Five and Dimes

Image Credit: Pinterest

As the read through the library continues, I have reached a section that has many topics that I just love. It is so hard to only choose a few books to share. The Family and Home Management section has many books which deal with actual family management such as schedules, getting everyone fed, finding the balance between home life and work life, cleaning,  having a well organized home, saving money on family budgets, and so much more.  These are the books I’ve checked out this time:

While I won’t have the time or space to explore all of these books in depth, I will discuss a few of my favorites from this grouping. My favorite book from this grouping is 99c Solutions, a Reader’s Digest book. This book can be read in several ways. It can be used as a reference book to find solutions (by using products for other than their intended use to solve problems),  it can be read by reading particular components of each chapter and learning history or trivia. It can also be used to research things like the origins of products,  producers,  and in some cases people.

Inside Woolworth's

Creatively modeled on store aisles, the chapters in 99c Solutions are called Aisles 1-8. Each aisle contains the groupings of groceries, health and beauty, gardening and outdoors, cleaning and home supplies, housewares, notions, school and party supplies, and tools. The “store” model for this book is based on the old five and dime stores such as Woolworth’s, McCrory’s, and Ben Franklin. Published in 2010 I thought 99c Solutions might be a bit dated and the solutions more expensive. Happily I was wrong. With the advent of dollar stores, this book is still quite relevant (ok so it might be a penny more expensive). This book can save the reader time, money, and work.

I love everything about 99c Solutions from the solutions to the format.  Each aisle is laid out in a particular order to make items easy to find. Using Aisle 2, Health and Beauty, as an example each aisle introduces the types of name brand products you can find at dollar stores and hints at other uses those products might serve; a cotton ball can be used to start campfires or toothpaste can be used to fight pimples.

Bubble Bath

 Solutions are always listed alphabetically. Several solutions are given per aisle and most items have more than one solution. Bubble bath can be used to wash and shine your vehicle, to replace hand soap, or to wash the leaves of your houseplants and give them a healthy shine. Calamine lotion can be used to soothe heat rash, hives, and blisters as well used for Halloween make up. In Aisle 2 there are 38 products listed with multiple uses per product.

As one advances through the aisle there are items creatively on display with photographs or illustrations. In Aisle 2 we find displays of antacid, Johnson’s Baby Powder, bath oil, cotton swabs, emery boards, conditioner with lanolin, and hydrogen peroxide. Each display item touts a use distinct from it’s original purpose. For example the bath oil display says it can be used to keep patent leather shoes looking sharp. Just moisten a clean soft cloth with a few drops of the oil and gently rub a little onto your patent leather shoes. The illustrations throughout the aisles remind the shopper how much money can be saved by buying cheap multiple use products.

Johnson's Baby Pure Cornstarch Powder

Image Credit: Google

Throughout the aisle are informational blocks  called “Who Knew?” which seem remarkably up to date. The informational blocks give some interesting trivia and history about various products which may or may not be on display nearby.  For example Johnson’s Baby Power was originally invented to coat self adhesive bandages, prevent skin irritations, and keep covered skin comfortable. Later there was curiosity about whether talc could be used for other purposes. In 1893 Johnson’s Baby Powder, which was made with talc, was marketed in metal tins. After the invention of plastic bottles Johnson’s Baby Powder has been in a plastic bottle as we know it today. The informational block goes on to say that many pediatricians recommend against the use of talc now. Johnson’s now makes a cornstarch based formula.

Additionally in every aisle there are histories of particular brand names. Each history is two pages long and both pages are visible at once. In Aisle 2 the histories of Bayer Aspirin, hydrogen peroxide, and mouthwash are given. The histories all contain the product in an original form, people using the product, or early ads for a product.

Pond's Cold Cream

Aisle 2 also contains two sections called “The Story Behind…” and gives a brief story behind a particular product and includes an early ad along with a photo of the original product. In the case of Pond’s Cold Cream a pharmacist from Utica, New York observed Native Americans treating small cuts and various ailments with witch hazel tea. The pharmacist, Theron T. Pond, founded the T. T. Pond Company and extracted witch hazel from a plant to produce a healing cream called Golden Treasure which was later renamed Pond’s Extract. This was the first commercial use of witch hazel. Pond’s Cold Cream, specifically made for the face with witch hazel was introduced in 1905. Although cold cream has been around since ancient times, Pond’s marketing soon made his cold cream the brand to have.

Every aisle also has two brief sections called “Way Back When…” In Aisle 2 these sections are titled “The Ballpoint Pen Inspired Ban Roll On” and “Lipstick.” These sections are one paragraph long and very interesting. There are also two two page sections called “A Different Solution” which lists multiple other uses for select products. In Aisle 2 there are 10 more uses for hair spray and 7 more uses for toothpaste.

Woolworth's Lunch Counter

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With 99c Solutions being modeled on the five and dime stores of yesteryear, it would not be complete without mentioning the lunch counters found in stores such as Woolworth’s. After Aisle 8 there is a  “Daily Special” section called “Lunch Counter Legends” complete with several pages of recipes for the types of food and treats served at the lunch counter. The recipes include soups, “blue plate specials,” sandwiches, sides, and of course desserts which include pies, pudding, cake, and cookies. To rinse down all of these delicious foods the customer could order coffee, milkshakes, and soda fountain drinks which included such concoctions as chocolate egg cream, lime rickey, and root beer and other types of  floats.  A section called “The Float Family” gives basic recipes for Root Beer Floats, Brown Cow, Coke Floats, Purple Cow, and Sherbet Floats.

As in the Aisles there are “The Story Behind…” sections. At the lunch counter there are stories behind Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, Chocolate Egg Cream, and Jell-O Pudding Mixes. There are “Who Knew?” blocks that discuss Gorton’s Fish Cakes and applesauce. Also included is a “Way Back When..” section that gives a brief history about Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. 

Frank Winfield Woolworth

Frank Winfield Woolworth

Image Credit: Alchetron

A larger two page section called “A Snapshot in Time…” gives historical facts about the famous Woolworth’s lunch counters. At one time America’s shopping districts were often dominated by one large general store which oftentimes was a Woolworth’s. When a dry goods worker named Frank Winfield Woolworth opened shop in Utica, New York in 1870, the Woolworth’s store was born. The first Woolworth’s to open struggled but that didn’t stop Frank from opening a second Woolworth’s in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This second store thrived.

Before the opening of Woolworth’s when Americans shopped at a general store they had to go to a store clerk and ask for what they wanted since all goods were kept behind a counter. Frank revolutionized the American shopping experience by allowing his customers to handle the merchandise and allowing them to collect the things they wanted to buy. Woolworth’s became the first store ever to allow this type of shopping. Customers loved the idea as evidenced by the way the store was thriving.

Woolworth's Ad. QNS

About this time Frank had another idea. He believed everything in his stores should be affordable. Everything at Woolworth’s was originally priced at 5 or 10 cents. Because of these two major changes made by Woolworth’s the stores became known as “five-and-dime stores.”  (Later prices rose with inflation but  still remained affordable to the average person. However the terms “five and dime” or “dime store” were still used to describe any store similar to Woolworth’s.) Revolutionary new ways of doing business made Woolworth’s stores destination shopping places. Customers could spend large blocks of time browsing in the stores. Woolworth’s stores spread across the country.

Woolworth's Menu

Image credit: Pinterest

The longer customers stayed in the stores the more likely they were to get hungry. Woolworth’s began opening lunch counters during a time when most people still ate at home. Shopping with children became easier since they loved going to the pet department and then having lunch at the counter. This is when Americans began to “eat on the go.” Almost everything on the lunch counter menu was less than 50 cents which made the lunches affordable. A customer could order a sandwich, a milkshake, and a piece of pie for around 85 cents. Working people soon realized that they too could eat lunch at Woolworth’s without breaking their budget. Teenagers began taking dates to Woolworth’s where they usually shared fries and  and Cokes made with syrup and seltzer. Grandparents could afford to take their grandchildren to Woolworth’s for treats. Sundaes and Banana Splits were served with traditional balloons. Some balloons were called “Lucky Balloons.”  To discover if their balloon was lucky, children popped the balloons. Lucky balloons had pieces of paper in them that discounted menu items to 1 cent. In effect they were fun coupons. People loved going to Woolworth’s just for the lunch counter. The lunch counters were so popular that some of them were quite large. A lunch counter in Los Angeles was 100 yards long and boasted of being “the longest lunch counter in the world” in 1937.

Employees of lunch counters and diners began to develop their own language. For example if you went to a lunch counter and told the waitress you wanted to order beef stew and crackers she would call back to the cook that she needed “Bossy in a bowl with dog biscuits.” There is a fun page included entitled “Lunch Counter Lingo” along with the “translations.” This is an interesting piece of Americana, indeed.

Since this post has gotten rather lengthy, I will  just briefly mention my 2nd and third picks from this grouping of books. My second pick is Simple Home Solutions (with Martha Stewart). I absolutely love adult picture books that show how to organize just about anything. This is the type of book that you can just “read the pictures” if you wanted to. Usually I “read pictures” with this type of book and then read the words describing anything that really gets my attention. I am living in an old fixer upper house while also renovating it so I am constantly having to juggle things around and find new and unique ways to organize things. Books like these can also serve as an inspiration for new ideas or helping to adapt concepts in practical ways to suit personal needs for storage and organization.

My third pick is Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides. Also published in 2010 this book is still applicable to today’s shopping. I always joke that I’m really good at “free and cheap.” This book just confirmed that for me! There are great strategies in this book to help anyone save money when grocery and supply shopping. There are several books of this type in existence but what I really liked about this book is that you can take a short quiz to determine your level of ability to shop cheaply. Once you determine your score from the quiz you can find out if you have everything to learn or if you fall into one of three categories: Timid Mouse, Wise Owl, or an Amazing Ant. In my opinion the beginners and Timid Mouse people should read every word of this book. It really will help you save money! Wise Owls and Amazing Ants can probably skim read the book pausing to read carefully any section they feel may help them. At the end of every chapter there are tips for any category to learn from and everyone should read the tips designated for their skill level. Everyone can learn something.

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Post Script: A Word of Explanation:

Unfortunately I was going through a time of personal turmoil with multiple deaths in my family and then got locked out of my WordPress account until very recently.  Then the Pandemic hit and things were just weird for awhile with everyone being off work. However the read through the library was still happening. When I first became locked out of the account Dewey Hop was exploring the 390’s, Customs, Etiquette, & Folklore with the last post being  Death Customs. Currently the read through has reached the 640’s. Home and Family Management. For the 250 Numbers in between I will be trying to “fill them in” with shorter posts just to give Dewey Hop readers a taste of what they missed. Be sure to scroll through the old posts occasionally to see if you can discover something you missed or something I’ve slipped in!

9 thoughts on “Five and Dimes

  1. Love this post! Reading this brought back wonderful memories of visiting our “Dime store” which was actually Woolworth’s. I never called it Woolworth’s until I was older. Also, I remember sitting at the lunch counter at Rose’s department store. The toy aisle was directly across from the lunch counter. I had to finish my meal before I could go look at the toys and dream.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my goodness – I remember Woolworths! I had the best grilled cheese and milkshake there as a kid (well to a kid everything taste so good when it is your favorite thing). Glad you are working your way through the library again! Glad to read your post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Tierney. I also have fond memories of Woolworth’s. The lunch counter at Woolworth’s was one of the first places I was allowed to go and order by myself when I was a kid. I thought I was hot stuff. Oh and I’m suddenly craving grilled cheese…

      Liked by 1 person

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