How did people get along before shopping malls became a way of life? Very well, thank you. I know because I was there.
Merchandising outlets were what many would call “general stores” but were usually referred to as “THE STORE” by most of the rural and small town citizens. They housed about anything that a family needed to sustain them from groceries to hardware to basic clothing. They were also the center for local news as well as opinions on anything from politics to the outcome of wars. Some even served as polling places during elections and as courtrooms, if the owner/operator happened to be the magistrate.
During the workweek, the cliental consisted mostly of men in search of parts for machinery, and supplies that had been forgotten during the Saturday “shopping spree.” There was usually a flurry of business around noon as youngsters were sent to buy ICE for theTEA or “Penny Drink.” The operator would then open the huge, wooden ice box, chip off what he thought to be “’bout a dimes worth.” After tying a string around the block and recording the purchase to the families continuous running account, he would inquire, “Your Daddy through with his plowing?” and send them on their way with melting ice water dripping on bare feet.
Saturday was customarily a busy day when entire families would gather to buy what they thought would be needed during the next week. This also afforded a time to visit neighbors, here for the same purpose, and to catch up on any news and gossip that heretofore had passed them by. After purchasing what they needed and (“putting it on my bill”), they returned home for another week of hard work. “THE STORE” was never opened on Sunday unless a dire emergency arose, and then it was closed afterwards. Sunday was NOT a day to conduct business.
Shopping for school clothes and winter wear somewhat deviated from the normal in that the most of this shopping consisted of looking through the big Sears catalog. After deciding on what was needed, shoe box lids were placed on the floor and footprints traced on them to insure proper size and the orders were mailed. Money orders, purchased at “THE STORE” usually accompanied the order since many did not have checking accounts and charge cards were unheard of. You might say that “THE STORE” was the nerve center of any community. The social gathering place for people that did not have the means; nor, the desire; to travel to the larger cities. It was a place where you were not required to SIGN for every purchase and your promise to pay was sufficient. A place in which most of your needs could be filled and where you were assured that your business was appreciated and most of all, you were among friends. Overheard: from a field of fluffy COTTON:
“Bobby; run down to the Store and get a dimes worth of Ice and a package of GRAPE, Penny Drink.” “Tell Mr. Walters to; ‘Put it on my bill.” “Make Haste, Now.” “We have to pick this Cotton before it rains.”