A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Smaller Stores of a Bygone Era

English: Woolworth department store in Kassel
 Woolworth department store in Kassel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         Many years ago the mom and pop stores and chains of smaller stores were the mainstay of the American shopping scene.   The department store was typically something one would find downtown or in larger shopping districts.   Dry goods stores, pharmacies, variety stores, and other smaller specialty shops would comprise most of the real estate in those shopping districts.

         Prior to the 1950's there were no shopping malls as we know them today.  A few prototypical shopping ventures experienced some success before that time, but not like the mega shopping complexes surrounded by acres of parking that we've become so accustomed to in the past several decades.   As society became more suburbanized, the stores followed the customers to the areas surrounding the city centers and many cities lost much of the downtown shopping that they had once had.

          My favorite places to shop when I was a kid were the variety stores also known as "five and dime stores".   They were often chains such as Ben Franklin, Kresge's, Woolworth, and others.   These stores carried just enough to keep me busy looking and dreaming what I'd buy on some future occasion or at that moment if I was so fortunate to have a bit of change jingling in my pockets.

         In those days my allowance was a quarter, but it was amazing how far those quarters could go.  Merchandise was inexpensive.   I might buy toys, books, or a packet of foreign postage stamps to add to my collection.   My mother was usually pretty generous with extra nickels and dimes to allow me to buy a candy bar or some other treat during those visits to the store.   We'd go there at least a couple times each week.  After all, the Ben Franklin Store was right near the De Falco's Supermarket that was in the small shopping center called "The Quad".   That was in the San Diego, California suburb called Clairemont.   These were the years between 1959 and 1964.   It was a span of time that was short in retrospect, but it seems like decades in my memory.

           Many of those small stores were the precursors to the behemoths that came along later.   Kresge's became KMart.   Woolworth became the now defunct Woolco.  Walmart began as the Walton's Five and Dime which before that had been a Ben Franklin Store.    A few small variety stores remain scattered across the country, but for the most part the large discount stores have filled the need of the people for wide selection at the lowest prices.

          The future of shopping will probably for the most part be centered on the internet.   The specialty chains like Staples and Best Buy are already closing stores in order to cut costs and centralizing their businesses to distribution centers that fill orders made online and delivered directly to the customer's door.

          Convenience is the key in a time-strapped modern society.   Why drive when you can order from the comfort of your own home and have someone deliver product to your door within a day or two?   Personally I miss those old variety stores.   They were like heaven to my young mind.  Of course I had not seen the discount stores like we have now.   I don't think those variety stores would impress many kids today.

           Did you shop at five and dime stores when you were a kid?   What are some of the variety stores that you remember?    Do you shop at the stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, or 99 Cent Stores?    

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Shopping for Ideas

English: The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Mem...
 The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Memphis, Tennessee. The first self service grocery store, opened 1916. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         So far I've never lacked for ideas for this blog and I doubt if I ever would.   As long as I live, new ideas will keep coming and now matter how much I write about my past I can't imagine ever running out of memories to write about.   Even the memories I've already written about could be approached from a number of different angles.    Ideas are not only everywhere, but they are infinite.

          Why am I writing about this topic at this time?   I'm just thinking.  I'm pondering some of the things I might write about in blog posts to come.    And since I'm on the topic, then let me ask you some questions about things that might get you to remembering your past.   Maybe these will be some ideas you can use as well.

  • What stores and other businesses can you remember from your youth that are no longer around?
  • What was your favorite store to visit when you  were a kid?
  • Do you have many eating out experiences that you remember from childhood?
  • What things did you typically spend money on when you had it?
  • Did you go grocery shopping with your parents?    Were you a help or more of a hindrance?
  • Are there any products that you no longer see in stores that you miss?
  • Did you have a hobby when you were younger and what types of purchases did you make to sustain your hobby?
  • Was there a neighborhood business that was considered a hang-out for you and your peers?
  • How has shopping changed in our age as compared to your youth?
          I don't expect you to answer all of these questions in the comment section here, though you are certainly welcomed to if you like.   Maybe one question resonates with you that you would like to discuss.  Or maybe you'd like to use one or more of these topics on your own blog.   If you do then please be sure to send me the link so I can read your responses.

         I'll probably be hitting on a few of these ideas in weeks to come.   Memoir can be anything that you remember.    Sometimes memoir evolves from things you don't remember.  That's when the research kicks in.    What's the point of remembering the past?    Maybe you can answer that one too.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tennessee Stomping Grounds

English: Olympus 4.0 Megapixel 3x zoom Digital...
English: Olympus 4.0 Megapixel 3x zoom Digital Camera. Taken in 2002 in Cocke County, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         Thomas Wolfe is famously attributed to the saying "You can't go home again" which was taken from a posthumous novel of that name.   Most often the saying is more in reference to the fact that you can't recapture the place and circumstances of your memories.  We can fondly remember, but usually we are disappointed and disillusioned when we visit home hoping to find things like they once were.

        The fact is that things change--people, places, and all that our memories embrace.  Those things might be there in one manner of speaking, but rarely can we completely recapture the old feelings or experience the same sensations like they once were way back when.

        It's been 23 years since that last time I lived in East Tennessee and that was for only a few years having spent a previous 13 years on the road with a traveling show.   When I left my parents' home in 1975 for a life of travel it was not so much a severing ties as it was a beginning of new chapters in my life.  It's a decision that I'm glad I made, but my leaving created a gulf in the familiar relationships I had enjoyed during the years previous to that departure.

        As time passed, my old friends established newer relationships with people I did not know.  Some of those friends went on to get married and start families. Others moved away like I did while a few passed from this life.  Over time even the face and spirit of my home town changed as more people from other places moved into the area, old landmarks disappeared, and newer places were built in their places.  Highways were improved and bypasses were built.   The small town that I had once known took on a greater urban feel.   Where once I could be out and about and almost have a guarantee of running into someone I knew, now I might be out all day all about town and never see an old familiar face.

         Change is to be expected over time and probably a place would not be economically healthy if that change didn't occur.  Geographically my old Tennessee stomping grounds still exists on the map, but for someone who grew up there it is barely recognizable in many ways.

         Friends grow older and gain new responsibilities with careers, lives, and families.   I don't feel quite as comfortable just dropping in on many of them for fear of intruding or interfering with their busy schedules.  There are still a handful with whom I maintain fairly regular contact, but rarely do I actually see them.  The old Tennessee stomping grounds holds a fond place in my memories.  However, these days when I visit East Tennessee in some ways I almost feel like just another one of the many tourists who pass through there each year.

        I would imagine that if I still lived there I might feel a lot different about the old homeland.  But I don't live there anymore.  And I don't know if I ever will again.  Not that I wouldn't want to.  It's just that things change and sometimes going back home can never recapture the memories of what once was.

        Are there places from your past that you've gone back to and they just felt different to you?   Do you currently live in a place where you grew up or that you came back to after an extended time away?   How do you feel about the Thomas Wolfe observation that "you can't go home again"?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Another Journey Ends

English: Volkswagon bug RV
English: Volkswagon bug RV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        Time for a breather.   Kick back and catch up to all that's piled up while I've been roaming the roads of America.   It's been a great time that I somewhat sadly leave behind me yet exhale a sigh of relief that I am home again.   That is, the home where all my stuff is.   The place where I pay my house payment and receive the rest of my bills.   My heart may not totally be here in the place where I live, and my mind is divided as to where I would really like my "home" to be.

        This vacation that my wife and I embarked on was 47 days away from our house.  That's by my wife's count of the days.  I wasn't counting, but her number sounds correct.  It seemed longer in a way and yet it all seemed to fly.   It's good to be back in our own home, but it was nice being gone.  

         The saying goes "All good things must come to an end" and so it goes with a vacation.  Some family members and friends have suggested that when my wife retires we should sell our house, buy an RV, and just travel all the time.  I'm not sure about the RV part.  Sure, having the portability of possessions might be nice and it could be very handy to just pull over sometimes to sleep in my own bed and use my own bathroom.  There is much to be said for having a "house on wheels".  I'm just not sure about driving a big ol' thing around.

         In my younger days I had plenty of experience living out of a van and staying in motels all the time.  I got used to that lifestyle and quite enjoyed it.   It's a good idea to have an address--a base of operations so to speak.  I always used my parents address back then.  Now that's not a viable option.   I guess I'll keep a home somewhere.  Maybe not as big of a house as we have now unless someone is living in it when we're off galavanting.

          It's all something for us to consider in the years to come.   We've still got time to decide, but my wife and I need to start thinking more seriously about the years to come.  I hope there are years--many more of them.

          This previous journey has ended, but the life journey continues.   With each ending comes a new beginning.   It's a circle of life just like in The Lion King.  We've got places to go and people to see before they and we are gone.   The kids are getting settled into their own cycles of life and the grandchildren are coming and growing.   We don't want to miss out on those grandchildren who now live across the country from us.

         I guess we'll figure it out.   One journey has ended and others wait ahead of us.

         Are you living a life in retirement yet?   What are your plans for the future?    If you were living a life of travel how would you want to do it?

Saturday, August 2, 2014


        Whenever I hear the city name "Houston" I usually think of that old song hit done by Dean Martin back in 1965.  It was a catchy tune that got extensive play on the radio.  I was a fan of Dino's TV show and his movies and tended to like just about anything he came out with on record.

         Another thing that comes to mind about Houston is NASA and the space program.  Like most Americans I was transfixed by the space launches.  The reports came from the Houston Space Center.   Who hasn't heard the line from the film Apollo 13 "Houston we have a problem"?

          But then in 1976 I actually went to Houston.  I hated it.  It was hot and humid and I was miserable during my visit.   Each subsequent visit was much the same.  I never saw much in the way of the sights as I was working or just passing through, but that icky, sticky climate stuck with me.  If you'd have mentioned Houston back then the heat and humidity is all I would have thought about.   Houston was never a place I looked forward to visiting.

         However that's where I am now as I write this.  One of my daughters lives here with her husband and their new baby.  Houston is one of my destination spots now.  That doesn't change the miserable weather in the summer, but it's a place where we now have to go.

         We often hear the cliche about dry heat and I do think it's true.   I'm no fan of the 100+ temperatures in places like Phoenix and if I'm in a heat zone like that I tend to keep indoors as much as I can with the air conditioning on high.   Add humidity though and that's about as much misery as I can stand.  I'll take a dry heat any day.

         In a few days we head back to Los Angeles and what is typically outstanding weather.  After over 6 weeks away from home I'm ready to go back.   It's been a wonderful vacation with some of the best July weather I've ever experienced.   I can't complain about this vacation much at all except now we're in Houston.

         I'm going to stay inside most of the time I guess.  I hope my daughter and her family move closer to the rest of our girls.  It wouldn't bother me at all if I didn't have to come to Houston anymore.

         What do you think of Houston?    Does hot weather with high humidity bother you?   Where is your favorite weather?   Least favorite?