Wednesday, November 8, 2006

head variety

This Edward Hopper painting reminds me so much of my hometown's downtown street that I almost find myself looking for the names of the stores.

Whenever we had a chunk of change burning a hole in our pockets, my sisters and I would venture downtown (just a few short blocks from our house). Even though this was the '70s there were still stores in our small town which were called the five and dimes or, I guess due to inflation, dime stores.

Head Variety, especially, had the most wonderful display of candy. I spent half my childhood in front of it fingering the quarter and 2 nickels in my pocket trying to decide. I loved Boston Baked Beans in their bricked box, Rainblow Gum, Spree in its silvery paper, Hubba Bubba, Candy Cigarettes, Milk Duds, Cowtails, Wax bottles with juice inside!

Good golly, but did I know that store by heart! It sold wigs and plastic flowers, a great assortment of combs and pocket mirrors, Coty lipsticks and compacts, dusting powders, and perfumes. There was a deodorant there called "Tussy" which smelled like cinnamon. Whenever there was an occasion to buy a gift with my pocket of hard-earned change, this is where I would go. I would consider items on every aisle and never with a cynical eye. I thought the plastic flowers in the hottest pink and luminescent yellow were just about the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.

The place smelled like popcorn and bubblegum and rubber. There was a parrot who mostly perched in his ring stand by the checkout counter but who would occassionally fly across the store with great drama squawking "Stop thief!"

Head Variety is long gone. So are most of the stores I grew up knowing along that street. I'm feeling nostalgic this morning thinking of the innocence of my childhood sheltered by the safety of that small town. Most of my family is still there, my parents in the very same house I grew up in and my sister and brother raising their little families there. And that downtown area very much resembles that Edward Hopper painting, tinged now with solitude and change. Edward Hopper once said "To me the most important thing is the sense of going on. You know how beautiful things are when you're travelling."


maryann said...

i love this post...especially how you looked at all the different things in the store without being cynical. what a lovely attitude to have. thank you, amy!

Bev said...

Lovely memories. I grew up in a town like that and raised my kids in a small town. Much of that is gone but a few pockets still exist. Thanks for sharing your sweet memory.

Kim said...

I know just what you mean...I often think of my hometown, which, at the time, was pretty small & old-fashioned. My parents owned a candy store (I know! Every kids dream!) & they would let me & my sister roam around town while they worked (those were the days when you felt safe doing so!). We went to every drug store (the individually owned kind, none of this CVS stuff), the local department store (before Macys took over everything or ran things out of business)& of course, Murphy's 5 & 10. Murphys was just like Head Variety--candy galore, a lunch counter, and miles of tables of all kinds of goodies. I remember purchasing the supplies for my sister's first ballet class there--bobby pins, hairnets (for the bun) & leg warmers!

I love new things about my hometown, but I really miss Murphys & those other small stores....

DivaDeb said...

Amy, our small town has a store JUST like that! (Tho the prices are now a BIT higher than a dime...) It's called Weeds Variety, too!

And when we lived in Tahoe, there was Truckee Variety - where my kids had the same kind of experiences you did!

You brought back fun memories...thank you!

Missy said...

Hi Amy-- Longtime reader, first time commenter on your blog, and I could not resist your post. We had a Woolworths on my hometown main street-- you took me right back there. If you have never heard the Nanci Griffith song "Love at the Five and Dime," ideally from the live One Fair Summer Evening CD, you really must-- another tribute to those aisles of childoohd wonder, those distinct smells, and uncritical love for such a place.
Thanks for your words and images and a lovely place to visit on the WEB.

Nicole Valentine said...

I grew up in Nyack NY - the actual town Edward Hopper was painting in many of his most famous works. It's a wonderful enclave just 40 minutes north of New York City across the Hudson River. It has many artists, musicians and free thinkers and looks much the same now as it did then.

You made me miss home even more if that's possible.

Anonymous said...

There is a small coffee shop visible out my front window.

Every morning I grab my 'whatever was on sale' coffee, sit on my couch and watch it wake up.

Before the sun comes up, it reminds me SO very much of an Edward Hopper painting that I could cry.

Once the sun is up, it's just an everyday run of the mill coffee shop.

Pre-dawn light adds so much mystery to places.

Judy - Plethora

wings said... i'm reminiscing about the Ben Franklin store, also a dime store... dad used to take me there the week before Christmas; he'd give me $5 that bought presents for both my parents, my sisters, and my brother, and if I was careful, my best friend, too... How fortunate we have Mr. Hopper's painted memories to help us keep our own!