Tuesday, May 27, 2008

5 & 10s


Years ago my sister came for a visit. As we were driving through Warrenton she saw the old Pay Less Drugs (now Rite-Aid) and we had to make a stop there. It seems my sister loved reading a series of books by some Northwest author that wrote about how fantastic it was to go to town and visit the Pay Less. My sister wanted to see if it was a magical as the books described it. I never read those books, so I don’t know exactly what she was looking for, but she seemed satisfied.

This got me thinking about if I were to write about the shopping experiences that turned me on as a kid, what would they be? I’d probably have to say it was all the Five and Ten Cent Stores. Some called them Five and Dimes, but that didn’t make sense to me because they should have called them the nickel and dime, so we called them Five and Tens.

The 5 & 10 was a magical place for a kid and this was probably due to the fact they had toys and bicycles and candy for sale. They had all sorts of things like a general store would have and it was a frequent stop for moms that were trailing kids along. While the moms were shopping for kitchen ware or a new lamp shade or greeting cards kids were free to visit the toy department or look at the birds, fish and turtles that were for sale in the pet department.

There were two 5 & 10s in the town to the north of where I lived and two to in the town to the south along with a Woolworth. These stores all had a lunch counter where uniformed waitresses worked the counters and sold fresh roasted nuts by the cash register. The smells of each department were good enough to leave an impact on me forty years later.

My words could never describe all the magic of a 5 & 10 and I write this only to remind those who are old enough to remember to golden age of this sort of store just what sort of magic we are missing today.

Years ago there was a Newberry’s in Astoria which is now Deals only. I don’t recall if Newberry’s had a lunch counter, but like most other 5 & 10s it had a lower level. One thing I remember was how clean the 5 and 10s were. They were nothing like the squalid mess of Deals Only, where some isles are impassable with boxes of merchandise yet to be stocked.

The post tomorrow will discuss one of the must-have items that all respectable 5 & 10s had to have. Thanks for indulging yet another of my walks down memory lane.

9 Comments:

Blogger Jeff said...

I remember that all of these stores had popcorn machines. For some reason, mom never let us get any to take with us. Now that we have grandchildren, I understand why. The backseat of our car isn't as clean as the station wagon that I grew up with.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Hahn at Home said...

movie star postcards, grilled cheese at the lunch counter, monster model kits, yard long licorice.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Chantel said...

Portland had a Newberry's as late as the Early 80s. it had a lunch counter which I loved and remembered from the Woolworth in Ohio.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous g said...

I remember when mom would bring me to Newberry's when I was a youngster.

I remember when Payless was built. I was about 4th grade or so. I remember conning mom into buying me a plastic model car to assemble. Later it was salivating over the guns. Lotta history there for the back of my mind. Thanks for jogging it loose!

7:01 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

It seems to me that 5 & 10s we forgotten. I'm glad we all had fond memories that were revived.

5:31 AM  
Blogger dalia said...

i'm canadian and i think i'm younger than The Guy Who Writes This, but i don't ever recall there being a 5 & 10 anywhere in toronto (at least).

when i was little i used to read books (by american authors) and whenever a 5 & 10 was referenced i would imagine a big store with shelves stocked full of magical, mystical items. candy that was nothing like the candy we had in canada was only available there; there were prettier dolls with better clothes, and nicer store staff. everything was neat and shiny, and people always smiled.

that's MY memory of a 5 & 10... : )

10:51 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Dalia, Welcome. I love Canadians! I am entering 53, and 5 & 10s seemed to have all disappeared in the last 20 years. I somehow doubt they were magical for adults, but for children...they were a wonderland.

5:26 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

I was so sad when the five and dime closed in the town I grew up in. All I can remember actually getting there is little plastic airplanes, but I sure enjoyed looking. There were almost as many possibilities to dream about as when I got to go to the hardware store with my grandfather, in a town where that and the Agway were the only non-food stores in the whole town. The 5 and dime was right above a deli called Bubi and Zadie's (or Bubby & Sadie's?), and somehow the two are inextricably linked in my mind. I think they both closed around the same time, and I missed them for a long time.

Thanks for bringing up the memories!

12:38 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Frank, In the film September by Woody Allen, one character ponders, "Are memories something we have or something we've lost?"

It sure is fun bringing something that fond to us back into the forefront.

12:52 PM  

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