I saw a meme the other day, in fact, I posted it on my Facebook page, of the logo from a long lost memory adorned with words of truth. I was surprisingly elated when I saw it. What could this prophetic graphic show that would seemingly rock my world? It’s nothing that provocative, really. It had to do with a department store from my childhood. It was Hill’s.
The meme says: “Back in my day we didn’t go to Wal-Mart or Target. We had Hill’s and their popcorn!!!” Hill’s. Hill’s. Hill’s. This was the Hill’s in Beckley, WV. That was the place that my mother, aunts and grandmother would take us to do all the shopping, Christmas, back-to-school, birthdays, just becauses, everything. It was the “superstore” that we had, needed, wanted. It was our everything for clothes, electronics, toys (jeez the toy section!), music, video (later), housewares. All except food. Well, no, that’s not true. Not 100%.
Hill’s was known as a department store but you couldn’t escape that smell. That smell of fresh popcorn. Popcorn everywhere. As soon as the doors would open you would be slapped hard in the face from the waft of popcornious aroma. I wasn’t really a fan of the popcorn per se, but dang! I loved the smell. I can smell the popcorn makers out and about and the first thing that runs through my mind is Hill’s. A rush of nostalgia, not only of the popcorn and Hill’s but my childhood. Perhaps I’m too much of a dreamer and live in the past a lot. I’ll take that. But, I really love thinking back. I had a great childhood. Anywhat! I digress. Hill’s was the popcorn capital for us but there was something else! There were ICEEs. Generally, they come in two flavors, cherry and Coca-Cola. The thing is, I don’t really like ICEEs but again, it’s from my childhood. The cherry was very artificial and the Coke? Well, the Coke was Coke. I didn’t like Coke. Hill’s had hot dogs, too. I didn’t get many of those.
There are a lot of memories I have about Hill’s, indeed. The first place I ever saw and played the real Space Invaders arcade game was in the lobby/entrance/cart storage part right next to a pinball machine. That was heaven. I have always loved video games. When the console, home entertainment systems like Atari, Intellivision and such showed up. I spent a lot of time on the inside of the store playing the demos; a lot of time. From the moment we walked in the building (and past the popcorn smell), there were times when that’s all I did. That could be a marathon shop of 3-4 hours for the Fam and even that wasn’t long enough for me. There were Texas Instruments computers and games for it. I played the crap out of some games. Again, I have always loved video games.
Once when I was about two or three years old (I’m guessing), the most terrifying thing of my life (at that point) happened. I got lost. I was with either Ma Mère or one of her sisters and I was playing in the clothes and turned around and they were gone. I think they thought I was with one of the other, I don’t know, but I don’t remember whether or not I freaked out but I know I was scared. I went up to an employee, they wore red smocks, and told them that I couldn’t find Ma Mère. I must have been crying, I’m not sure, but I think I can remember them announcing over the loudspeaker that there was a little boy named Timmy that had on Hee Haw overalls and was lost. My aunt Cindy came to pick me up and I was upset. I need to ask Ma Mère about that. But, I do remember it happening. I haven’t thought of that for a long, long time and it came back to me writing this.
Also, when I see Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell album cover, I think of Hill’s. I would walk about the music section and stare at album covers when I wasn’t playing video games or had to wait for someone else to get out of the way. That is one that I absolutely remember. There were many more. Frontiers from Journey. Beauty and the Beat from Go-Gos. Ozzy’s Blizzard of Oz, Diary of a Madman and Speak of the Devil were all standouts, even though I heard none of them at the time; I was a late bloomer with Ozzy. Same with Number of the Beast from Iron Maiden. There was Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band, I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Eye in the Sky from Alan Parsons Project, Kilroy was Here by Styx and the list goes on and on. This was in the time before cassettes took over so the album covers were big and bold. My 12-14 year-old self was in a haze staring at all of it.
I stood and held a Cabbage Patch Kid in the craze of riots and such in 1983. Each person could only get one so, Ma Mère forced me to stand and hold one (I wish I could remember its name) in addition to the one she had. I think she thought she could resell it for more money. This is a pre-eBay time, too. I don’t know if that’s right, but I’d probably be thinking it if it were me and I was old enough to have a concept of all that. I didn’t then. I didn’t care about it, I was just humiliated to be standing holding a doll. A doll that I didn’t even get to keep, mind you. For that I should have gotten to keep it at least.
School clothes galore. A Mickey Mouse watch. Countless toys, including the Star Trek and Wizard of Oz action figures and playsets and most all of the Star Wars stuff. All of that was from Hill’s. Hill’s had so much to do with my childhood, our lives, really. We got a Hill’s here in Winston-Salem (where Office Depot is on North Point/University, now) for about 10 minutes. They arrived and were gone. I went into it right after it opened. There was a faint smell of popcorn but it hadn’t been seasoned yet, not like the one in Beckley. Nothing was like that magical land of wares and commerce.
Hill’s were all bought out by Ames in 1999. A part of my childhood died at that point, not that I had really even been in there in close to thirty years but I have very vivid thoughts and memories. Just for S’s & G’s, I’m including a picture of another department store that was basically exclusive to WV, Heck’s. We would pass by Heck’s on the way into Beckley, whether we were going to Hill’s or one of the malls. Ma Mère wouldn’t let me say the word, that made it all the better. Just for nostalgia sake, I include this. So, thank you, Dear Reader, for indulging me and allowing me to reminisce and spout on poetic about Hill’s. You’re the best!
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“According to legend, little folk know, Hills is where the toys are!” “When you really need a low price, Hills has it every day.” “The anti-inflation department store.” “Hills has the hits – LPs or Cassettes” “Hills for Mom. Hills for Dad. Hills for the Family!” “Hills has layaway. Pass it on.”