Monday, June 6, 2011

Discount Stores...Because Poor Kids Need Pants Too.

(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.

She's dreaming.

Because I am NOT going to that MALL! Too damn expensive!


  1. Very funny, yet sad, BUT funny... I agree goo damn expensive and she'll just have them stolen at the roller rink and never have nothing nice again bought for her again because she doesn't have an ounce of responsibility. Who am I talking about? Anyway... good post!

  2. I agree with what Mommy above said. Sad but funny.

  3. That ain't nuttin'. I didn't even have clothes til I went to Catholic School. My mama made everything. Then I wore khaki. except for Friday, I still wear khaki pants, a white shirt and a navy blue sweater on Firday. Srsly.

    We got lot's of discount stores here. Buzzards, Dirt Cheap, Fred's, Dollar this and dollar that. There is only one big store that has all the faincy stuff but no one goes there.

    The Little Woman don't buy nuttin' unless it's $4. But, I could have $4 standing between me and starvation and she'll spend it on stuff that smells like smoke (for real fire sale).

    What I like about rags and tags is it makes one appreciate naked all the more. Plus, there ain't nothin' that says "vital force" more than a wife beater tee shirt on a man. :)

  4. At least your clothes were bought! We were so poor my mom made most of mine! (To be fair, she was an excellent seamstress, but name brand labels!)

  5. You forgot Gold Circle!
    Since I did go to Catholic school, it was determined that we didn't need as many clothes as those who had to wear them to public school everyday. We just needed play clothes & church clothes. And here's the truth- though we did get new things now & then, it felt like a lot of it was hand-me-downs from our cousins. I can remember specific outfits we got from them. Because they were the same ages as my sister & me, only they were about a size or 2 ahead of us, at least 1/2 our wardrobe were there castoffs. Right down to the nearly identical (hideously ugly) black & brown plaid uniform jumpers were were forced to wear to school.

  6. The horror no brand names!?!

    Actually, my heart goes out to you for no TV during a blizzard! So so sorry you had to endure that...

  7. Love Sears or even when Mervyns was around for the Levi's. And I will spend the money on them without blinking an eye. Those things last for-freakin-ever!

    I still hate the mall...

  8. Wow. Kinda sad.. especially the boiled hot dog for the week.. but you're still here and you're sharing your light... so all power to ya...
    helluva funny writer you are...

  9. boiled hot dog.. how about, bowl of wheaties or pumpkin soup.. we were poor too .. but we didn't know it.. dad always said, "you may not have ever gone to disneyland, but you've passed a lot of fence posts. Never quite saw the humor in that.. now, today is a new day and I hate the mall too except for the masssage chairs.

  10. I have no idea if they were cheap or expensive, but I remember teasing my buddy for wearing Farrah jeans when we were kids. Farrah! WTF?

  11. I don't know how I missed this this morning. BOY can I relate. We weren't poor, but my parents were EL CHEAPO. K-mart for me too. My first pair of Levis was when I was 14!!! Funny. And a reminder to be happy for what we have (now that we can buy our own clothes!).

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  13. OK. So I'm from a generation before that but we too did not have the funds to fund the wardrobe I rightly deserved. All the cool kids at my school sported London Fog jackets. I did not but I did covet them. One day, I don't remember how many tears it took, but I got a beautiful brand new yellow London Fog. By the end of the week it was saturated in ink from the leaky ink pen I put in the pocket. I was back to being poor and without the jacket. Suffice it to say I've learnt my lesson. I take much better care of my high falutin duds now. You are one cheap class act Dawn. Loved this one even if it did bring back terrible memories of the London Fog incident.

  14. Mom made most of my clothes. (We could only wear dresses to school then.) The rest she bought at discount stores. Shopping at Sears was a big deal. I bought my own first pair of Levi's after I graduated high school and had a job.

  15. I hear ya. My mom also sewed most of my clothes (that was when sewing was actually cheaper than buying "store-bought", but Target has changed everything.

    I scored two of the cutest summer dresses at Tar-zhay, yesterday, by the way!

  16. Hi
    Sorry to do it this way, but I can't find any contact point.
    Barb Best recommended you for our anthology, and I agree--you're a scream. (The good kind of scream)

    I'd love to have a nice Valentine humor piece from you. Please check us out at

  17. We have much in common, you and I. My mother made our clothes for a bit of grammar school, cut our hair, made our lunches...

    Oh, how I wanted to eat school lunches.

    And then, one day, I was given the money for a school lunch, and you know what?


    Great post, Dawn!


  18. Your childhood sounds like mine... boiled hotdogs... so true... how about powdered eggs? Anybody else remember those? And the peanut butter with the oily swimming pool on top? The kind you had to drain out before you could eat it? Ah, those were the days.

  19. Yeah, we grew up wearing hand-me-downs (brightly colored plaid or polka-dotted polyester garments that were way too big). To this day, I love finding clothes at Goodwill or Thrift Stores.

  20. Yeah, we were poor, too. Our couture shop of choice was Woolworth's. The home of the polyester two-piece outfits. *sigh* Luckily, I was oldest, so didn't have any hand-me-downs, other than my mom's pantyhose on the days I wanted to wear a (yes, polyester) dress to school.

    For years, we had a 13 inch black and white TV that sat on an upended milk crate. We were reminded often how lucky we were to even have a TV!

    Those were the good ole days.

  21. This post is AWESOME!!! I am gladly following you back now and so happy I found your blog, I like your style!

  22. LOl. So funny. I can relate, although we had to wear uniforms to school in South Africa. Yeah..very flattering pinafores and short socks and black shoes.
    I am new to blogging and your latest followers. Stop by some time!

  23. Nurse mom- you had me at roller rink. ;)
    OT- don't be sad. Eventually I got a job and bought my OWN damn Levi's.
    Ron- how did I onow you'd find the "naked" in this?
    Eva- I know. The absence of labels was just DEVASTATING! ;)
    Kerbs- we didn't have Gold Circle. Had plenty of hand me downs, though! Made up the other half of my discount store wardrobe.
    Bobo- I know. Really, I'm not sure how I survived with no labels. ;)
    Pixie- I am with you! Gots my own job now, I buy my own Levi's. At Walmart. Lol
    Zack- I so appreciate you and your sweet comments. Xxoo
    Wow- I remember seeing those God-awful Farrahs on a kid! Ugh. I pity da fool with da Farrah's!
    Brenda-you had me at massage chairs. They vibrate!
    Heidi-I know. For the love of all that's holy, someone buy that kid some Levi's!
    Wanda- the next yellow London Fog jacket I see at the thrift store is yours. But only if it has an ink stain.
    Sharon- thank goodness we all got jobs. so we could buy our own Levi's. ;)
    Susan-Tar-zhay has changed the whole ball game! Discount store clothes are not nearly as crappy as they once were.
    Lin - I am blown away and flattered and will have my entry to you ASAP!!
    Pearl - You are my hero. Here's to poor kids everywhere! We rule.
    NY - I vaguely remember the powdered eggs. I DEF remember the peanut butter with the grease pool. To this day, I do NOT dig peanut butter.
    Robin - shhh...don't tell anyone, but I heart the thrift stores! I feel the need to shower in antibacterial gel when I leave, though...
    Dawn - Our Woolworth's was in the mall, so I fancied that it was sort of high-end. Weird, I know.
    Irish - I heart you too, girl. Did you know that Bruce Springsteen, my next husband, is Irish-Italian!? Mmmm....
    Chrstine-I am so glad you stopped by. From South Africa, even! Followed back.

  24. Here in Pennsylvania, we had stores called Hills and Gee Bees, which were one step down from K-Mart. My parents used the "kids in Africa" line on me when they told me I had to use the free lunch ticket in middle school. Use the green ticket or don't eat lunch...probably because they broke down and bought me real jeans.

  25. when i clicked on your blog, omg blast from the past the picture in your header! I had that exact toy as a little kid!! thx for the memory!
    i'm your newest follower through friday blog hop. come say hi!

  26. I was so lucky to have a Filene's basement. You could plow through the sale racks and get dresses for 7 or 8 bucks. The finest polyester for junior high.

  27. Hi! I am visiting from the hop! I am your newest follower and would love it if you would follow me back! thanks so much!

  28. seriously...WTF are "new friend" jeans? i, unlike you i now understand, grew up a little too silver spooned, however our lives now have flip-flopped. i'm a discount store shopper NOW but at least they are better than they were "back in the day". i would have been mortified to show up at school in TOGS. and you didn't even get toughskins! OMG i swear i am crying over here (from laughter). i love you! although i lived in OH for a short while growing up and it has NEVER been on my list of places to visit again before i die, because of YOU, this has all changed. i am soooo there dude for a drink with you once i can score a ticket! you're killing me! you rock in your "new friend" jeans!

  29. You'll appreciate older sister got a coveted pair of Levi's...and my grandmother was over doing laundry, and she *gasp* cut the tag off the bum! She was all, "Oh, someone forgot to cut the tag off these pants!" I think World War III ensued.

    Btw, does this post explain why you named your son Levi?!!!