(copyright 2011, Dawn Weber. Thanks to my old-school friends Mike McAndrew and Sarah Lowrey for giving me the idea to write about this oh-so-important topic!)
You may not know this from my current high-falutin', Applebee's eatin' lifestyle, but I was born a poor kid.
Yeah, I said it. I'm putting it out there in front of God, Google and everybody: We were broke.
And I'm talking poor, as in, during non-pay weeks? Boiled hot dogs for dinner. All week long.
I'm talking poor, as in, when the ONE black and white TV broke during the Blizzard of '78, well, we had no TV. During the Blizzard of '78.
I'm talking poor as in Hill's, Murphy's Mart, Bargain Port and Fisher's Big Wheel discount stores - for my school clothes.
Let me repeat that, so it sinks in: DISCOUNT STORES FOR MY SCHOOL CLOTHES.
The horror. My face turns red just thinking about it.
I know, I know. I was lucky to have clothes. Kids, probably without clothes, were starving in Africa.
But I wasn't worried about them. My great and urgent concern was that my little ass didn't sport a "Levi's" tag, like so many of my classmates.
You see, Hill's, Murphy's, KMart, Fisher's Big Wheel, etc.? They didn't carry Levi's, Gloria Vanderbilt, Sasson, Jordache, or any other horribly overpriced very essential brand. They were only available at the mall.
And my mother was emphatically NOT going to the mall.
"I'm NOT going to that MALL! Too damn expensive," she said.
Hell. I couldn't even score a pair of Sears Toughskins. Had to get those at the mall.
Obviously, pants were crucial.
So I walked around cracking jokes at school, hoping no one would notice my heinously economical "Togs" and "New Friends" jeans.
"New Friends"? WTF kind of jeans are those? More like "No Friends."
Although I hated the clothes they sold, I secretly loved the discount stores. Loved wandering up and down every aisle with my mother and grandmother, avid tight-fisted K-Mart shoppers, both.
And in northeast Ohio, during the 70s and 80s, a girl of reasonable age could shop by herself in such a store, without too much fear of abduction by a pervy stranger. I'd ask permission to go on my own, then prance over to the Record Department, drunk with the freedom of it all.
Oh yeah - there's the good stuff! Fleetwood Mac, Boston, the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack...had to make sure to peep at the ones with the racy covers before I got caught. I'd be in deep weeds if she saw me glancing at the R.E.O. Speedwagon "Hi Infidelity" or Loverboy "Get Lucky" cover.
After a thorough ogling of the smutty albums and new-release 45s, I'd wander alone into all the other vital departments. Toys, candy, plastic swimming pools - all the junkiest junk finest money could buy.
Most stores had their own best sections. Murphy's had the choicest toy department, Woolco sold the most excellent records. For passable "Togs," I could tolerate Fisher's Big Wheel.
Those stores are all gone now, leveled or replaced by today's two measly choices : Target or Walmart.
At least you can, occasionally, buy Levi's at either place. Not that my daughter likes them - she only wants Abercrombie, Aeropostale or American Eagle jeans.
Because I am NOT going to that MALL! Too damn expensive!