#valentine #fiveanddime #dimestore
A dime store was a dime store in the 1940’s. No two ways about it. Scott’s called themselves a “five-and-ten-cent store.” Newberry’s went one better. See the sign in the picture to the right that has been copied from a postcard as it was in the mid-1940’s. Newberry’s proclaimed they were a 5, 10 and 25 cent store. The stores carried items that were more expensive, but the bulk of the inventory, like the dollar stores of today, was priced well within a range of a kid’s weekly allowance. Merchandise was displayed on open counters. Shoppers could pick up items and examine them.
Inside a Dime Store
Aisles allowed customers to walk from one display counter to the next. Each counter was an island with an open space at the center as a walkway for a salesclerk who greeted customers approaching the counter. There were no blister packs or pegboards at the time. Once a customer made a selection, the item was handed to the salesclerk who rang it up, placed it in a paper bag, and handed it back with a proper “Thank you.” The ratio of sales clerks to customers must have been 10 times higher than what one would find in a Wal*Mart, a Home Depot, or a Lowe’s today.
My father’s dental office looked down directly on both dime stores from the second story of a building across the street. Dad never turned me away if I dropped in on him. One afternoon, I found a wallet at the dime store I had to have. It contained a plastic coin holder so that pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters could be held separately from one another in individual slides. I raced to Dad’s office to tell him about it. He didn’t always give in to my pleading, but on this particular day he did. I dashed back down the staircase, crossed the street, charged into the store, and bought the wallet. Back across the street again to show Dad.
He examined is slowly. “This is a woman’s wallet, son,” he said finally. “No man would carry this.”
I was stunned. I couldn’t see what made it a woman’s wallet. “How can you tell?” I asked.
“See here, this strap on the side where you can slip your hand in to carry it. That’s the way a woman carries her pocket book.”
I was downcast. I wouldn’t carry a woman’s pocket book anywhere, even if it did have separate slides for my coins. “Could we cut the strap off and then it would be a man’s wallet?” I pleaded.
“We could do that,” Dad said and walked over to his dental cabinet, retrieved a pair of scissors, and cut of the hand strap. “There you go. Now use it to save your allowance each week.”
A First Gift
The first gift that I ever bought for my mother was a pie bird that I found in one of the dime stores. I did not know what a pie bird was at the time. I was barely tall enough to look over the display counter, but I spotted a blue pottery bird that seemed to me as if it was singing. My mother liked birds. I liked this bird, so I counted out my pennies and bought it for her. The salesclerk, probably a young girl from town, was so tickled with my selection and my reason for choosing, it that she picked up a baseball cap from the counter and plopped it my head. “He’s so cute,” she gushed to a nearby associate who was watching our exchange. The cap was too large, but then I was probably too young to be buying a present on my own also.
I was living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1984 when my mother, who still resided still in Yankton, was diagnosed with late stage cancer. Christmas was upon us, and I planned to return to be with her for the holidays. I set out in search for a gift for her. I did not need to look very far. I found another pie bird, smaller but blue in color. I took with me to visit her. “Oh,” she exclaimed upon opening it, “now I have two.” She remembered my first gift from almost 45 years earlier.
Mother died January 15, 1985, just a couple of weeks after my final visit with her. I recovered both pie birds from her things at her home. I have them still.
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