All My Ancestors

19 August 2008

Stores of the Past

Filed under: Memes, Perryton by allmyanc

The current challenge to us genea-Bloggers is from Lori at Smoky Mountain Family Historian, to write about some of the stores where we used to shop that are no more.

I have lots of ammo for this one as I grew up in a small rural town before malls.  We had a true Main Street lined with home-owned stores.  My “city-slicker” husband always says it has to be the widest Main Street in the country–it is pretty wide–4 lanes with andled parking on both sides.  It’s Texas State Highway 83 and there are no curves. 

All the buildings are still there but they have morphed into other businesses.  I could write about Malone’s, the children’s store where we went for our shoes and my school dresses, or at least the ones my mom didn’t sew for me.  They had one of those x-ray machines to check your shoes–was it a Buster Brown product? Maybe that accounts for all my foot problems at this point in my life. 

Then there was McClellan’s–truly an old-fashioned dime store.  Everytime I see take-out boxes for Asian food, I remember that I first knew those boxes as the transport for goldfish purchased at the dime store.  (You could also buy baby turtles with decals on their backs and at Easter time, baby chicks or ducks.  PETA would not have approved!)  I remember wooden floors and fans from the ceiling–I remember thinking that ceiling fans were a really cool idea and wondered why people didn’t have them in their houses.  It was also the place to buy records–the vinyl kind–remember those? 

Bryan’s Food Store, on the north end of Main, was where we bought our groceries–there was a real butcher’s case there, a ledge in the front window where people sometimes sat to pass the time with Mr. or Mrs. Bryan or Edith who were checking–it also served as the place to store boxes waiting to be filled with our purchases.  The office was at the back, about 1/2 a floor above the main shopping area–I can still smell the baskets of Lava soap and the dusty potatoes. 

Next door to the grocery store was cousin Delbert’s barbershop.  This place was considered a little shady because my mom suspected he kept “girlie magazines” for his customers.  I’m surprised she actually sometimes let my brothers go next door unaccompanied for their haircuts while she and I did the grocery shopping.  I loved the smell of the butch wax when they came out with their fresh buzz-cuts.  And bubble gum.  Life wasn’t fair for girls in my small town!

But the store I want to write about for this post is Plainview Hardware.  I did a google search on this phrase just to see what would come up and I was pleased and shocked to find that it has some sort of historical landmark status in Texas, with this restored WW II sign mentioned in most of the write-ups.  I also learned that the same folks owned the adjoining Perryton Furniture store–you can see part of the letters for that store in this same picture.

Think of every part for every appliance and machine that existed in the 1960s as well as a full range of kitchen ware, including cooking and serving, and you have Plainview Hardware.  Whatever you needed, they had it.  I graduated college in 1973.  Sometime shortly after that one of my friends broke the basket in her Pyrex coffee maker. 

She was lamenting not being able to use her coffee pot–and she was really attached to it.  This was after electric percolators were available, but before Mr. Coffee was very popular.  But Lori took great pride in using her stove-top pot to brew coffee.  I knew I could save the day.  I went to Plainview Hardware on one of my trips home, and sure enough, they had the glass surround for the basket.  She couldn’t believe it when I brought it back to her.  I was so proud to shock this world-wise friend from southern California!  My dad brought me wire from there for my tomato plants, my mom bought shower gifts as well as her own snack sets she and the other church ladies would pool for wedding and baby showers.  It was like a general store without the groceries.

 I never tired of wandering the aisles and looking at all the different nuts and bolts and washers and nails and chain and pipes and dishes and pyrex coffee pots and parts.  There was, of course, some distant connections to the people who ran the store–the man was from the family one of my great aunts had married into and then divorced, and the woman was the aunt of one of my best friends–and they lived within sight of our house.  Home Depot just doesn’t hold the same charm. 

The only other store that evokes many memories due to the variety of things available there is what used to be known as Corner Drug.  After I went to college, my mother went to work there and as a result, we had all sorts of decorative items–my sisters-in-law still use the leaded glass pitchers and my sons have the Fitz and Floyd dishes.  I worked there during summer and Christmas holidays–usually wrapping packages at Christmas and floor duty in the summers.  I sold magazines and paperbacks and perfume and band-aids and candle-sticks.  This is the place I remember seeing my first Barbie doll.  It was, too, of course, the place we got our prescriptions filled–in later years, they delivered.  Clerks kept kept tablets under each cash register–if a person asked for something the store didn’t stock, the clerk wrote it down and by the next time the customer came in, it was on the shelf.  The store’s services included selling some sort of hair tonic with “Alligator” in the name that the old guys had to ask for from behind the counter–it was the town’s answer to being a dry county but having some customers who couldn’t make it to the state line 7 miles away for their alcohol fix.

My husband asked me the other day if I wanted to retire “back home.”  I told him I really wasn’t interested in living in that small town, but I am (mostly) glad I grew up there.


6 Responses to “Stores of the Past”

  1. We had the snack sets you pictured! I love those! Also – speaking of parts for coffee pots. My mom broke the glass top from the percolator and when we visited my sister in NE Ohio, she told us about a hardware store that had “parts” stuff. Sure enough they had the right part so my mom didn’t have to get a new percolator!

  2. I wondered if anyone else would recognize the snack sets–they were a real fixture for social events in my small town in the 60s. Every lady in church had at least one set and they all knew how many the others had and who to call to get enough for whatever event they were hosting. And it sounds like hardware stores in small town America used to be the “fix-it” place–that was before planned obsolescence, I guess. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  3. DEBRA, Small town stores just can’t be beat — and everyone should have been so fortunate as you to have a “full service” hardware store AAND a “really full service” drug store. The first town where I taught was in a dry county but within the first week of my employment one of the older teachers in the English department took me aside and told me who to call for “home delivery” and whatever spirits I needed. That little town didn’t have a drug store to provide bottled spirits. LOL!

    Yes, I remember those “snack” sets. I think there is a box or so of them packed away in the attic.

    Terry Thornton
    Fulton, MS

  4. I love the concept of a “really full service” drug store. I’m thinking I’d rather use the method the English teacher told you about, however. thanks so much for stopping by.

  5. Where I grew up in Lakewood, California everthing was brand new when we moved in in 1951. It was an unincorporated area 8 miles from downtown Long Beach. In 1953 Lakewood Shopping Center (one of the first and largest malls in America) was built and became our downtown. In 1955 Lakewood became it’s own city. We shopped at the mall, but where we did most of our shopping was a one block area on a small street that intersected two major streets on a diagonal. We called it the Triangel! There was a Bank of America, Post Office, Eye Doctor, shoe repair, drug store, hardware, dime store and shoe store. This was our “Main Street” and all the business offered the same things you talked about in your bog. Today the bank is a dance studio and yarn shop. The drugstore is a used book store. The hardware is a parking lot and the dime store is doctor’s offices, but the shoe store is still there. It is where we always got our school shoes and yes our Buster Brown X-rays! I still shop there for shoes because they are one of the only stores I can find fashionable Double E width shoes! And of course the book store and yarn shop becon me often.

  6. Kitty: Your description of your shopping area sounds like Bethany when I came to college in 1969–there were shopping centers around, but the main street square still had all the essentials–a bank, a couple of dress shops, a shoe store, a furniture store, drug store, TG&Y, a really good bakery, bookstore, etc, etc. Those have mostly been replaced, though the bakery still stands. yum. Thanks for stopping by.

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