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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

Picturing the Past 13: Five and dime time

Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009, at 9:26 AM

(Photo)
The staff of Wright's 5 & 10 Store, in Shelbyville, from the late 1930s or early 1940s. (Photo contributed by Doyle Landers)
"This is Wright's 5 & 10. How do you like it?" someone wrote on the back of this photo many years ago, probably never imagining that readers of a web site and newspaper may answer her question years later.

Staff members were, top row from left, Geneva Pressgrove, manager Virginia Price, Frances Hickerson, a name that looks like Elvia Russell, and Mary Alcorn. Two of the women on the bottom row are Bessie Eyler and Hazel Teal, one of who is listed as "a soldier's wife," with one unindentified.

Doyle Landers, who e-mailed the photo, says it was made in the late 1930s or early 1940s. I'm guessing this was probably during World War II, since the manager was a woman during a time in which women rarely held such roles and because of the "soldier's wife" note.

A sign over the womens' heads, not overly visible in small-format here, actually says "5-10-25 STORE." Where on the Shelbyville square was this store? I'm thinking it may have been in the middle of the east side.

I remember, as a young boy in the late 1960s, visiting two "dime stores" where my parents bought me model cars - maybe where my gearhead status comes from today.

One was roughly in the middle of the east side of the square (which may have been the successor to Wright's) and another on the southeast corner where the Center for Family Development is today. Seems like the corner store had wooden floors, which appeared to me to be greasy, and had sort of a musty smell. The name Cohern's comes to mind for one of the stores.

Dime stores. Every small town had 'em.

Then Big K came along -- a super-sized dime store/Wal-Mart predecessor -- anchoring the new Big Springs Shopping Center, and the entire retail landscape gradually changed.

NOTE: As of today we've added Picturing the Past to our print edition each Tuesday as a companion to the blog posts, which will continue, hopefully with multiple photos posted to the web on some weeks. Look on the Community Calendar page.

Reader contributions are welcome, but I don't want this to end up becoming dominated by photos of groups posing for cameras. The five-and-dime shot works well because some of the store can be seen in the background and most people above a certain age remember those stores.

Street and building scenes have been requested by many readers. And we've got our vast stash of T-G negatives to pull from.

Also, I'd like to concentrate on post-1950 photos. The late Dick Poplin pretty much saturated the earlier years in his columns, and the later years seem to draw the most blog responses.

Picturing the Past is featured each Tuesday in this blog.


Comments
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ilikeoldsongs, the name Bob Wright rings a familiar bell with me. However, in the recesses of my cluttered mind I am trying to connect him with Knox Pitts Hardware in the late '60s and early '70s. I can remember Ben Franklin's 5 and dime being on the corner you are talking about. Sorry.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Jul 15, 2009, at 5:04 PM

"The Wright's Five and Dime was later home to Eagles Five and Dime."

Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 10:01 AM

leeiii, I was casually acquainted with a gentleman named Bob Wright back in the early '60s, through his friendship with some of my in-laws. I have the impression in my mind that he ran a five and dime at the corner of Depot and the square, near the popcorn stand, at that time.

Am I remembering this correctly, and if so, was he the one that ran the store pictured above?

punkin1129, the blind man in the courthouse was Bob Wilkes, another transplant from Columbia, which there seems to have been a lot of us over the years.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Wed, Jul 15, 2009, at 4:34 PM

I remember the Merry Go Round well; it was still around in the 1980s until it burned (its old location is now a vacant lot).

My mother has mentioned going there for strawberry milkshakes in the 1950s. She thought of it as more of a drive-in restaurant in those years.

But by the time I came of age in the 1970s and 1980s it was definitely a tavern.

-- Posted by David Melson on Fri, Jun 19, 2009, at 6:41 AM

David, Do you remember the Merry Go Round? It was a tavern (outside town in the 50's) on the Tullahoma highway. My mother was a tee totler to a fault, however they served the best barbeque around. It was sliced and had a flavor that I still remember. She would park in the back where she thought no one would see her and make me and my sister scoot down in our seats so no one would see her kids at a "beer joint". One day she was parked around back and guess who pulled up beside us. Our preacher! I will never tell who he was, I still see him from time to time and I enjoy teasing him about his suds and que!!! (I made the part about the suds up) He would rather I forget that story. That day a nine year old boy learned that preachers are really human too......

-- Posted by chs61 on Thu, Jun 18, 2009, at 8:45 PM

I love the hairstyles of the past, they all look like movie stars.

-- Posted by Momof3&3step&1gran on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 7:16 PM

By the way, it seems to me that I remember Mrs. Staunton. I believe that she may have been there when I registered for the draft in the '50's.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 3:59 PM

If you registered in Bedford County, Gladys Staunton was the one who registered you.

As I recall from reading an article about her many years ago, she started in that office during WW2, and I think (not positive) that she was still there when the military went all volunteer.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 4:54 PM

ilikeoldsongs maybe that just goes to prove the old adage, "don't believe anything you hear, and just half of what you see". I am not sure about the man, I just know that it tugged at the heart of a young boy.

By the way, it seems to me that I remember Mrs. Staunton. I believe that she may have been there when I registered for the draft in the '50's.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 3:59 PM

David,is there any chance the "unidentified" lady in the front row is the lady in the center?

She bears a striking resemblence to the mother of a friend of mine, she later on worked at the Fair Store, if it's her.

leeiii, let me pitch a little Paul Harvey type story your way about the gentleman sitting on the sidewalk with his hat out for donations.(I don't remember there being any pencils, just the hat, so maybe different people?) At any rate this is not intended to be a putdown, or a judgement of any sort, cause Lord knows I have as much as I can do to try to keep my own house in order, and I often fail miserably.Or maybe always, truth be known.

This is, however an account of events that I was personally involved with, and facts that I can personally attest to.

One of my uncles ran various poolrooms around Shelbyville for several years, for a Mr. Staunton, whose wife by the way was with the local draft board for many years.

One cold winter morning I was off work and decided to head up town for some free trick shot practice where my uncle worked. I noticed this fellow that I had seen numerous times before, sitting between the popcorn stand and Depot St.

After about an hour of glancing his way between shots, I was almost starting to get cold myself. I told my uncle at that point that before I took off for home I was going to run across the corner and throw a fifty cent piece in his hat, because he must be hurting for money to stay out in that wind as cold as it was.

I thought for a few seconds there my uncle was going to bust a gut, he was laughing so hard. He said "son that man doesn't need your money, he has a two hundred acre farm with cattle running all over the hills.He just comes to town to collect money to live on so he doesn't have to spend his own."

About the size of the farm and the cattle, I have to take my uncle's word for those facts, but less than an hour later this gentlemen came into the poolroom and stated to my uncle that it was just too cold to work the street this morning, so he was going back out to the farm, as he had some things he needed to catch up on out there.

Now I can't proclaim this to be "the rest of the story", and deep inside I find it extremely difficult to believe that the entire situation could be as simple as it might seem on the surface.For instance, what forces would drive a man to place himself in the path of pity, if it was not absolutely necessary? Childhood deprivation? "I swear I'll never be hungry again!" A parent or perhaps a sibling lost, and perceived to be related to the lack of money?

I just can't understand why anyone would assume the position of a beggar when there is no obvious need to do so.But then I'm reminded of one of my Dad's favorite sayings when confronted with a situation he was unfamiliar with,"what I DON'T KNOW about this would fill a great big book."

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 3:32 PM

Oh, and Parks Belk had those vacuum carriers to get change from the office upstairs. Those were the days!

-- Posted by Fluff on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 1:16 PM

Yes! That dime store was located on the corner and when I was a kid, there was a popcorn stand on the sidewalk in front!

-- Posted by Fluff on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 1:14 PM

Great picture David! before my days but great.

I rememeber: Castnor Knotts, Parks Belk, Fair Store, all those drugs stores :) and both dime stores the one on the corner and the one in the middle with the "cool" toy dept. downstairs, Mr. Pope with that white hat thing :) the blind man that sold consessions at the court house, and all the shavings that the old men left behind while telling their tales of days past while sitting on the concrete benches under the trees at the court house, those memories make me smile, thanks again,

Can't wait to see what picture you come up with next!

-- Posted by punkin1129 on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 12:25 PM

Yes David, I have come to conclude that the picture was from the war years. Like you the soldiers wife rings a war year bell and by guessing at the age of Geneva Pressgrove (a family friend) I believe that you are right. Yes the store was located in the middle of the East side of the square. To the extreme right just out of the picture was the door leading upstairs to what would later become the studios of WHAL radio and just beyond that to the right would be Brantley's Drug Store. I can remember on Saturdays that a crippled man would sit on the sidewalk just outside Brantleys selling pencils out of his hat. I would not consider him a panhandler. He was just trying to make a living the best way he could.

The Wright's Five and Dime was later home to Eagles Five and Dime. Some of the other Five and Dimers that I remember were Ben Franklin, Kuhns (forerunner of Big K), and Coherns. There may have been others at one time or another but that is all I can think of.

Speaking of wood floors, during my school years not only did I carry the T-G in the afternoons but I also opened the store in the mornings for A. R. Johnsons on the South Side of the square. My duties entailed sweeping the store out (wood floors) with a sort of furniture polish treated sawdust put on the floor first (hence the greasy, oily look of the floors), bringing in the ice block from in front of the store and putting it in the drinking water barrel, and filling it with fresh water, and then waiting until the clerks arrived for a Seven O'clock opening before I went to school for the day.

Let me say again David, thanks for getting "Picturing the Past" started. I am enjoying this more than you will ever know.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 10:01 AM


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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.