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Five and Ten: 1921

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "Whistle Bottling Works. Woolworth window." An elaborate dime-store window display for Whistle orange soda, "the food drink." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "Whistle Bottling Works. Woolworth window." An elaborate dime-store window display for Whistle orange soda, "the food drink." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Nosey Little Girl

I would always head for the pet department, candy, and toy sections. The candy counter had a real person who gave me what I wanted without a bar code. I always reported any animals that appeared sick, or dead, to the nearest clerk on duty. Heaven help them if they didn't remove the dead fish right away ! I would tell my mother. I miss dime stores very much. I won't go into Wal Mart.

The Dime Store

I was born in 1973, but my mom and dad always referred to the Ben Franklin store as the dime store.

All That Jazz

Thanks Anonymous Tipster for the link to jazz online. That's really appreciated. If someone has other links to classic/traditional Jazz (New Orleans/Chicago/N.Y. but not Ragtime) please post. Thanks. Red Hot Jazz (history of jazz before 1930) is one of my favorites. I was also glad I found Jazzology. Merry Christmas to you all.

I Found A Million Dollar Baby

Rob's bittersweet memory of the song, which captured the homey American love affair with five-and-dimes, sent me looking for a recording. This was one of the most popular songs of 1931 and thereafter, and was introduced on Broadway in May, 1931 by Fanny Brice, in the musical revue "Billy Rose's Crazy Quilt." Those who have Real Player on their computers can hear the best-selling 1931 recording of the song (Fred Waring's Orchestra, with vocals by Clare Hanlon and the "Three Girlfriends") at Those without this player can find several 1931 recordings of it by visiting and entering I Found A Million Dollar Baby on the page's search engine.

Cunningham Drugs

We always thought Cunningham Drugs was an upscale Woolworth's because they had their name tiled in at the front entrance.

To this day, when I walk into an old building that used to house a drugstore or five-and-dime, I look for the tiled name. In old towns, I find the names quite often. It's always a little treat (probably also indicates a lifetime lack of big treats).

Kresge Kristmas

I have memories of going to the Kresge's near our house at Christmas time. I "rode" my bicycle through sloppy snow to choose treasures for Mom, Dad and my sister. I retrieved the glorious pink with white daisies Kleenex box cover and cup I bought on that trip from Mom's last year when we closed out her house. The matching johnny mop holder is lost. I'm happy she got 40 years of use out of them.

I also went there with Dad to use the tube tester to ascertain which TV or radio tubes needed to be replaced. Holy crow, am I getting old.

Yesterday 50 years ago

When I saw this picture this morning the first thing I thought was Oh, how I wish I could walk through those doors one more time! They just don't make stores like that anymore. The smells of wood, of the soda fountain, the candy to be had for a penny a piece, the 10 cent toys. I'm so glad I have those experiences to remember.


Founded in 1916, Vess Beverage still makes a Whistle brand soda. The company is now owned by Cott. Charles Leiper Grigg invented the flavor.


The expression was everywhere. In Longueuil, Quebec, near Montreal, where I used to live in the 50s, we had a Jazzar store, part of a small chain whose signs read "5-10-15." We used to say that we were going to the "cinq-dix-quinze." Were there 5-10-15 stores in the States? (Now, springing up everywhere are the Dollarama stores where everything is. .. a dollar.)

First Job

My first job was sweeping floors at the Woolworth in Hollywood at Hollywood & Vermont (Barnsdall Park) in Dec 1975. I later worked in the kitchen and out on the floor straightening and stocking shelves. I loved the hot dogs from the luncheonette. They had buns that were all attached and when you pulled them apart the sides were uncrusted. They would brown the sides of the buns in butter (ala a grilled cheese sandwich). Delicious!


That lunch counter In Michigan City, Indiana. Oh yeah. Hot turkey sandwich plates with green gravy. Pistachio, I'd guess.

Quartz for a dime?

What is that in the other display window? It almost looks like rocks on display cards.

[Jewelry, maybe. Dime-onds. - Dave]

The Big Woolworth's

The Woolworth's on Hemming Park in downtown Jacksonville Florida was the "Big" Woolworth. Two floors. Upstairs was the candy department with the caramel corn, and downstairs was the toy department with Corgi cars, balsa wood gliders, and bins and bins of rubber lizards, snake, and bugs!


There appears to be a reflection of someone, possibly the photographer, under the Whistle sign to the right of the door and also to the far left of the picture. He appears to be wearing large headphones.

Why the headphones? Could it be someone inside the store? Did Woolworth's have a record department where people could listen to records?

[Those are reflections of the mannequin in the window. He's wearing a radio headset. - Dave]

I've got your "food drink"

Try dunking a graham cracker in a cup of hot coffee.


There's a fortune in memorabilia in that window.

Grilled cheese & tomato

Grilled cheese & tomato sandwich at the Woolworth's counter - a great delicacy in my mind.

More seriously, while we're talking Woolworth's lunch counters, the one in the Smithsonian recalls a bit of bravery in recent American history.


My dad, who was killed in France in 1944, started at Woolworth's as a window dresser in 1938, and worked his way up to manager. As a kid I sometimes heard my Mother singing

It was a lucky April shower,
It was a most convenient storm.
I found a Million Dollar Baby
In the five-and-ten cent store.

Thanks again for all the great pics, Dave.


Our local Woolworth's in upstate NY was turning a great profit into the '90's, but had to close down when the rest of the chain did. The building is a library now.

"Who cares if I drink my lunch? It's the Food Drink!"

Oasis on a rainy day

My earliest memories of the old five-and-dimes include the smell of old wood -- wooden floors, bins, and counters -- and the buttery warmth of incandescent lights.

The Five and Dime

Many also referred to these popular stores as Five and Dimes. As I learned this term after moving away for college I believe it is another example of colorful regionalized language.

[The region there was pretty much the entire United States, once upon a time. Five and Dime might be more generational than geographic. - Dave]

Where's Woolworth's?

Any ideas as to where this store was? At the far lower right of the photo is a small sign for the store next door that says "Bee Hive Store 906." 906 was probably the address, but what street?

[906 Seventh Street N.W. - Dave]

We miss you, Woolworth's

Woolworth's was part of America's 20th century memories. Who over 50 hasn't bought housewares, pens, books, toys or records at Woolworth's? I still have happy memories going shopping downtown with my mother, and stopping for lunch at the Woolworth's luncheonette. It was (along with the drug store) one of the few places where we ever "ate out."

UK Woolworths

All of the remaining UK "Woolies" are to be closed in the coming months, victims of the times.

Five and Ten

When I hear "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," I wonder if people under 30 or even 35 know what the term "five and ten" refers to.

Take a look at the five and ten
Glistening once again
With candy canes ...

Cincy Caramel Corn

The Woolworth store in downtown Cincinnati had one loooong counter at the entrance of the store dedicated to the making of caramel corn. You could smell it all the way down the street. The aroma was heavenly and so very enticing. They left their door open to traffic, which came in droves. Warm butter + popping corn = Woolworth caramel corn. We pleaded to go downtown just for the warm caramel corn.

5 & 10 again

Who of us who have some age will ever forget the "five and dime" or "the dime store."

Woolworth was of course the biggie, but there were the Ben Franklin stores, G.C. Murphy, and SS Kresge (now Kmart) among them -- some with soda fountains, some not. And 10 for a penny candy.

Battery Acid

Battery acid and orange food coloring were the ingredients making up Whistle, at least according to smart schoolkids in St. Louis when I was growing up in the late 40s and 50s. It was drink of choice when consuming White Castle hamburgers!

The 5 & 10

I remember Woolworth's and its "5 and 10 cent" motto.
Today it would more likely be "5 and 10 DOLLAR" store! :(

No thanks

When I want a food drink, I hoist a pint of Guinness.


Is that a folded dollar bill lying right by the door? You could get 20 Whistles with that.

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