the same family, still has stuff left over from the 1940's and 1950's - it's where I buy all my 1960-1970 circa plastic Susan Bates knitting needles...remember those in pastel colors? They glide through my fingers as they as one molded piece of plastic.
I still shop in that Five and Dime every time I visit. Not only do they carry old timey stuff -parts for the wood heat and cook stoves, lantern wicks, etc.- it's the best place to find out "the news" in town.

Molly Betsy @ Star Cottage said...

I loved this post. Very nostalgic. Lovely memories of my own childhood came to mind. We had a couple of those stores in my hometown growing up. Both family owned. My favorite was "Lil' Red". I loved their penny candy. And "Fowels" had awesome milkshakes.
We watch old episodes of "The Waltons" on DVD every tuesday night. This post reminds me a bit of "Ikes" :)
I agree with you about robbing our children of simple joys by spoiling them with too much junk. We try to live a simpler life like the waltons ;) Our kids have few toys, they are not deprived by any means. And we do not own a television. We watch movies on the computer a couple times a week as a family and thats it. Kids should be playing outside and learning and discovering that way. Sorry, you got me on a rant. I will go rant some more on my own blog.
Thanks for the smile.
God Bless!

Kelly Bergsing said...

We only have dollar stores here now. I miss the Woolworth's. I wish all the big stores would go back to Arkansas. Downtown is nowhere near as lively as it used to be.... :)

ctgardengirl said...

Absolutely! In my very small town in Northwestern Indiana, we had a dime store. It was the neatest place - always lots of candy and little plastic cowboys, indians, army men and animals. Wooden floors, old fashioned counters. It was like entering another world, and we could always come out with something, because of the many items you could by for a dime! It's gone now, but what a great memory.

catspoiler said...

Wow! I can smell the pie alamode at Woolworth's and see the small but not so small to an 8 year old!!!) aisles of linens and those rainbonnets!!! Don't forget the old cans of Aqua Net and Brylcreem!!

catspoiler said...

There is a BenFranklin in Gaylord MI if you head North.