Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

…and welcome as we kick off a new year of Pleasant Family Shopping, where we take a look at those places you’ll remember all your lives, though most have changed. Most forever, not for better, some are flea markets now, but some remain. I know you’ll often stop and think about them, and when you do, please stop by! (Apologies to Lennon and McCartney.)

Our subject is retail chain stores of the past – mainly old discount stores and supermarkets, but we throw in a department store chain here and there and take an occasional trip to the mall just for fun. We discuss the history of the companies behind the stores and of course, those individual store locations that were the site of fond memories for so many of us. Best of all are the photos - scenes from life back in the day, whenever that day may have been – the storefronts, the store interiors, the people who worked and shopped there, and usually at least one guy wearing a tie.

And as you can see, our New Year’s Eve party is still goin’ on! We’ve stashed Mom and Dad’s Mantovani, Percy Faith and Andre Kostalanetz albums in the cabinet, and we’re spinning The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Cyrkle (must be what they’re dancing to right now) and The Mamas and the Papas, all on that tiny portable record player. Later on we’ll play the new Troggs 45, if we can find that darned little plastic insert ring. We're stocked up on Coke and Canada Dry Wink. And dig our new game – Milton Bradley’s Twister, the game that ties you up in knots! (The Twister TV commercial was pretty danceable itself. It ran for years!)

This great scene is a 1966 Woolworth’s publicity shot, officially captioned as follows: “These typical teenagers are completely clothed in apparel from Woolworth’s ready-to-wear and accessory departments. The phonograph, television, records, musical instruments, games, novelties and “rumpus room” decorations also came from Woolworth’s. By catering to the youth market, our stores have become “in” places.”

“In”, and soon to be "far out!"


  1. Happy New Year, Dave! Hope you and yours had a great holiday season. I am looking forward to more great posts in 2009!

    I don't think Lennon/McCartney would be mad at ya. ;) That was cool--but I am a huge Beatles fan, so there ya go.

  2. Don't forget, there is always someone dressed in a goofy apron or vest!

    Happy New Year, Dave! Now I am off to get some of those rad clothes.

  3. Hope your holidays were fabulous, Dave! I just returned from a great holiday week in Chicago. I received a wonderful gift, a book called Christmas on State Street: 1940s and Beyond by Robert Ledermann. Love it and highly recommend it! Also got a great gift from Mom: a box of old 33 holiday records, mainly consisting of the True Value Hardware Happy Holidays album compilations, which I fondly remember going to get with Mom each Christmas as we went to True Value to pay our Commonwealth Edison bill (and get free light bulbs - anyone remember that?) I'm excited about the site this year, and I'm telling all my friends and family about it. Keep up the great work!

  4. Kim - Thanks, and Happy New Year to you! We had a great time, and I hope the same for you. Glad you liked my little twist on "In My Life", one my top 10 Beatles faves of all time. The original is still far better, though! :)

    Didi - Especially red and white striped ones, they put you in the Christmas spirit year round! Hope you have a great new year!

    Adrienne - They were great, and I'm glad yours were too! Sounds like you got some great snow as well.

    I've seen the State Street Christmas book, it's fantastic! I need to pick one up myself. When we were in Chicago for Thanksgiving I left my wife and daughter at the American Girl store at Water Tower (I can take that for a while, but...) and my sons and I hauled over to Borders across the street, where I spent and hour and a half looking through all the Chicago pictorial books. There's some amazing stuff in print now, and that's one of the best!

    I love your Mom's gift idea of the 33rpm Christmas albums. We usually got ours from the Firestone tire store at Randhurst, a new one every year, with singers like Andy Williams, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, and later on the Carpenters and other 70's acts. Great memories.

    Thanks for the kind words to your family and friends on the site, and my best to you for the new year!

  5. They're dancing to Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders' "The Game of Love" LP. You can see the blue Fontana record label on the player, and the album cover in the stack (under the Atlantic label 45).

  6. Someday when I buy a house, I shall have to deck it out in the classic Woolworth "Rumpus Room" style...I'll finally have a relatively acceptable place in which to display my 1970 Hammond Piper organ!

    Fortunately I've got some 45 adapters kicking around, too...

    Love the photo, thanks!!

  7. Happy New Year from Canada !

    For the holidays, I just had done something quite fun: playing with my son on a genuine hockey board game, complete with all the trimmings. Completely different and much more fun than the EA sports game we have presently on our video consoles (I found it fun anyway, but nothing beats the old stuff we knew...)

    Hope you can still bring us good retail stories from the past. I am still working on the Montreal supermarket development in the 50s and the suburb boom which made the creation of strip and covered malls...

    Have a good one !


  8. Perhaps you should do as much focus on the history of the traditional department stores (e.g., Macy's Dillard's, Field's, Bullock's,, etc.) as much as you have done with the supermarkets and discounters. The traditional department stores are my favorite genre of retail history!

  9. Jeffers66 - Thanks for identifying that. I remember Fontana records but not what their label looked like, and I never would have guessed the group's name or album title. I don't suppose Wayne Fontana had a family connection to the label, did he? In any event, I just substituted music from that year that I liked.

    Kendra - It's definitely a style to follow, I agree! I love the sound that organs from that era make. We had one for a while when I was in high school but sold it to make room for a piano. And you can never have enough of those 45 adapters, they always come in handy!

    G of S - I loved those old sports board games! We had Cadaco basketball and football when I was young, and they were the best. They seem almost prehistoric now since electronic games have been around for so long. Wish I still had them.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more of your work on Montreal retail history!

    Randy - I hope to do exactly that. I have far more stuff on Field's than the other great companies you mention, but I'm working on them.