Featuring cherita!

August 16, 2013

Poetry Friday--"Woolworth's"

We are buyers, plain and simple.

Nowadays it's the big box stores like Wal-Mart or Target that are the places that represent American culture. When I was a kid, it was the old Woolworth's store downtown. Dark, narrow aisles, but full of everything a kid could desire. F. W. Woolworth, W. T. Grant, S. S. Kresge are all gone, I believe.

This poem by Donald Hall, comes under the chapter "1966-1969" in the collection Old and New Poems (Ticknor & Fields, 1990) I think the speaker embarked upon the ultimate destination shopping trip!

My whole life has led me here.

Daisies made out of resin,
hairnets and submarines,
sandwiches, diaries, green
garden chairs,
and a thousand boxes of cough drops.

Three hundred years ago I was hedging
and ditching in Devon.

I lacked freedom of worship,
and freedom to trade molasses
for rum, for slaves, for molasses.

"I will sail to Massachusetts
to build the Kingdom
of Heaven on Earth!"

The side of a hill
swung open.
It was Woolworth's!

I followed this vision to Boston.

Steps and Staircases will be hosting the Poetry Friday Round-Up for today!

1940 photo courtesy Library of Congress.


  1. I love Target but I miss the special feeling of the old department stores and old "general stores." I think the closest I've come to the feeling I imagine from a Woolworth's is going to Harrod's in London, with its hat shop and special sections. The funniest thing was the paper signs taped up requesting people not take photos of any famous customers who might be shopping!

    1. I can still get that Woolworth's feeling from some of the Mom & Pop hardware stores that haven't been driven out by Home Depot and Lowes. I love a good hardware store!

  2. Wow, what a great poem! Thanks for sharing that one. Are you familiar with the singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith? As a prelude to her song, "Love at the Five and Dime," she tells a sweet and funny story of her own devotion to Woolworths stores. It's definitely worth a listen if you ever get the opportunity. You can find it on her album, ONE FAIR SUMMER EVENING.

    1. No, I didn't know that song, I just watched it on YouTube--nice! One of my favorite songs is "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" with the line, "...diamond bracelets Woolworth's doesn't sell, Baby."


    2. Ella rocks.

      Yes, I suppose I could have been resourceful and looked for the Nancy Griffith song on You Tube, but you librarians beat me to it every time! ;) Is this the link you watched? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GK462XnRjQ That's the only one I could find where she told the story I referred to (and not just the song). Not to be anal... just want you to hear the story, since that's the best part.

  3. What a wonderful poem. There was nothing better than Woolworths.

  4. i remember a Woolworths here in Trinidad, downtown Port of Spain, now we are in the mall shopping era

    much love...

  5. For me, it was the Ben Franklin "Dime Store." I haunted the toy section, and later, the crafts.

    Now it's another empty storefront in a dying small-town down-town that has Alco, Dollar Store, and a WalMart in the next town over.

    Sigh. I agree about hardware stores!

    1. The last of NH's Ben Franklin stores closed not all that long ago...

  6. Diane, Thank you for sharing this poem--a great picture to go with it!


    1. Thanks, Lisa. The Library of Congress has some great photos. Browsing the collections is one of my favorite things to do.

  7. I used to bike up to "Jolly Five-and-Ten" every Saturday to spend my 25-cent allowance on a comic book and a licorice "rope." Oh, sweet! Thanks, Diane, for posting this.

  8. Was Jolly Five-and-Ten a stand-alone or a chain in your neck of the woods?