f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Woolworth's closes on Main Street

Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2017, at 12:00 AM

Dec. 27, 1977 Southeast Missourian

Mrs. Robbie Wright, lunch counter operator at the F.W. Woolworth store on Main, writes out the check one last time for Bill Scott of Wasilla, Alaska. Mr. Scott, who is visiting his brother Bob Scott, said he always had stopped at Woolworth's for coffee when in Cape Girardeau. The downtown store will close its doors at 5:30 p.m. today. (Fred Lynch photo)

Store holds memories

For those who bought their first lipstick or bag of marbles at F.W. Woolworth's store on the corner of Main and Independence, today is a little sad.

The "dime store" will close its doors for the last time at 5:30 p.m. today.

When the store opened its doors on June 12, 1914, The Missourian carried the following statement about the opening: "A wonderful variety of nothing over 10 cents will be presented for public approval."

Although prices have increased with the years, and Formica has replaced the wooden and glass counters, the store has continued to be stocked with "a wonderful variety" of browsing material.

Central air conditioning and heating has replaced the ceiling fans that pushed the hot summer air around, and workers no longer wear their coats to wait on people in the winter.

Persons, especially those over 30, who have shopped at the store the past few weeks, have related many stories of past years to the manager, Phillip Ball.

"Many customers have come up to me and told me about shopping here when they were little kids, and now their children are grown," Mr. Ball said.

"Being from St. Louis, I don't remember all these incidents that have been related, but a lot of people around here do. It's kind of sad around here today, even though most of the employees will continue on at our other store in the Town Plaza."

One of the long-time employees at the F.W. Woolworth store, Mrs. Margie Call, a bookkeeper-cashier, has worked there since her high school days, taking time off only to have her two children, who are now grown and married.

Mrs. Call remembers many incidents and many people.

"That's one of the best things about working in a dime store. You get to know so many people. Twenty years ago, we had 30 to 40 Saturday girls; girls who just worked on Saturdays and during rush times, like Christmas and Easter. A lot of us worked our way through school at the dime store.

"That was before the days of one or two check-out counters, when each customer was waited on personally," Mrs. Call said.

"I also remember the flood of '43 when we had to get in a rowboat over by what is now Fischer's market and come in the side entrance to go up the stairs to the office. We would stand in the window and watch our merchandise float down the street. There wasn't a thing we could do."

F.W. Woolworth's was one of the stores affected each time the Mississippi River flooded the downtown area before the floodwall was constructed.

"The clean up was awful, too," Mrs. Call said. "We waded around and sloshed up water while customers walked on planks around the store.

"I can well remember the hot sticky summer days, too, when we looked wilted before the doors opened at 9 a.m. and the chocolate candy stuck together and melted in the candy counter."

Before the days of shopping centers, when stores closed every night except Saturday, Saturday night was the big night in town.

"Saturday nights were busy," Mrs. Call said. "All the farmers came to town and the boys hung around on the corners. We were kept so busy waiting on customers, selling hair nets and ribbons for Sunday School, that we hardly knew when 8 o'clock came."

Also, with the demise of the store, goes the last of the complete soda fountains downtown.

A cool lemonade or ice cream cone always welcomed the customers, and today, some people are having a last cup of coffee and piece of pie at the counter before it closes.

Whether it is your first lipstick, nail polish, doll, or the smell of the "dime store" you remember, the store holds many memories of early Cape Girardeau, and will not easily be forgotten.

Previous blogs:

Woolworth's Lunch Counter

F.W. Woolworth Co.


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