When my father would take my brothers and me to do Saturday errands we'd stop at Alexander Hornung's, and sometimes the nice man behind the tall glass case of meat would tear us each one off the casing string of frankfurters. Sometimes, a lady would give us a small ladybug or strawberry of marzipan. We'd go to Montgomery Ward and look at tools. My father was learning English from some truck drivers. They called it Monkey Wards. We'd go to the bank and to the post office. But, by far our favorite was the Red Shield store.
He'd give us each a nickel and we'd see who could find the best toy for the money. While he shopped for who knew what, we'd make our way over to the long wall of tables, covered with a grid of shallow wooden drawers heaping in small metal and plastic items. The colors and the sheer mass of them must have been what was so attractive, because the 5-cent toys were usually chipped, slightly broken, or even missing parts. I liked the greenish-blue, metal, clicking cricket. My brothers seemed to like any sort of vehicle, and they could figure out a way to fix it. That challenge was really the fun thing. They did this all the way through their teens with real cars.
It was always the Red Shield store. We'd be singing in the car on our way there. You never knew what treasure you could find. Only when I was much older did I realize when I saw the shield on a sign, that this wonderful store of my childhood and the Salvation Army store were one and the same. I've always liked the shield.
Here's a great ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90cfMSqAj0oSalvation Army/Amazing Grace video