Uptown Girl

Howard Street in the 1930s. Sara would have likely been found in Woolworth's, on the right between Kantor's and Penney's. Postcard courtesy of Donny Whitehead, aboutgreenwoodms.com

“I really enjoyed being two blocks from Howard Street where all the stores were. Mama would never let us cross the street until we were half grown, but after we moved to Big’s house she decided it would be all right for us to walk the two blocks up town. Since I was always so keen on going to town, the others would round up their nickels and dimes and send me to the Jitney Jungle store, which was just down Washington Street, to get penny candy for them. At that time you could buy a big candy bar or five little ones for five cents.

“The picture show was in the next block and Woolworth’s about three blocks away on Howard Street. I especially liked being able to go to Woolworth’s because they always had an assortment of candy in glass cases, and for five or ten cents you could get a good bit in a little bag. Mary always accused me of gobbling mine up right away and then sneaking into hers, which she let lie around for a while before she finally finished it.

“In the summer we bought stamped linens, dresser scarves and little quilts and card table covers at Woolworth’s and we would sit around on the porch and embroider them. I don’t recall ever using any of them, but I think they were meant to go in our hope chests for use after we married. Some of them may still be tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

“A girl named Lena White Miller became my best friend in the seventh grade. She lived on Market Street just a few blocks from our house, so we could walk to each other’s houses.

Lena White Miller

Back then we walked nearly everywhere we went, to school, Sunday School, football games, recitals at the Auditorium, and even across town to see our friends. We didn’t ride bicycles because Mama was afraid a car might hit us, and I really don’t remember my friends riding them much either. Even the people who had cars didn’t use them much because during the Depression they couldn’t afford to buy gas. Big would take us to school on bad days, but most of the time we walked. After Son started school, he and I walked together every day. We came home for lunch, and only the kids who rode the school bus ate in the cafeteria on a regular basis.”

Imagine a time when you walked everywhere you needed to go in Greenwood, and school let out long enough at lunch for all but the unfortunate bus kids to walk home, grab a hot meal and stroll back to campus. Or when you could dash out the front door of the Stott house and within two blocks be in Sara’s favorite destination, Woolworth’s. I have never known anyone who had the five-and-dime fixation that she did, a fascination with bargains and candy counters and soda fountains and sewing notions that was never satisfied by Walmart or Fred’s. As I’ve said before, I believe we went to Woolworth’s almost every day of my childhood, and it was one of the few places that Sara would let us loose. My goodness, everyone in there knew us like family, and I can still see the bins of toy soldiers and wind-up balsawood airplanes close to the back, on the left side, and smell the fish and turtles that were tucked into a dark aquarium space beneath an overhang of some sort. We bought Chip the Canary there (a wretched bird) and untold numbers of turtles, guppies and goldfish. Sara would be browsing the pattern books and feeling the bolts of material while we chose our toys, and we never got out without a trip by the candy counter. It was a sad, dark day when Woolworth’s closed its doors, a blow that I’m not sure Sara ever got over. I still think about her and how much joy she experienced within those walls whenever I go by Russell-Thomas antiques. It’s a lovely store, not one Sara would have frequented, but they have left the tiny black-and-white entrance tiles from Woolworth’s in place, and for that I’m grateful. Just a quiet little gift from the past.

About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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