Among the fastest growing segments of all the retail stores are “the dollar stores” – Dollar General, for example. Folks like the idea of buying stuff for a buck and they are flocking to dollar stores throughout the country.
Boomers, however, remember the dime stores – “Five and Dime’s” we called them, once a staple on every main street in every town in America.
As Christmas approaches, I fondly look back on my experiences at the dime store. As an 8-year old boy, that’s where I did all my Christmas shopping. With a five-dollar bill, I could buy a linen handkerchief for Mama Ida, a scarf for my mom, a pair of dress socks for my dad, a toy pistol for my brother and a doll for my sister – and still have money left over for a bag of popcorn and a Coke. The five and dimes sold drinks, snacks and sandwiches as well. They usually had a great grill and soda fountain on the premises.
I often did my shopping on Christmas Eve, walking downtown by myself with a wadded up paper list in my pocket – I didn’t want to leave anybody out. Sometimes it was spitting snow, which made the Christmas lights on the streets even more spectacular. I enjoyed stopping by each store front and looking at their Christmas displays. One of the hardware stores always had a Lionel train set puffing through a miniature town. You don’t see many of those any more. Then it was on to the dime store where I said hello to Mr. Barr, the owner. He and I were good buddies. When baseball season was in, he’s always let me know when a new shipment of baseball cards arrived. I would hurry in and spend every nickel I had, hoping to get a new Stan Musial or Ted Williams card for my collection.
The dime stores had Christmas carols playing in the background and the personnel were extra friendly on Christmas Eve, knowing they would finally get a day off after a very busy season. Still, if a young boy needed a little help, they were available and glad to offer advice.
After the shopping spree, it was a home to the wrapping table. I never could and still can’t wrap a gift very well. Even today, my presents look like a 8-year old may have done the honors. But it’s the thought that counts, at least that’s what Mama Ida said. She had an entire drawer devoted to the linen handkerchiefs I gave her. She treasured each and every one as I treasure the memories of shopping for them at the five and ten cent store.