Saturday, September 27, 2008

Zayre, American Style

These photos were taken in 1971. Only two years removed from the sixties, that era in some ways seemed eons ago. If the early 70’s appeared slightly less turbulent on the surface, they really weren’t, what with the Kent State shootings, a ramp-up in the Vietnam War, and the first manifestations of the inflation problem afoot. America continued to undergo sweeping social changes as well, including some that filtered down to my isolated, suburban, grade school life. For one thing, our TV selection changed virtually overnight.

In 1971, CBS cancelled all of its beloved rural sitcoms and a number of its more “family-oriented” shows in one fell swoop – gone were The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Mayberry R.F.D. (successor to The Andy Griffith Show), Family Affair, The Ed Sullivan Show and Hogan’s Heroes, among others. Granted, most of these shows were a long way from their peak, but they still drew respectable audiences. In their place would come new, more “ relevant” shows, pushing the new social hot buttons of the country – the initially controversial All in the Family (bigotry and the generation gap), its even more controversial spinoff Maude (women’s’ liberation), The Bob Newhart Show (sophisticated humor in an urban setting), The Mary Tyler Moore Show (a single, professional woman and her neurotic friends) and MASH (arguably a Vietnam War comedy/drama under the guise of a Korean War setting) among others. I liked ‘em all, and could still watch the cancelled stuff in reruns.

A favorite show of mine, when I could talk my folks into letting me stay up for it, was Love, American Style which ran on ABC from Fall 1969 to Spring 1974. It was an “anthology show” that usually featured three (fairly goofy) comedy/love stories in the space of an hour. Love, American Style never came close to the stature of the shows mentioned above, but it did offer a chance to see all your favorite former 1960’s stars back in action, albeit by now they had traded in the buttoned-down sixties look for flowered shirts, super-wide lapels and ties, mutton-chop sideburns and mini-skirts. The show captured the 70’s style like no other, in my opinion – it was almost like watching “That 70’s Show” in real-time.

Speaking of 70’s style, (I’m in desperate need of a segue at this point) these Zayre photos offer a healthy helping of just that. Zayre, celebrating its 15th year in 1971, was by that time 180 stores strong and still growing at a nice clip. The first five photos show one of the fifty Zayre stores that were equipped with gas stations at the time, including a nice close-up of a gas pump (with no dollar position, of course – that wouldn’t be needed for years) and some intriguing photos of a group of “Zayre-ettes”, for lack of a better word, descending on the gas station, apparently there to assist the customers with self-service fillups(?!). They’re dressed in impeccable style for the era, in clothes I can only assume didn’t come from Zayre. And those boots were definitely made for walkin’ (ok, that’s a 60’s expression). Not to be outdone, the ladies in the cashier booth are snazzed out in plaid mini-skirt outfits. Everyone’s in trademark Zayre black and red.

Below are some interior shots showing a bit more of Zayre’s “American Style”, with wonderful pseudo-Early American décor (dig that pediment signage) throughout. I particularly like the “Sportswear” department photo, as it shows a nice view of the sloped ceiling section at the front of the store, a standard feature of the early Zayre prototype. The last photo shows a phalanx of Zayre shopping carts at the front of the store, reverse-painted plastic handles gleaming. As Archie and Edith sang, “those were the days”!


  1. Probably more than anything these pics remind me that the 70's began with a more optimistic air than for what the decade is remembered. Afterall we had just won the space race to the moon, how could things go wrong.

    The Old America look seems to be a definite 70's look, as the bicentennial approached all things vintage became more en vogue.

    The Old America look had its counterpart with the rustic/rural look exemplified by the Kroger superstore that debuted in 1972. Oddly, CBS cancelled its rural oriented programming just as a "rural rennaisance" was occuring. In time the rural rennaisance was revealed to be the beginning of far flung suburbs and exurbs with a few exceptions of college towns and retirement/resort towns that saw growth.

  2. Thanks for all of the Zayre pics! They are wonderful.

    It seems like one episode of "Love, American Style" was the starting point for "Happy Days". Does anyone else remember an episode which featured the basic set-up for Happy Days (including most of the primary actors)?

  3. Dave, you are making me feel old! I graduated high school in 1971.

  4. Nice photos! Love the vintage signage and shopping carts in particular -- great stuff!

    Can't comment on the '70s however, as I wasn't there!

    Thanks for another excellent post!

  5. Ken - Optimism is a good way to describe it. It's more from looking back at the real events that occurred that it appears otherwise.

    I remember the "run-up" years to the bicentennial, and the Americana look was definitely part of the anticipation of that. I also recall some of the "rural renaissance" you mention. For CBS' part, those shows were all pretty much running on fumes then, with the exception of "Hee Haw", another '71 CBS cancellation, that later ran for over 20 more years as a first-run syndicated show.

    Kroger was also really pushing an "international" look in the early 70's.

    Pat - That's right, "Happy Days" did first appear as a Love, American Style segment, with a different Joanie and no Fonz! The Wiki entry for the show gives some detail on that.

    Larry - Just ten years before me. Believe me, you '71 grads don't seem old to me these days!

    Kendra - Thanks! And don't worry, the styles are more or less the same today and the best shows are available on DVD! :) Sorry you missed out on some of these stores, though...There's a few I missed out on myself.

  6. Very well written post on the TV shows, Dave. I enjoyed it. A couple of years ago I got to watch Love, American Style on a local station that was re-runing it and I actually did not like it much, except for the fun fashion which remind me of these Zayre pics a lot especially those plaid skirts. Weird.

    In any event, how dare CBS cancel Hogan's Heroes. LOL! Years ago, growing up in Ohio, my mother used to tease my cousin (whom I was very close with) about how he always used to watch Hogan's Heroes in the early to mid 80s. He was just seven years older than me but he remembers these shows well. We still watched them as kids no matter how old it was.

    My favorite picture thus far is the shot of the carts. Excellant!

  7. Didi - It was a goofy show, like I said, and certainly has not aged well at all.

    I completely agree on the shopping carts photo. I think it's one of the best ones on the whole site!

  8. Wow... of those top pictures aren't the Zayre in Addison, IL, I don't know what is. I spent a huge portion of my childhood there... waiting outside for them to open for the first release of new Star Wars figures or Cabbage Patch Kids.

    Awesome post!!

  9. Scott 0 - May have been! It also resembles the Des Plaines Zayre I mentioned in an earlier post, but I know that one didn't have a gas station. My sister-in-law is from Addison - it's a great town!

  10. Hello everyone,
    Can anybody tell me all locations of Zayre's in MD, during the year 1974. It's very important.
    Thank you

  11. The top image looks to be the location in Kannapolis, NC. We had the gas station out front too. After viewing satellite images of the old Zayre building taken in '93, I see consistencies with the number of rows for parking, the orientation of the cars parked, the alignment of the gas station with the left corner of the building, and a very tall tree behind the building in the same location as one behind our Zayre building. Maybe all coincidence, but I feel pretty strong about this one.

  12. Anonymous - Perhaps Kannapolis it is. Thanks very much!