Yesteryear’s Memories: Smells Like 1962

July 21, 2020

The 200 block of East Broadway in Centralia was the home of F. W. Woolworth’s. The large gold cast iron letters were emblazoned across the front of the building, giving no hint of the goods for sale inside, but everyone knew. The worn floorboards always had traces of “floorsweep” — a concoction of sawdust mixed with fuel oil and red coloring that helped keep down the dust when sweeping with a broom. That faint smell mixed with many others in that store. There were parakeets in cages. Guppies and neons and goldfish were always slowly swimming and watching the customers go by, maybe hoping to be bought and taken home, or maybe hoping to stay exactly where they were. It’s hard to tell what fish are thinking, but there is no mistaking the smell of the flakes of food they were fed. There was the aisle of greeting cards. Printer’s ink and paper had a smell of its own, as well as the smell of the candy display. Sometimes there was fresh popcorn. There was a tank of helium and the multi-colored balloons that smell like a birthday party. They sold moth balls and bath oil and perfume.

Mr. Eilers was the manager, and he always seemed so tall and businesslike and friendly to a five-year-old. All of these memories are mixed together and represent the whole experience of “the dime store” as most people called it. A box of crayons brought it all back to life one day, and it hit me all at once. It smelled like 1962.