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.


maryt/theteach said...

Ah Woolworth's, Jamie! It is a big part of my life. When I was first married and working, I would stop in the "five 'n ten" (that's what we called it)before going home and buy "five and ten chicken" and have it for dinner. Can you imagine? It tasted pretty good! :)

Mimi Lenox said...

I love the little shops but they are few and far between. The NC Woolworth's Museum is near me and has been part of my local history.
I love the old post card at the top of this post. Is it yours?
I collect these and have actually seen this card.

Great post.

anthonynorth said...

This is such a timely post for here in the UK. Woolworths came here 99 years ago and, up to last week, had 815 stores.
Last week the whole company went bust, the first major retail victim of the Recession.
The stores are still open, rescue packages are in the offing, but 30,000 jobs are on the line.

Mo said...

The building across the street from The Wren's Nest was our Woolworth's here in Dowagiac. My building was a men's clothing store for almost a century.
Thanks for the link to The Wren's Nest in your post!
Happy Belated Thanksgiving to your family!

Polly said...

I've never experienced a WoolWorths or an actual 'five and dime' Just heard about it in song.

Such a big part of the change in shopping. Nice!

Greyscale Territory said...

Woohoo! Someone else who hates shopping! But I do love little boutique shops away from the crowds!

Interesting post!

My Autism Insights said...

I remember Woolworth's well. As a kid, our neighborhood probably had one of the last ones to shut down and it was kind of traumatic when it did.

Anonymous said...

I miss Woolworths and Kresges (forerunner to Kmart). I remember shopping there as a child. The tables and bins full of treasures. And yes, it was treasures -- every bit of it!

My mom went to college in upstate NY and one of her running mates was a Woolworth.

Thanks for bringing back the memories.

maryt/theteach said...

Jamie, I meant to compliment you on your new holiday header! :)

Mags said...

Yay! My Nana used to go to this store all of the time and she'd have lunch in the little cafe. I think she even took my cousins with her sometimes. By that time I was already living in CT so I didn't go with her. :(

crazy working mom said...

You are right about the box stores not having that sense of community. It's sad. Most of them seen to undermine the community, actually.
I am not old enough to have enjoyed those "Five and dime" stores, but where I grew up there was a convenience store where the locals would gather every morning for coffee. I worked there as a young teenager and it was the way to find out the latest gossip every day to say the least! :)

Happy Manic Monday ~ My Shopping

Marilyn said...

I don't remember Woolworth's. We had a place called David's that was sort of like K-mart and I probably only remember that because david is My dad's first name and I thought it was cool to go to a store with his name on it.

I hate shopping too. Except online. Online shopping is fun when I can afford it.

Linda said...

There used to be a big Woolworth's here in downtown Norwich and I still remember going there with my grandfather years ago. They had a big ole' soda counter on the side and it was a very popular place.

I loved stores like that - the news ones ... not so much and I avoid shopping if I can!

This Eclectic Life said...

Yay for Woolworths! Here is Nancy Griffith's Love at the Five & Dime. I think that should be in your music file.