SUNDAY SOLILOLQUY Remember those five and ten cent stores [music and photographs]

The Five Cent Store


Inez McCollum

I’m not sure whether I was fourteen or fifteen when I started working on Saturday’s at the local V. J.  Elmore Store. (We called it the dime store or ten cent store.) I was young enough that a Worker’s Permit was required with the signature of my high school Principal agreeing that my grades were good enough to merit my employment.V. J. elmore

The hours on Saturday were 8:30 A.M. until 6:00 P.M. During holidays, I would work after school. I worked all day and compensation was less than one hour’s work would be today. I did earn my spending money and also bought some of my clothing. If he felt these were necessary items, my Dad would reimburse me.five and dime

I did get a lot of experience as an employee. Whenever I see Easter Baskets, I have fond memories of stuffing baskets and covering them with sheets of pastel-colored cellophane. We would count or weigh each kind of candy for the basket which we had already filled with crushed paper covered with shredded cellophane. The Manager would laughingly say that after a day of working with those baskets, very little candy would be eaten by those putting the baskets together. He was absolutely correct!

I have great respect for clerks working at stores during Christmas Holidays. Being out of school during that time gave me many more hours to work each week. There was a song several years ago about a “Million Dollar Baby in the Five and Dime Store.” She might have had a million dollar smile; but she was really very tired by the end of the day.

I often worked in the cosmetic department. That was quite an education! A street beggar sat outside the store, asking passers-by for money. When he would get enough money, he would come to my counter and purchase a bottle of Lilac After Shave Lotion. He would go to the alley behind the store and drink the shaving lotion. After that bit of refreshment, he would return to his spot on the sidewalk, outside the store. By the end of the day, his face would be blood red. I have often wondered how long that poor man lived or was he so pickled that he is still alive somewhere?pinaud-clubman-lilac-vegetal-after-shave-lotion

I would substitute at the candy counter during lunch break for the usual person in that area. In addition to candy, we sold popcorn, which was popped on the spot and peanuts, that were cooked at the counter. Both of these were prepared in bulk.popcorn

Another popular item was ice cream. One flavor, which we did not sell during the summer, was grape. During those days, stores were not air conditioned and the grape flavored ice cream would melt easily.Grape ice cream

I also learned to inventory. This is one experience I was able to use during my sons’ high school years. We parents would take inventory at some of the department stores as a fundraising project.

While in Branson, MO for a few days last year, I discovered an old-fashioned dime store! It was nice to browse around as a customer, not an employee! They even had some of that aftershave lotion. Honestly, I did not sample it!

Tattletale Parrot Bama Cotter, artist, owns an art and craft shop in a small town in Alabama. She inherits a dead woman’s nosy parrot, who quotes Shakespeare, and they reveal the identity of an unlikely murderer to Indian police chief, Boone Lightfoot



  1. Sounds like my experience also!

  2. oh, yes, I remember……. was there at 14

  3. Oh, yes. In West End, we had Skelton’s and Spivey’s. I could look all day…look being the key word because I had no money!

  4. My Mom and Dad met working at V. J. Elmore.

  5. Used to shop at the one in Oneonta, AL…back in 50’s.

  6. Yes but now they are called the $ Tree! Cost of living you know!!

  7. If no one was at the counter, you would tap on it with your nickel! This post brought this memory! Thanks!


  9. Georgiana Alabama folks, what was the last thing you remember buying at Mr. Wolfe’s store?

  10. i remember– i was pretty young

  11. Moundville, AL next the local drug store/ soda fountain/ candy store was next to the Mercantile

  12. Now we have the dollar tree and the dollar store

  13. Oh no!! We’ve finally reached the point where the Ben Franklin 5&10 stores have made it to the Alabama Pioneers website. Guess I should get out and find a cane.

  14. Back around 2002, I remodeled Jay Elmore house, he is v.j. Elmore grandson. They made a killing. He is not hurting.

  15. Loved that store. Bought paper dolls there, and doubled dipped ice cream. My brother in law was a manager.

  16. Elmore’ s was a great store. The dime store.

  17. Elmore’s Five & Ten-cent Store, Andalusia, Alabama…50s.

  18. I remember them. My father helped build them all over the southeast!

  19. James Roberts: I worked for Elmore’s when I was 16

  20. I started in management in 1968 where I met my wife in pulaski tenn, I was 17 and she was 15, I was store manager for several years in several stores and states, some good times. My wife and I are still happily married and speak of Elmore’s often, the stores were much different from dollar stores with 26 departments and a lot of brand name items, especially the shoping center and mall stores they were actually more like a mini walmart store in which I managed several of these also.

    1. I started to work for Elmores in 1965. Worked there for 15 yrs. The last 10 yrs I was a district manager, working North Alabama and most of Tn.. I remember the Pulaski store well. Do you remember who the manager was when you were there? What other stores did you work in? It is so great to be in contact with someone from Elmores.

      1. Raymond, when I worked in Pulaski Tenn. Tom Wallace was manger, Tom still lives there, when we visit my wife’s family we still sometime see him, Pulaski is still about the same. I managed stores in Prattville Ala., Fitzgerald Ga., Evergreen Ala., Dublin Ga. and Bainbridge Ga. I worked under distric managers, Willie Morrow, Charlie Sweat, Bill Murner and Gerald Anthony, can’t remember who was D. M. In Prattville. These were some of my fondness memories, yes it is good to talk to someone from these good times!

  21. I also remember working at VJ Elmores, Elba, Al.. I started when I was 15, had to have a work permit. Worked on Saturdays, and after school. I worked there until I graduated high school. Fond memories. Remember doing those EAster baskets, also remember filling bags of chocolate covered peanuts and also eating my fill. I remember when we had those old timey cash registers planted over the store. Like you did we had one customer who would buy after shave and go out in the alley and drink it. I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything. Wish we still had them.

  22. I too worked at a V. J. Elmore’s in the late 50’s. Had similar experiences. Made Easter Baskets, worked at candy counter, took inventory, etc.. worked after school & on Saturdays. I learned a lot about people & how they spent their money!

  23. I worked at Clower’s Store during the Forties as a young teen.

  24. Started working at Elmore’s when I was 16! Here in Tallassee, we called it the 10 cent store. Late 50s

    1. Martha Pugh The Dime Store – great memories!

  25. I started working at Clowers.at 14 on Saturdays . It was called The Fair Store. Two dollars a day.

  26. When I was growing up there was an Elmore’s and a Redfords on main Street in Boaz Alabama Close my eyes and still smell the popcorn

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