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Did you go to the five and dime store?
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Taking the bus downtown was always a special occasion.
As a youngster, it was a sign of growing up and getting a sense of independence by not relying on the folks to drive you around.
We were still a few years from a driver’s license. Still, I have some rather fond memories of those days growing up in Stockton.
Just the mention of downtown back then meant hearing one of the old timers ask, “Did you go to the five and dime store?”
For years, I wasn’t exactly sure of the reference.
But thanks to the Internet we’re able to conduct a quick research.
Oh, by the way, we didn’t have computers, VCRs, DVDs, cell phones, or satellite television when I was growing up. In order to look things up often meant a visit to the library or scanning through any of the encyclopedia volumes.
Today’s five and dime store would be places like any of the 99 Cent Only or Dollar Trees. Nothing more than a $1.
But decades earlier, JJ Newberry, FW Woolworth, Kress or any of those type of stores offered plenty of inexpensive goodies at no more than a nickel or dime, especially during the Depression Era.
Of course, many of the same dime store items today might be worth a mint, depending on condition. Don’t believe me? Drop into any antique store or, better yet, log on to eBay.
A few of these types of stores were still around when I was a kid. Kress, as I recall, had a downstairs soda fountain. Getting a hot dog there was always a treat.
An end of an era came when Woolworth closed and razed to make way for a bank. Today, the site is home to Washington Mutual, at least for now, but will soon become the Stockton City Hall Annex.
Kress is also closed but the building remains. Last I checked the place was used for storage.
However, I was glad to see that the old Newberry building is still in operation, with a few businesses and a couple of restaurants recently opening in that location. The exterior looks nearly the same.
The downtown of today is a far cry from that of my youth. Businesses including Penny’s were making their way to suburban shopping malls, but I can still remember plenty of pedestrian traffic along those city streets.
But unless you have jury duty, there’s very few reasons to go there during the day.
There’s several good restaurants that more than makes it worth the drive not to mention any event at the Bob Hope Theater and maybe the Friday morning farmers market.
Gone are clothing stores (Mode O’Day, Rosenthal’s, and Berg’s, to name a few), specialty places (Main Street Bicycle, The Toy House, Freitas Records, Gluskin’s cameras and photos), and even the pharmacies (Thrifty’s, Day and Night).
When I reminisce of old downtown Stockton to my 13-year-old son, Josh, I’ll suddenly catch myself sounding much like those old timers I used to encounter.
For me, those were happy times.
And like any parent, you can only hope that your kid’s memories of growing up will also be filled with the same fondness of how things used to be years from now when he looks back.
Even if it’s about video games, skate boards, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart.