The World through the Dime Store Door
In the 1930’s, the rural South was in the throes of the Great Depression. Farm life was monotonous and hard, but a timid yet curious teenager thought it worth recording. Aileen Kilgore Henderson kept a diary of her family’s daily struggles and events in the wider world as gleaned through shortwave radio and occasional newspapers. Her entries followed Howard Hughes on his round-the-world flight, dreamed of sitting on the patio of Shepheard’s Hotel to watch Lawrence of Arabia ride in from the desert, and was aghast at the rise to power in Germany of a bizarre politician named Adolf Hitler. Henderson longed to join the vast world beyond the farm, but feared leaving the refuge of family and beloved animals.
Yet, with her father’s encouragement, she did, becoming a clerk in the Kress dime store in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In spite of long workdays and a lengthy bus commute, she continued to record her observations and experiences in her diary as her world began to expand. The World through the Dime Store Door is Henderson’s memoir drawn from diary entries covering the closing years of the Great Depression and the opening years of World War II—a time of sweeping change for Tuscaloosa and the South.
Every day at the dime store was interesting and exciting for an observant young woman who found herself considering new ideas and different points of view. Henderson’s recollections offer a personal and engaging account of a Southern town and its environs in transition as worldwide war loomed on the horizon as seen by a poor young woman with only a high school education, but also one with a lively mind and an openness to life.
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