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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Remembering Woolworth's


Knowing my interest in all things historical, reader Don sent to me a copy of a Woolworth’s lunch counter menu from the early 1950s. Many of you are now thinking, "Woolworth’s"? What is Woolworth’s?

From 1879 until 1997, Woolworth’s was as common as Wal-Mart is today. They were known as a "5 and dime" store as their products were of low cost. If you needed a thimble, a spool of thread, a cheap toy, penny candy, or a pair of socks, Woolworth’s was the place to buy those items along with thousands of others.

There was hardly a town in America that didn’t have a Woolworth’s store. Eventually as the chain grew, they started putting lunch counters in them. The counter within the store in Greensboro, North Carolina became famous on February 1,1960 when four Black students sat down in an attempt to desegregate the store. They failed but the incident became famous in the civil rights movement of the time.

There was a Woolworth’s in downtown Phoenix that became a popular place for workers in the area to eat lunch. That store also had Pima Indian women sitting on the sidewalk in front selling little beaded knick knacks.

By 1997, after some failures in the retail business like their discount Woolco stores, plus a decline in the 5 and dime business, Woolworth’s closed their doors. A lot of you who are of a certain age will remember those stores and the distinctive smell they had. I referred to it as "that dime store smell." I also remember most of the stores having creaking wooden floors.

Enlarge the above menu and check the prices. Don’t you wish you could eat out that cheap today?

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