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Stores Left Their Imprints

I miss G.C. Murphy’s. Now before all you mayors out there start groaning, bear me out. I am not lamenting the loss of major retail in your downtowns. I am not dissing the way you and your elected cohorts run your cities and towns today. I realize that times and cities change with the ebb and flow of populations, and shopping habits are all part of that equation.

After all, I’ve been around the block long enough to have lived through streets teeming with people, to the development of malls that take us miles from our homes and downtowns. And now, I face the facts that a lot of people shop without even leaving their homes.

The funny thing is that a younger generation thinks it invented such things. Allow me to set you straight. Many years ago, stores such as Stone and Thomas, Sears, L.S. Good’s, Hornes, Kaufman’s and so on would run advertisements in the newspaper. If you saw a certain set of sheets or sports coat you’d like to buy, you could drive to town and make the purchase. Or you could pick up your home phone and dial, yes dial, the telephone number of one of these local stores. Some helpful sales clerk, usually someone you knew, would fill your order over the phone and have the items delivered to your home.

It was not unusual to see trucks bearing the names of these stores riding through the neighborhoods to deliver the goods. There were jobs to be had delivering packages from these stores long before UPS and FedEx became household names.

But back to Murphy’s. That five and dime store was a mecca for families on a budget. In Wheeling, the store had two floors and the basement was probably my favorite place to visit when I was growing up. It was in the basement where they kept the live birds and assorted small pets. Who didn’t, at least once, carry home a goldfish in a clear, plastic bag filled with water?

Upstairs, the store held everything imaginable for the home and person. It is where our mom took us Christmas shopping for our siblings each year. And no one left disappointed with their $5 purchases. And who could forget the hand-dipped ice cream milkshakes and sodas at the lunch counter?

You can take the stores out of a town, but you can’t take the memories they left behind.

Heather Ziegler can be reached at: hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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