Recalling old 5’s and 10’s, a scene of merry heckling before Christmas: December 16, 1989 | News, Sports, Jobs

“Christmas time is approaching, and it’s memory time again, and I remember Christmas and Murphy’s 5 & 10. The first thing you noticed was their big window sign , from now until Christmas we will be open until 9. They never worked on Sunday so it was a 6 day week. And it was so overcrowded that you could hardly hear the creaking of the floors. Why would we bundle up really nice, To beat the winter cold, And we could do our shopping, With a big $ 5 bill.

“A new ashtray for mom and dad, a plastic rose. Scarf for our sisters and grandmother, cotton stockings. You could get into the spirit, right inside the door, that’s where they played the records, White Christmas, Rudolph and more. But now we have our malls, Where we do our shopping for all our loved ones. But it’s definitely not the same as, The old Murphy’s 5 & 10. Ruth Ann Hinerman Moundsville.

A reader sent me these few lines with the notation, “this could be a seed for nostalgic Christmas thoughts.” That’s all.

There was a time when the West Virginia landscape was dotted with 5 and 10 cent Murphy’s stores. It was the closest thing to a mall that small towns could boast of. Murphy stores always seemed to be busy, especially before Christmas.

In the late 1930s, the GC Murphy Co. store was the retail center of Logan, West Virginia. By this time, the mining industry was starting to recover from the Depression. The miners had money in their pockets. They spent a lot of it in December at two locations, the Dime Store and the State Liquor Store. Although the Salvation Army had bell ringers at both sites, the liquor store kiosk was by far the most profitable. Few miners could muster the courage to ignore the Salvation Army’s call while holding a sack of Christmas cheer. There were strategically located bell ringers in the liquor store, making any exit like a glove. Paper money usually floated in the buckets.

As the miners frequented the state store, their wives and children descended on the 5th and 10th. In the days leading up to Christmas, it was a scene of merry heckling. The aisles were packed with customers, which made the drive from one end of the store to the other a long trip. There was a lot to see. The candy displays were fascinating. There were mountains of chocolate drops, some loose, others cleverly arranged in little baskets. How good they were! Hard candies were piled in profusion and boxes of chocolate-coated cherries were piled skyward.

At 29 cents, a box of these was a perfect gift for his mother from a little boy who knew he would eat most of them once the presents were unwrapped on Christmas Day.

Some measure of time can be gleaned from the fact that after buying candy for his mother, a celluloid “Betty Boop” doll for his sister and a handkerchief for his dad, the little boy still had dollar money allocated for Christmas gifts. This prompted a return to the candy counter and measured deliberation on how to divide the purchase between chocolate drops and hard candies. The chocolate drops lasted longer but didn’t last that long. The philosophical implications were enormous, whether it was sacrificing immediate intense pleasure for lesser but more lasting benefits. This is still a question that we still encounter from time to time. This little boy usually went for chocolate drops, buying only enough hard candy to get him the 16 miles, an hour’s ride home. But he still saved a few pennies to put in the bucket outside, so he could feel the warm glow that emitted when the Salvation Army attendant smiled and said: “God bless you! Merry Christmas!” without missing a single ringtone.

Standing outside the dime store over there on Stratton Street, listening to Christmas carols over the scratchy speakers (that was before “White Christmas” Where “Rodolphe” had managed to get to the scene), watching the traffic go by, blissfully sucking a drop of chocolate, hearing the constant murmur of “Thank you,” and “God bless you,” and “Merry Christmas”, yes, the lines on Murphy’s 5’s and 10’s planted a seed for nostalgic Christmas thoughts. After more than half a century, there aren’t many Murphy’s stores left in our small towns in West Virginia. The traffic, whatever there is, now passes quickly through Logan. A dollar certainly won’t buy three presents, let alone chocolate and hard candy, with a little something left for the Salvation Army bucket. “…… now we have our malls, where we shop for all of our loved ones, but it’s definitely not the same as, The old Murphy’s 5 & 10.”

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