The five and dime had everything

Published 11:00 pm Monday, December 24, 2012

Ask Agnes Jacobs about Christmastime at the dime store in Brundidge and she’ll shake her head in memory and say, “Lord, have mercy.”

Jacobs was one of the ladies who “managed” the dime store and “every young’un in town” when the V.J. Elmore five and dime was FAO Schwarz and Walmart all rolled into one.

“The dime store had everything a young’un or its mama could want,” said Jacobs, who was a dime store lady from 1947 until 1978. “It took all of us to run the dime store and sometimes if we’d had more help we could have used it.”

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The dime store had everything from toys to pots and pans, from baby bibs to oilcloth and from model airplane glue to ladies’ perfume.

“If we didn’t have it, you probably didn’t need it,” Jacobs said. “We had a big, nice candy counter and we sold tricycles, balls, cap guns, funny books, handkerchiefs, underwear, bath powder and all kinds of odds and ins. We sold it all and we were store clerks – and babysitters.”

Jacobs said it was close to the norm for women to drop their children “in” the dime store and go about town doing their shopping.

“The children would spend the afternoon plundering around in the toys and sometimes they’d get funny books and lay right out in the middle of the floor and read them,” Jacobs said. “No need to say anything about it. They were there for a while.”

Trying to manage their own children in the dime store could be more than the mothers could handle.

“Oh, I’ve seen young’uns throw temper tantrums, wanting something they couldn’t have and their mamas would tear them up right there in the middle of the aisle,” Jacobs said, laughing. “They needed and I was glad to see them get it.”

At Christmas time, there would be more people in the dime store than the ladies could shake a stick at.

“People would come in weeks before and start putting toys on layaway,” Jacobs said. “We’d have layaway everywhere. The dime store where Sandy Claus did most of his shopping, too. People would come in and pay a little this week and a little more next week, hoping they could get their layaway paid off in time for Christmas. Sometimes, people would pay a little and not ever come back. I guess, they either changed their minds or couldn’t get up the money.”

As the days to Christmas dwindled, the dime store would start staying open a little later.

“Back then, stores stayed open when people could come to town,” Jacobs said.

A lot of people farmed and it would be dark or after before they could get into town.

“On Saturdays, we stayed open until everybody had done their shopping,” Jacobs said. “Christmas was our busiest time except for Easter. We made up Easter baskets and we’d make up 300 and that wouldn’t be enough.”

Jacobs said there was no way she could begin to know how many Christmas presents the dime store ladies wrapped, from big toy trucks to a 50 cent bottle of toilet water.

“We didn’t charge to gift wrap and people would be lined up out the door and down the street,’ she said. “They would rather wait than wrap. And, on Christmas Eve, we didn’t even think about going home. Everybody in Brundidge was in town doing their last minute shopping. Back then, Christmas Eve was a big shopping day and even after dark the town would be full of people.”

And, Santa Claus would come around late to pick up those big Christmas wishes, like bicycles and tricycles. And, the dime store ladies didn’t mind waiting around.

“We knew everybody in town and we enjoyed helping them put Christmas together,” Jacobs said.

The dime store ladies often had input into what the children got because they watched as little girls’ eyes sparkled as they looked at the dolls boxed behind cellophane or little boys stood wide-eyed looking at a shiny red bike.

The dime store ladies were Santa’s elves who shared the wishes of good little boys and girls and spilled the beans on the bad ones.

Jacobs said those were happy days at the dime store at Christmastime.

There was something simply magic about those days and that place.

Christmas at the dime store – “Lordy, that was a good time,” Jacobs said.