When we went to town when I was a little girl, no trip was complete without a visit to the variety store on Main Street. It was a long, narrow building with only two aisles that ran the length of the store but anything you could possibly need was for sale in Dauber's.
Mr. Dauber was always at the front of the store, leaning against the glass candy display case. He would peer at you over the tops of his glasses. Was he making sure I stayed with my mom?
To the right of the entrance was a section containing bolts of fabric and sewing notions. There were clever little racks of carded buttons and bias tape and rick rack and a carousel holding a rainbow of thread. I can still recall the floral prints suitable for dresses or kitchen curtains and the bolts of satiny nylon in lavender, white and mint green for slips and panties. Did you ever wear home sewn underwear? I can't imagine where you would find the correct elastic or fabric to make your own today but there, in the tiny variety store on Main Street in my home town, it was readily available.
Deeper in the store were housewares--casserole dishes and pots and pans and dish towels. You could buy wrapping paper and bows and cards for all occasions. Arranged on dimly lit shelves, in stacks and piles and bins were gloves and handkerchiefs, billfolds and pocket mirrors, tools and perfume bottles, candy dishes and bean bag ash trays--all for sale in Mr. Dauber's store.
But the best items in the store were on the shelves in the middle--the toys! Displayed on the top shelf were tin doll houses and barns. They were somewhat dated in the 70s--too old to be desirable as a gift but too new to be considered antique. How I wish I still had mine! There were also 'teenage' dolls--don't you remember them? Big eyed dolls dressed as southern belles in fancy hats that were meant to decorate a teenage girl's bedroom when she outgrew baby dolls.
My grandma would allow me to choose something to buy when it was just her and I. She and my aunt painted (oil paintings, not the house!) together and Grandma did beautiful embroidery so I always wanted to create beautiful things like she did. I would usually choose a paint by number kit or clay. Each time we purchased a package of the colorful ribbons of clay, I vowed that 'this time' I would become a sculptress. People would admire my creations and be amazed that a small child could create such beauty with an inferior quality of materials. Sadly, my ambition with clay far exceeded my abilities. I would work with it for a few hours (or minutes, perhaps) then give up and it would eventually become a rock hard, rainbow colored lump that went in the trash. And I would give up on the sculpting dream. Until next time we went to Daubers!
That home town variety store was also the place I began my book collection. On a turning wire book rack near the checkout counter was a wonderful variety of stories. Mom could usually be counted on to provide a quarter for a Little Golden Book or a comic book. I spent hours reading and re-reading that antics of Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny, awestruck with Richie Rich's gold plated play things and wondering how on earth Little Lulu got her hair to stay in that style! When I got older, I met those mystery-solving girls--Nancy Drew, Robin Kane, Trixie Belden and Donna Parker--and took them home with me. They were all so mature and adventurous! I wanted to be just like them when I turned 14! The picture above tells the tale of how beloved these mystery books were--when I moved on to the next phase, my sisters read them over and over!
Dauber's Variety Store no longer exists on the Main Street of my home town. Now there is an empty space in the line of buildings where the store used to be but the absence of brick and mortar hasn't removed the memories the empty lot holds. Time and imagination has surely embellished the place beyond it's humble reality, but I can picture myself peering through the big plate glass windows embellished with 'Dauber's' in curving gilt letters and can hardly wait to push open the door and see if there is a new Nancy Drew.
Or maybe I'll get some clay. Perhaps now I can make something amazing!