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Rated: E · Non-fiction · Biographical · #2292707
A memory of my small town's five-and-dime store.
The store I loved to go to was the five-and-dime store. Our downtown consisted of maybe three blocks lined on both sides with shops, the bank, a couple of places to eat, and others. It was the first store I would reach when walking from my house in New Jersey. When I walked there directly from my Village School, starting in fifth grade, it was maybe the same length to walk downtown. I would reach the other end of downtown and have to walk by all the businesses which started with Morse’s pharmacy. Mr. Morse lived in the corner house on our street. We used to put on our metal skates, which had keys to tighten them to our shoes and skate up and down his nice and smooth cement driveway. Our driveway was made of some kind of black asphalt and was bumpy. It was also ugly to look at. Our driveway went all the way down the left side, looking from the street to a two-car garage beyond the back of our house. The second garage was built by my dad.

Getting back to the store. It was an all-brick building standing alone at one end of downtown. The owner lived upstairs on the second floor. It is now a building with a wood exterior painted white. It is a worship center called So Good. The street downtown is one-way traffic on each side. There was and still is parking on both sides in front of all the stores. The man who owned the store had a big pot belly. He would stand at the front of the store behind the huge cash register at all times. Part of the fun of buying merchandise was him using the antique-looking cash register which he guarded every moment he was open. When he had the amount in he pulled this big lever. It made a clicking noise. If you needed to find something he would tell you exactly where it was located; never coming from behind his perch near the register. There were just rows and rows of merchandise on top of wood tables. Each thing was displayed in its own square wooden divider. Simply everything was marked “Made in Japan”. I would guess there were literally a hundred of those dividers. Some of my treasures were little troll dolls, mood rings, snow globes, and a miniature red Swingline stapler which was my all-time favorite item.

Even though the majority of the things cost a nickel or dime, by fifth grade I moved on to the more expensive stuff. I don’t remember anything over $.99, This trend would continue for most of my life. Pay more to get exactly what you want. My allowance was fifty cents a week. I would go down to the store every Saturday after my piano lesson at my grandmother’s house about five blocks from downtown. On Saturday mornings my mom inspected our rooms to be sure they were “neat and tidy” before coughing up the dough. Since our room was always cleaned by me (the room I shared with my younger messy sister who did an about-face when she got married), we always got our allowances.

I always walked alone to my grandmother’s house afterward downtown. My sister was close friends with one of our neighbor’s daughters. The next one up was younger than me and we never did quite get along well. My sister stopped taking lessons not long after she began. I don’t know the reason or remember exactly why. Since my grandmother’s house was so close to the stores I would head down there after my lesson. I attended what now is called a middle school. Mine was named Village School. It is one long block from downtown. (It is now condemned but for years there has been discussion of restoring it and registering it as a historic building). We only got a twenty-five cents allowance until we were in fourth grade. It may have been a dime until fifth grade and then a quarter afterward. I mostly saved up for stuff I wanted. My grandma did not feel that was enough so kicked in another fifty cents each week. I know when I went to high school in the ninth grade my allowance was a buck twenty-five which paid for lunches at twenty-five cents per day. Every single day I had a piece of apple raisin pie and a soft drink. I also ate alone because my friends were assigned to an earlier lunch hour. Lucky for me I was an avid book reader.

After making my purchase at the five-and-dime store I would stop at Potter’s. I sat at the counter ordering french fries and a Coke. Twenty-five cents. They would put enough french fries to cover an entire dinner plate. The fries burned the roof of my mouth but I did not care. Salt and tons of ketchup and I was in heaven. No doubt that contributed to my heart attack 42 years later.

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