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Looking back to the wonderful ‘five and dime” stores of yesteryear

Bob Cox • Dec 1, 2019 at 12:00 PM

Do you remember going to downtown Johnson City's “five and dime” stores, as they were called then? Today, we hardly recall them, especially the younger generations.

In the old days, when a nickel was really a meaningful amount of money, you could buy an abundance of items for a nickel or dime in one of these stores, hence the name.

In Johnson City, we had three stores on Main Street that fit the five-and-dime designation: Kress, Woolworth's and McLellan.

Many of us oldsters recall the smallish Woolworth Store located at 253.5 E. Main St., adjacent to Liggetts. It later relocated east to a much larger building at 315-17 E. Main St., acquiring the same name.

As a youngster, I frequently patronized most of these stores. Each had a candy counter usually located upfront to attract customers of all ages. The candy was generally loose candy, as well as standard candy bars.

Youngsters often positioned their noses tightly against the glass to have a heavenly view of the delicious delicacies inside.

A few pennies would buy an ample supply of candy, usually distributed in a small white paper bag after the attendant weighed it on the scales.

And then, there was Christmas time when boys and girls saved up enough money over the year by drying dishes, weeding the garden and removing bean or potato bugs in the garden. This effort made it possible to earn extra cash, usually enough to buy that favorite extra special Christmas gift.

Main Street was a bustling place at Christmas. Five-and-dime stores were doing a land-office business, of course, but so also were the major stores like Dossers, Kings, Penney's, Montgomery Ward, Sears and Parks-Belk. Businesses occupied both sides of Main Street.

Almost everything was concentrated within a two-block area of Main and Market.

A nickel or dime went a long way then; a quarter was a lot of money. A bit of history died with the demise of the five-and-dime. They may be gone now, but our memories of them are still vividly still alive.

Reach Bob Cox at boblcox@bcyesteryear.com or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.