My memories have always been important to me. I suppose that's true of a lot of people, but I have always been aware that my past can explain who I am today. I've always understood that some events are life-altering while others are trivial, mundane, and pretty much dull as dishwater! But you never know when a memory will pop out of your psyche and serve to clarify or help you understand something that is happening in your life in the present.
As you probably know, I grew up in a couple of small towns in Florida. They were both slow-paced, quiet little towns that were pretty typical of their time. There weren't any "big" stores in either town, the biggest stores in town were grocery stores. Of course, the "big" chains didn't exist back then. No Targets, no K-Marts, no Wal-Marts, and no enormous shopping malls either. Cities, both large and small, had a "downtown" where most of the commerce and retail businesses were located. There might have been a "Dime Store" like Woolworths or McCory's but not in the towns where I lived. What we had were family-owned drug stores, an independent department store, a dress shop or two, a couple of shoe stores, a stationer's, a kids' store carrying everything from clothes to toys to schools supplies for the infant to teenage set. There might have been a restaurant or two, a post office, insurance companies, banks, and a movie theater. It met our needs and we had no real complaints.
There were several bigger towns within a drive of only an hour or two. We and most everyone we knew would make regular but not all that frequent visits to one of those towns (like West Palm Beach, or Tampa, or Orlando) a couple of times a year. We'd make those trips for back to school, Christmas and other holiday shopping. summertime shopping, and any special occasion that required something new to wear, or a nice gift, or something specific like sports equipment or furniture.
There were catalog stores for the in-between kinds of things and we all used Sears, or "Monkey Wards", or Spiegel's. The "dream books" came out twice a year plus a special one for Christmas, and for families such as mine (above the poverty line, but nowhere near wealthy!) Those catalogs did, in fact, allow us to dream. But everything purchased through the catalog certainly fit into the category of delayed gratification. You would place your order (by mail!) and wait (and wait and wait, at least it seemed like that to a young girl waiting for her new school clothes!) and finally the package from Sears (or whomever) would arrive....always with some successes and a couple of failures (it didn't fit, the color was awful, the shoes were ugly, etc., etc.). The returns or exchanges (also all done by mail) were difficult and annoying but there was no other choice. The catalogs provided access to all sorts of things that were affordable (of huge importance) and that you couldn't find in small towns like mine.
For the day to day things, though, you accepted the lack of variety, limited items, and higher prices and shopped locally. At least you did when you could! For one of the other aspects of life in the South in those days (prior to about 1965), was that the stores that you did have in your small town were not open all the time! Most retail establishments were open Monday through Friday (or Saturday), usually from about 8 until 5. In addition, they closed on Wednesday afternoons and sometimes Saturday afternoons. Nothing was open on Sunday except a few restaurants, a gas station or two, and all the churches! I imagine that one could find bread or milk or a few such items in a gas station, I really don't remember for sure, but for the most part the limited hours were universal. As I recall the drug stores had posted phone numbers in case of a pharmacy emergency, but I don't think we ever had one. Still, it was available for those who did. And NOTHING much was open on a holiday....even the "lesser" holidays like Labor Day or Memorial Day.
This situation meant that you had to plan ahead! You had to make sure that your trips to the grocery store were complete. If you needed something for Sunday night, you had darn well better get it by Saturday or you wouldn't get it at all! I think it was those kinds of situations that led to the stereotypical "borrowing a cup of sugar" that we all did from time to time.
"That's the Way I Remember It" and it worked just fine!
About a year or so before I moved from Florida back to Chicago (where there were VERY different retail practices), A few of the retail establishments in the small town where we were living began to stay open until 8:00 pm on Thursday evenings! Oh my word, that was an amazing concession to the fact that not every one had free time during daylight hours to accomplish their shopping. Those extra three hours felt like such a gift! I truly believe that this change came about for the convenience of their customers, NOT for the profit or benefit of the store's coffers! Nevertheless, it was the beginning of the end.
Before long stores began staying open every evening, even Saturdays; and then open a few hours on Sundays....SUNDAYS! Then all day on Sundays. Then REALLY late before Christmas (shopping at midnight? Yep, I guess so!) And then there were stores that began staying open 24 hours a day (the big box stores mainly, but not exclusively!) Then most stores staying open, at least for a while, on the lesser holidays and soon we arrived at where we are today....there are generally only two days a year where the majority of stores are still closed -- Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
|Everything was Closed for the Holiday!|
And as for the employees of those retailers who have to work on those holidays, well, that's a shame but ministers and doctors and wait staffs and the police and firefighters and pilots and bus drivers and thousands of others have been doing it for YEARS!
The final reality is that if you don't approve of stores being open on Thanksgiving (or eventually Christmas), don't go there! Spend your money another day! It's really up to us, you know....