30 November 2008
Manic Monday - Shop
The First Big Box
To tell the truth, I have always hated shopping, but as a child there was one store where EVERYONE went at some point or another if only for a small toy or that little necessary household item. You went to the five and dime - the chain that was everywhere - the first of the "big box store" concept. You went to Woolworths. Small towns or large cities, there was always a Woolworths.
The whole IDEA of Woolworths is so entrenched as a cultural image in the minds of a generation that even the mention can bring up memories such as the movie title, "Come Back To the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean" or that the heiress daughter of the family became known as the Poor Little Rich Girl because of her troubled life. When Billy Rose wrote a hit song in 1931, everyone knew that the title was inspired by Barbara Hutton.
Woolworths was different from "the department store". You had to dress up to go shopping there. I mean ladies put on hats to go to "the department store" whatever its name. Children were known to run barefoot into the five and dime. You could take your allowance once a week for a treat. My cousin and I would each order a coke: Hers with cherry syrup and mine with a real squeezed lemon. Now coke's are good from a bottle, but nothing tasted as good as those made from scratch when the weather was 100+ degrees outside and you were sitting under the revolving fan drinking an ice cold Coke.
Woolworths was so much a part of civic life that the catalyst for the sit-in movement of the 1960s took place at the Woolworth's lunch counter by a group of North Carolina A&T University students in Greensboro, North Carolina. That lunch counter is now part of an exhibit at The Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Woolworths doesn't really exist anymore though there are stores operating independently around the world that carry the name. The newer Big Box stores just aren't the same. They just don't seem as much a part of a community as when you could shop at the old "five and dime".
Don't forget to go shopping at The Wren's Nest owned by our Manic Monday meme host.