I walked into the drug store late on a Friday night when I noticed a sign saying “OPEN 24 HOURS”. I’m glad they stay open late. It was the only chance I had to get shopping done before the weekend. Next stop would be the grocery store, open until 11:00.
When I was growing up in the 1960s, my dad owned a hardware store. You’d never see that sign in his store or any of the stores in our small town. They all closed at 5:30. But Friday nights were different. The stores stayed open until 9:00.
Ever since my dad worked at a hardware store when he was a young man, he dreamed of someday having his own store. When the chance came to get into the business, he sold the farm and moved the family into town. That was in 1959 when I was almost 3. I have no memories of the farm. Not one. My first memories are of that move.
From 3 years of age until I was old enough to be home by myself, I spent every Friday night at the store with my parents. They needed to be open like all the other stores in town. I don’t remember bringing toys or having snacks packed for those Friday nights. Those were long hours for me. I was young but knew enough to stay out of the way and found things to keep myself busy. I changed channels and adjusted the colors on the TV sets, straighten the spray paint cans so they all faced forward, and drew on the rolls of shade cuttings back at my dad’s office desk. I played with the fishing lures once and they got tangled in my hair and my mom had to detangle the mess. At Christmas I’d stand in the toy aisle and just gaze at the treasures other kids would be getting. Sometimes I’d creep down into the basement where a giant, empty bank vault took a lot of floor space.
I knew all the regular customers and I also knew if someone was from out of town. Locals walking by might just stop in to say ‘hi’ to my dad who was very friendly and liked to chat. Sometimes farmers wearing bibbed overalls stood in front of the store visiting while the wives were shopping around town. In the fall you could hear the sounds of the high school football game just a few blocks away. The whole tiny town seemed to be alive with activity.
About 9:00 pm, the noise level went up at the American Legion next door just as my dad’s store got quiet. I could hear muffled talking and laughter on the other side of the wall and wondered why ‘that store’ wasn’t closing like my ours was. My dad turned off the TVs and the lights, locked the doors and we climbed into the car for the short ride home. I was a sleepy tot by the time I crawled into bed near 10:00.
My dad knew everything about hardware and was good with people. It was a right fit for him to run a hardware store. He received an award from Gambles and my parents earned trips to Trinidad, Mexico and Spain by selling washers and dryers. He relocated the store from main street to a side street which is where I have most of my memories of the store days. I remember that move. I remember my dad wheeling me around on a red dolly on the old wooden floors before all the inventory had been moved over. The ‘new’ place seemed huge to me. I sure wish I had photos of the inside of the store…
Below, my dad on the right. Next to him is my mom.
He sold the business in the late 1970s and semi-retired, going on to work at a plumbing supply store.
At the time, those Friday nights at the store with my parents, were long and boring to a little kid like me, but now they are fond memories of the days when my parents were young and active and we lived in a small town where the stores were not open 24 hours.