Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Main Street Paducah and Grab Bags

A few more scenes from main street Paducah.

Walking through downtown on a summer Sunday in Paducah, Kentucky my mind drifted to the downtown of my childhood hometown.

I recalled the end-of-summer sales at all the stores along the street.  Sidewalk sales and Moonlight Madness.  Merchants would dress in colorful pajamas and stay open late. A long table of sale items sat outside every storefront on Pomeroy Avenue.

A perennial sales ploy was the grab bag.  Store owners would take odds and ends, items which hadn't sold through the year, and stick them in sealed brown paper lunch bags.  Shoppers could choose any of the bags for a set price.

My mom was a moth to the flame with these grab bags.  It didn't matter that they were filled with merchandise that the store-owner was betting she would not buy if she could see what it was.  There was something about concealing it from view that presented it in a way that suggested that she would get more than her fifty cents worth. It hooked her every year.

I suppose we all want to get something for nothing.  And there is something truly exciting about the potential that lies just out of view.  Whatever the reason, grab bags were my mother's Vegas.  She would take the bet every time.

But just like Vegas, the house always wins.  Stores unloaded their unwanted merchandise and pocketed a bit of change.  Mom tore into her paper bag with anticipation.  Always within minutes the items were tossed aside adding to the clutter of an already overpacked home.

It seemed like such a waste to me.  Mom, save your money, I would think.  It is not like you have lots to spare, and heaven knows we don't need any more junk.

 It has taken me a long time to figure out that it wasn't the grab bag she was purchasing.  It was the promise of what might be.  The slight possibility that the oyster might just one time contain a pearl.


Every once in a while I still see a grab-bag table at a store or charity event.  I stop for just a minute to watch, but never buy.  Over time my view of grab-bags has mellowed to a pleasant realization that they don't merely represent an attempt to unload leftovers.  They also represent the  unquenchable optimism of a lady in Kansas with a boatload of kids and barely enough money to make ends meet.  A lady who never gave up hope.

Inspired by Change: My Attitude


  1. Great story! I bet she found at least one good thing in one of them.

    1. Can't recall the objects though I do have a memory of many laughs when she revealed her treasures!

  2. Great story. My Mom would mail order $20 "remenant box" of fabric from Sears years ago, which was sort of like a grab bag, and a box would arrive in the mail, filled with 1 yard to 2 yards of beautiful fabric of all types and colors. Since she sewed, all of it was useful and she enjoyed having a ample selection of fabric for her

    1. I had no idea Sears had such a thing. I definitely see the appeal of the remnant box more than the grab bag. At least you know you are getting fabric and odds are much better you will have use for that.

  3. My kids are obsessed with Blind Bags and I haaaate buying them! It feels like such a waste and sometimes they end up with repeat items. I've basically banned them at this point.

    1. My kids never-not once got to buy one! But looking back I have mellowed. Now they hold sentimental value as a reminder of my mom's optimism.


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