Back in the day I recall going to:
-Ben Franklin... A small chain of odd retail stores who kinda had a specialty for craft things (thread, fabric, yarn, etc.) but who also had a general collection of other stuff too. Got many a G.I. Joe there, and Ben Franklin stores were like fly ****. There was one in almost every small town (yup, small towns in the boonies). One was even right on the top of the hill in my dinky little town, and another 10 minutes away in Apollo up the river. Weird stores, and they just all disappeared (the last of them) maybe 8 or 10 years ago. Not all that long, considering.
-G.C. Murphy, 5&10... These too were like fly ****, and common in small towns. I remember the one in Vandergrift PA (the building still there), had hard-wood floors and was 2 floors actually. An upper and lower that had different things on each level. I got Airborne, Gung-Ho, and Snowjob at that 5&10. There was one in Natrona Heights as well, and one in downtown New Kensington which is a ghost town now.
The one in New Kensington had a privately owned chocolate company called Herman's too. Herman's was the BEST chocolate ever, and I haven't had any that rivaled it. their nonparels were unmatched to this day.
-Fisher Big Wheel... Where every one of these were, a Big Lots now stands, but Big Lots sucks sack compared to them because Fisher Big Wheel had "new" toy lines, updated stock, and were simply great. Pricier as I recall, and really not classier by any means, but they were pretty cool stores.
We had one of these at one of the other plazas at the top of the hill. Big Lots, unfortunately, now occupies it.
-Hills... Hills was THE place that I went with my mom to shop every other week when she cashed my dad's check from the mill. We'd usually hit some other places because she had to do her two weeks of shopping on one day (back when we only had one car and Dad took it to work, but mom dropped him off at work on shopping day).
Hills was perfect. Always had tons of toys, prices were the best, and it was always my favorite bi-weekly stop. Hills was bought up by Ames, and Ames quickly went out of business. Hills is another store that, not that long ago, was still in business.
-Gold Circle... Gold Circle was a store sort of like Penney's in the Pittsburgh area. Had a good toy selection, and it's where I got my Rancor on clearance.
I remember one of the VERY rare times my father set foot in a store (any store) was going to Gold Circle for something (I forget) and as he drug my mother and I throuh the store (mach speed, no looking around at anything, straight to what he wanted), we passed a bin BRIMMING with BRAND NEW G.I. Joes. This is back before the net of course, and I was a little kid, so seeing BRAND NEW Joes just made me go ape ****. I begged, but my father never let me get anything anywhere we went... I was whispering my pleas to my mother. She finally stepped in, and I'll never forget it. She said that they were new figures, and that Cole (my brother who was sort of the favorite) would like one since they're new, and that got me a green light to get one too. I got Flint that day, and Cole got Snake Eyes v.2 with Timber.
Twas a grand day. Shortly after, we went and got the rest of the Joes...
Mom sure was/is good to us.
-Gee Bee... There's a mall, which is run down and hardly used, but it's actually only about 20 minutes from my house in Natrona Heights. The Heights, like New Kensington, are getting bad. The mall's at the one far end though where it's still a wooded area, but the mall just never "took off". It's strange really.
Gee Bee was like the anchor store, which is like having a piece of styrofoam for an anchor.
It was a weird store, like Hills, or any other department store, but they had WEIRD toys. Stuff that is rare today, you'd have found at Gee Bee. They carried Playmobil (remember that? Target has it now, but when I was young PMB was a rarity in the toy aisle, and it still is today somewhat). They also had a bubble gum machine that had the oddest junk you'd ever find. Trinkets from decades ago, seriously.
I swear to god, I got a smoking monkey from it one day. These things are meant to be lit on fire, and smoke/blow smoke rings. Not a toy, at least even by the safety standards of my childhood, and yet I got one of these things. Wish I still had it... I have made a nice collection since though.
-K-Mart... K-Mart showed up in one of the other plazas on the top of the hill from me in 1982. To be exact, it was the EXACT time G.I. Joe ARAH began because my very first Joe (Flash) came from there. My mother came home from KM's grand opening and said she had something for me she knew I'd love.
On that day, my love of Star Wars was pretty much over from a toy standpoint (till 89 or so), and basically I was hooked on Joes then. They were the dominant toy of my childhood, and I can safely say I had everything except foreign things, the FLAGG, and exclusives... Up till the late 80's early 90's anyway.
KM is still there, and now is the only decent retail store in quite some distance. Nearest Wal-Mart is 25 minutes away at least.
-Then there's trips to the mall....
You guys who have seen the original Dawn of the Dead will know the mall that was my once, maybe twice a year jaunt... As a child I remember feeling like the drive was unbearable, but you stuck it out (or passed out in the back seat) because this was the ONLY place with a Children's Palace!!!!!
Yes, old Children's Palace. Got many a Joe there as well. Now it's a car dealer, and I realize the trip there (when I'm driving) takes me all of like 40 - 45 minutes.
The mall's completely different from when I was young. When I was young it was basically just like you see in Dawn of the Dead. I ate the brown Derby, I shopped at Penney's, the Ice rink was there but now a food court is in its place, etc., etc... It's bigger, they've got more stores.
There was also a mall that's now gone near Greensburg PA, and it's been replaced by Westmoreland Mall which is just outside Greensburg, and is bigger. There's a TOys R Us there too. Where the old mall (GreenGate Mall, which had an ice rink too, and a HUGE fountain) was there's a SUper Wal-Mart going in, and a Target is across from it about.
Beyond that, I rarely went anywhere else...
I didn't go to Pittsburgh hardly ever till I was 12 or so when my grandmother was dying and I went with my mother to take her to the hospital a lot. My own health was/is bad so I was at hospitals a lot around that age for myself. That forces you into the Oakland area of the city (Where Pitt, CMU, and other universities are).
Dunno why I decided to remember all these things... I've had this "Where'd you shop" talk with my friends several times though, and my buddy Dan always laughed at how our friend Tyson and myself can finish each other's thoughts/sentences about these stores. He was just as into Joes and shopping at the same stores at the same times with the same habits/thoughts about them as me, and we laugh about that a lot.
I can remember every G.I. Joe I got, when I got it, where, and the specifics surrounding the moment.
I can't remember cost accounting equations and problem formats, but I remember all that other junk.