MAIN STREET MEMORIES

     We don't see them very often nowadays, but most of us remember them. They were located on Main Street in Patchogue. They went by a variety of names, but they always appealed to us for one reason or another.  They were known as McClellan's, Kressge's, Woolworth's, and W.T. Grants.

     They often had doors that were large and hard to pull. They were a place where as young children we bought a small turtle or a gold fish for ten cents and would carry it home in a small white carton.

     As teens we gathered to try on some neat sun glasses, glance over the latest shades of lipsticks, buy the latest fashions and listen to and purchase the latest 45 singles or 33 rpm albums.  Many of us had our first jobs there and used the small salaries earned to fund our purchases. Most visits ended at the soda fountain over an egg cream, a cherry coke or a hot fudge sundae.

     You could get a variety of things at the Five and Dime. So many items were sold for such a small price. Our Mothers would come in and check over the yard goods and look through Vogue, McCall's and other fashion magazines with patterns.  Another area displayed a full spectrum of popular magazines for Dads and teenage boys. Everything from clothes, small furniture, lawn mowersd and garden supplies, tools and hardware, small appliances and those modern black and white tv's were on display.  Kids of all ages could view toy soldiers, dolls, or what ever was their heart's desire. It was a time when the store manager or owner knew everyone, and we always said hello and acted polite, because he knew our Mom and Dad.

     Grant's had a lunch counter with stools where we could order fries, a cheeseburger and a shake.  Bob and Warren's mother, Mrs. Beitel was the manager and we all knew she would nor hesitate to call our parents if we misbehaved. She always had a daily special and an extra large portion for the Bayport High School students who frequented the store at lunch time or those of us who worked there in the summer.  Women and girls in starched uniforms and aprons would wait on us. Their hair was done up and covered neatly with a hair net.  The booths with the large seats were big enough for three girls on one side and three guys on the other. We'd opt for the booths over the swivel stools at the counter because each booth had a small juke box with our favorite selections.

     When Thanksgiving approached, decorations would appear. Just after Halloween, harvest scenes with pilgrims, turkeys and pumpkins were placed in the display windows for all to see. A large box for canned food donations was set up for customers to remember those less fortunate, and people back then always did.

     We never saw a Christmas decoration until the first week in December, and we could hardly wait to see the toys and items that were so popular that year. There was always a manger scene with a bright star over it. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were set up as a welcome display. The Salvation Army Santa was always on the Four Corners by Sweezey's with his kettle and bell, guarded by Patchogue's watchdog Duke.  

          Patchogue’s, Blue Point's and Bayport's Town Christmas Trees were located exactly where they grew, and that was along Main Street, Blue Point Avenue, and Middle Road (near Shand’s), not close to the parking, but in full view for all to see.  The living Christmas tree’s would be covered with lights twenty sizes larger than the ones we see today.  A few large balls, some tinsel and an angel on top would complete the decor. On the Monday night in December the trees were officially lit.  Patchogue's stores would stay open until 9PM to allow customers to shop a little longer. (For the rest of the holiday season they would stay open on both Monday and Friday nights!)

     The smell of freshly made popcorn, peanut brittle, hot chocolate and coffee on Main Street would remind us that the time of year for being extra good was here.

     In store windows we would see that special pair of skates or a Lionel or American Flyer train set with a whistle tooting, as it made stops along the tracks, while in the background a record with Gene Autry would play, as he sang Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.

     In the late 60s land developers began to visualize a compact shopping experience, where customers could go into a variety of stores without the congestion of the downtown area. By the mid 70s the malls and their big department stores were going up all over, and the small Five and Dime Stores were beginning to become a thing of the past.

     When I pass through a town today and see a Dollar Store, I think of the old Five and Dimes.  Should I see a Five and Dime, I often stop and relive those cherised memories of my childhood,  knowing  there are so few left. There is something nostalgic about such a visit, bringing me back to the 50s where so much fun and great buys could be found at these places.

    I sometimes think of how much we have lost to progress. It is fun to let my mind go back to a simpler time and the memories of a juke box playing Mr. Blue, and all the great things found at the Five and Dime.

Return to Long Island Index