Anyone remember five-and-ten-cent stores? I do.
The first five-and-ten-cent store was built in 1879 by Franklin Woolworth (the items were actually priced and five and ten cents), and later he and his brother Charles established a retail empire of more than one thousand stores.
As a boy, no ten-cent bus ride into Newark was complete without spending at least a half hour in Woolworthâ€™s 5 & 10 on Broad Street. My Granny used to refer to it (and those stores like it) as the â€œFive and Dimeâ€. It seemed to me back then that there wasnâ€™t anything a person could want that could not be bought in a 5 & 10. Woolworthâ€™s even had a lunch counter that served good and affordable food.**
The â€œFive and Dimeâ€ sold hardware, kitchen and household things like potato mashers, clothespins, clothespin bags and the rope itself to fashion a clothesline and the clothesline pulleys, one of which would be mounted on the house near a window or porch and the other to a â€œclothesline poleâ€. One could buy laundry soap, starch, socks, underwear, and even some clothes at the 5 &10. Books and toys were also always for sale.
We even had a Woolworthâ€™s (with a lunch counter) in the town where I now live, but it closed several years ago, to be replaced by a â€œDollar Storeâ€. Now we have no less than three â€œDollar Storesâ€ in town. A month or so ago, I finally got around to visiting the one that replaced Woolworthâ€™s, thinking that it might be somewhat the same.
The merchandize seemed cheesy to me. These independently owned operations seem to be more like a final dumping ground for things manufacturers could not sell to the better-known chain stores. And, there was no lunch counter. I wonâ€™t be returning any time soon.
Of course, it is possible that the merchandize in Woolworthâ€™s was cheesier than I remember, but I donâ€™t think so. At least I donâ€™t like to think so.
** It was a segregated lunch counter in a Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina that was the site of the first Sit-In in 1960, which was followed by similar demonstrations across the country. I recall the Woolworthâ€™s in Newark being picketed by people urging shoppers, â€œDonâ€™t buy at Woolworthâ€™s! Donâ€™t support lunch counter segregation!â€ Clearly this was part of a larger effort to economically hurt the Woolworth company, because the lunch counter in the Woolworthâ€™s in Newark was not segregated. This was a source of puzzlement for those shoppers who weren’t paying attention to the news.