Skip to content

September 30, 2021

Five-and-Dime Memories

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                Hearing on the news today about one of the dollar stores brought my mind back to the five-and-dime stores of my youth.  Seven miles from my hometown of Blanford, Indiana, is the next town of notable size and shopping opportunities, as well as the high school which my sister and I attended.  The shopping area was only a block east of Clinton High School (Clinton, Indiana).  On Main Street for decades were two five-and-dime stores:  G.C. Murphy Co. was mid-block, and directly to the north at the corner of Main and Mulberry was Horney’s Variety Store.  For the first two decades of my life, I enjoyed shopping at these stores.  Despite my most often referring to these stores by their proper names or “the dime store,” I heard others call them “the ten-cents store” or “the five-and-dime.”  While Horney’s was locally owned, G. C. Murphy’s was part of a chain which was in business from 1906 until 2002.  Until I did a little research for this blog post, I never knew that “G.C.” stood for “George Clinton”–a coincidence since the Hoosier town was called Clinton.  Three front doors led to the large Murphy’s Store.  I recall that two entrances were of the trapezoid-shaped type; the third, farthest to the north was a regular doorway which led to the part of the store with school and office supplies.  Walking on the old wooden floors to the back portion of the store, one would find the pet department–one big difference between Murphy’s and Horney’s.  What was to me at the time a large aquarium was a fascination for me as a child.  Through my early years, I purchased two goldfish at a time, a fish bowl, pebbles for the bottom of the bowl, and later a ceramic cave for the enjoyment of the fish.  Periodically, I purchased the neat boxes of fish food.  Although I would look at the little turtles which were for sale, I never had any interest in purchasing one of the little green turtles.  Most likely, my dad and I purchased at this store some of the collars and leashes for our dogs of long-ago decades.

                Near the pet aisles was another favorite part of the store:  during the holiday season, Murphy’s sold a wonderful variety of Christmas decorations.  Since I have always loved decorating for the holiday season, I especially liked perusing the Christmas counters several times before deciding what I wanted to purchase to add to our collection of holiday décor. 

                Unlike Horney’s, Murphy’s did stock clothing in the back of the other two sections of the store although I never recall purchasing clothing at Murphy’s. 

                As was traditional for five-and-dime stores, the candy counter was prominently displayed at a front entrance to the store.  I knew this candy counter quite well.  Even though I most often carefully looked all around the glass counters, I almost always used my dime to buy a small white sack of caramellos–a caramel ring of candy with a cream center–my favorite!  On occasion, I chose the colorful bonbons with the coconut filling.  By the time I was in high school (which had an open lunch period when we were allowed to go off the school block to the downtown area), I, during the fall semester, sometimes skipped the thirty-cent school lunch and purchased a nickel candy bar (usually a Snickers) to eat for lunch.  In this manner, I was able to save a quarter, each of which added up before the holidays so that I could purchase Christmas gifts with my own saved money.

                Leaving Murphy’s, one could walk a little more than half a block to Horney’s which had two entrances on Main Street, as well as one side door on Mulberry Street.  As I grew older, I really preferred shopping at this five-and-dime store–or variety store.  When I was preparing to move into my first apartment, I selected four clear glass tulip-type sundae glasses for ice cream and five clear glass apothecary jars for holding flour, sugar, tea bags, etc., on my first kitchen counter.  Approximately 49 years later, I still have those four very inexpensive sundae glasses.  Also, although I gave to the Goodwill or Salvation Army, two or three of the apothecary jars, I still use the largest one for holding boxed bars of soap and guest or decorative towels in the bathroom; the smallest of the apothecary jars is where I store my almost-antique marbles. 

                Until the big box store outside town, on Highway 63 became dominant, the five-and-dime stores on Main were often filled with shoppers and friendly and familiar clerks who worked at the stores for entire careers.

On February 13, 1935, the board of F.W. Woolworth–the first five-and-dime–voted that their stores no longer need sell each item for twenty cents.  How the world was changing then and now!

In the comments section, please add your two-cents worth by adding your recollections of shopping at a five-and-dime store.  Thank you!

WORDWALK NOTE:  After a move across the courtyard, I am very happy to land back on WORDWALK.  During the past less than seventeen months, I have moved three times–something which I absolutely do not recommend!  Happily, Willow and I are back to where I had lived for 23 years.  How delighted I will be to be settled and back to regular writing and weekly postings on WORDWALK!  Now, I hope to return to my posting each Wednesday for my WORDWALK readers.  As always, I appreciate your reading my blog posts and greatly thank those of you who take the time to comment.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy autumn!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

September 29, 2021, Wednesday

(Posting delayed due to internet issues on Wednesday night!)


From → Uncategorized

  1. mfanyo permalink

    How nice to begin this morning with your detailed descriptions of two very special stores that were important in our lifetime, Alice! You highlighted my most vivid memories of Murphy’s—the pet aisle and the candy counter. You’ll be surprised to learn that my favorite candy was not something chocolate, but rather the same cream-filled caramels that you also liked! I can still picture the smiling face of the clerk who helped us. In my mind, I can also hear the creaking floors throughout the store. My recollection of Horney’s is that it was much more crowded with merchandise than Murphy’s, but still a great place to shop. The children of the family were classmates and friends of mine. Wouldn’t we have fun shopping with our grandchildren at one of these historic places?

    With love and appreciation,

  2. Susan M. McKendry permalink

    Alice–This was a very enjoyable post to read, and it brought back many memories. Unlike you, I grew up in New Berlin before it was a city and was mostly a farming area. The “town” was the Catholic Church and a few taverns which were later joined by a small convenience store and many years later, a drive-in restaurant featuring pizza, something we had never heard of! Frank and Josephine DiSantis gave me my first non-babysitting job there as a teen.

    West Allis and Waukesha were our nearest cities, and because my father worked in West Allis, that was where we headed for major shopping, other than an occasional trip to downtown Milwaukee on the Rapid Transit.

    Once a year, before Christmas, Mom would give each of us who were old enough, $1 to do our Christmas shopping at Woolworths. We were able to buy something for our parents and siblings with that $1 because the time preceded the arrival of a couple more siblings. One year, my brother and I went in together and we felt like we were millionaires! We did spend 1/2 the money on an apron for Mom, and later we made sure she knew how much it cost. We spent what seemed like hours going through the aisles while carefully keeping a tally of how much we had left after each selection. Now that I think of it, it was a good lesson in money management, which it sounds like you also had. Of course the gifts were not lavish, but it was a different era, and it was so much fun thinking of how family members would like the presents. And after we got home, wrapping them to keep the secret until they could be put under the tree on Christmas eve, was also part of the fun. We each also got one big gift from Santa, still very modest compared to what children get today. But for us country bumpkins all of this added up to the most magical time of the year.

    I always enjoy your posts of Blanford and Clinton, and this one was no exception.


    • Hi, Sue–Many thanks for sharing some of your memories centered on
      shopping!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments.

      Talk with you soon–Alice and Willow

  3. Susan McKendry permalink

    Forgot to mention that we called Woolworths “the dime store. “

    • Hello, again, Sue–Since I have more information about Woolworth’s which
      I did not include in this week’s blog, I may write about Woolworth’s
      next Wednesday evening.

      More soon–Alice and Willow

  4. Dear Alice,
    I am always astounded at your recall of the details of life in small town Indiana! How we loved going to town, especially evenings when many people, at least by Clinton standards, gathered.

    I too loved the candy/peanut counter enjoying those same caramels that you and Mary mentioned, but my favorites were the white nougats with the jewel colored gels in them. The clear cellophane that wrapped them could get very sticky. Dad always would agree to a dime to buy warm roasted red skin “Spanish” peanuts. Chocolate had not yet entered my world.

    Horney’s was exciting because it had that mysterious upstairs area. I don’t recall all that was up there but I think sports equipment. I do recall that my softball mitt came from somewhere in the store.

    You have done another amazing job of chronicling life in Clinton.

    I’m glad your move is completed; you are a brave soul to accept that challenge again. More on all of that in a soon to come email.

    • Hi, Fran–How great to hear from you again!  I hope that your move also
      went smoothly.  Thanks for adding your perspective on this post.  Yes, I
      do recall the toy department, at times, being located upstairs at
      Horney’s.  When Mary and I were discussing Halloween memories, I
      realized that I had forgotten to mention that Murphy’s sold Halloween
      costumes on the seasonal counter. Your comment brought to mind that on a
      rare occasion, we purchased cashews at the candy counter.  The
      Main-Street concept appeals to me much more than malls for shopping and

      Happy autumn memories!

      Alice and Willow

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: