Before Walmart – Fifty Going On Fifteen

Remembering what was and what we have lost over time has become quite a hobby to me recently. Tonight, for some reason my memory was triggered on stores that are no longer some of which include Woolworths, White Drug, Gibsons. Pamida, Montgomery Ward, Tempo, Leevers, and Red Owl. How we have lost part of our history as these businesses have vanished.

North Dakota is pretty much out of the way when it comes to locations and growing up in the fifth largest city in North Dakota with a population less than 15,000 makes the area even more remote. I vividly remember my childhood and the stores I visited.

Woolworths, White Drug, Gibsons, Pamida, and Tempo were are discount or dime stores and some of them had small cafeterias and some only merchandise. They all had specialties but I will always love Woolworths for getting me into assembling models of cars. Woolworths had the models, the paint, the glue and all accessories and they were located downtown USA. White Drug was a close second and had a great burger in the cafeteria. Gibsons, Pamida and Tempo were all early version Walmarts or K-Marts. Perhaps K-Mart now fits into defunct stores.

Montgomery Ward was similar to Sears and JC Pennys in its heyday and this is where my sister and I always purchased our clothes for the year prior to going on summer vacation. Wards did not have the cool vacuum tubes for transactions that Pennys had or the lawn mowers that Sears had but they had class.

Leevers and Red Owl were grocery stores in the local area that just disappeared over time to be replaced by newer grocery stores. Much like the neighborhood grocery stores fifty years earlier, they just disappeared.

Life was much simpler when I was growing up and I miss many of the stores I grew up with beyond the stores listed above. Probably one of the coolest things was as a kid you could buy or get for free stickers from the local auto parts stores for STP, Edlebrock Manifolds, etc and put the stickers on your bikes.

It was not Mayberry RFD or Andy Griffin but it was home.

Best wishes and have a great night.

Jay Patterson

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