Original JC Penney Store in Kemmerer, Wyoming on Auction Block
Old time retail is in full retreat. I don’t ever recall hearing the name Walmart until I was a college student. As a small boy we shopped for school clothes, household goods and Christmas presents at some of the iconic brands of the day. Sears, Montgomery Wards, Kresge’s, J.J. Newberry’s and JC Penney.
There were also a smattering of local and regional stores where my family did business. As a young reporter I was covering a case in a federal court and grabbed lunch at a Woolworth’s lunch counter. In the town where Woolworth launched his company. The store and counter would close shortly thereafter.
Friday nights my parents would load us in the car after school and after dad finished work and we would drive 15 miles from our small town to a neighboring small city.
You’ll notice the names of many of these stores no longer exist beyond memory. JC Penney may be hanging on by fingernails. Now the most famous store in that chain is making the obituary page. The Kemmerer, Wyoming store is going to the auction block. It opened 118 years ago.
Maybe we won’t miss the stores as much as what shopping represented. Friday nights my parents would load us in the car after school and after dad finished work and we would drive 15 miles from our small town to a neighboring small city. All the big name stores of the time lined the main street. This was a weekly event and allowed us to walk through the aisles and dream about the toys we saw and wonder what some of the clothes would look like if they were on our backs.
When shopping was finished, we would go for dinner at a place called Carrols Restaurant. Carrols today operates hundreds of Burger King Franchises. The original also served burgers and fries before dropping the old name in the 1970s. We didn’t have a McDonald’s within 50 miles of home until I was in the fourth grade.
I can still shop and I can still eat but it doesn’t mean I still don’t miss the family outings. You grow up and you end up holding on to the memories despite the never ending change.