Know how to make a six year-old kid light up in 1966? Ask him if he would like to go to the Dime Store!
Dime Stores sprang up across the country in the early twentieth century. By Baby Boomer time, every town with at least a thousand inhabitants had at least one. We had a Woolworth’s in my home town. Other brands included Kress, Ben Franklin, and TG&Y.
They frequently featured lunch counters. Our store in Miami, Oklahoma did. In fact, a major kickoff of the Civil Rights movement took place at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960 at Greensboro, North Carolina. A piece of that counter is in the Smithsonian.
I have fond memories of cherry shakes at that store I grew up with. But the best part was the TOYS!
There were long divided compartments filled with plastic Japanese-made delights that would make a kid’s head spin. Toy soldiers, miniature cars, play guns, balls, tops, whistles, airplanes, boats, and more were stocked in those magical shelves. They were just the right height for a kid to browse through them too.
Mom would often let me pick one out. It usually cost a dime. My collection of plastic treasures would thus grow incrementally. And being plastic, they are probably still in pristine condition buried in various landfills, awaiting future archaeologists to discover and speculate over.
The store even had a unique aroma, a mixture of cooking food, mothballs, old wood (it was in an ancient downtown building), and tennis shoe soles. I remember getting my first genuine pair of P.F. Flyers at that store.
Around 1951, a man opened a Ben Franklin up in Bentonville, Arkansas. His name was Sam Walton.
He went on to bigger things, and took most of the Dime Store chains with him.