The Quick 10: Woolworth's Five and Dime

On July 17, 1997, Woolworth's closed their doors for good. Not that there were many doors to close "“ the company had been slowly selling off pieces of the company and shutting down individual stores for more than a decade. To commemorate the ex-giant, here are a few facts about the company that used to be the biggest department store chain in the world.

FW1. The first Woolworth's "“ everything cost a nickel - was a complete and utter failure. It opened in Utica, New York, in 1878, and was closed within a year; some reports say it was so disastrous it failed within weeks. F.W. (pictured) tried a second store, this one in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He added 10 cent items to the list of goods sold and the higher-priced items allowed him to successfully operate the store.
2. There was a little friendly competition in the family "“ F.W. Woolworth's cousin, Seymour Knox, ran a similar chain of stores called S.H. Knox and Co.'s 5 & 10 Cent Stores. Knox had more than 100 stores in the U.S. and Canada before agreeing to merge with his cousin in 1911.

NEWYORKbuilding3. The now-iconic Woolworth Building in New York City was finished in 1913 and at 792 feet, it was the tallest building in the world (until 1930). It cost $13.5 million to build, and supposedly Woolworth paid for the whole thing in cash. It's now only the 15th tallest building in New York.
4. Seafoam salad was popularized at the Woolworth's lunch counter. It sounds absolutely disgusting to me, but maybe you guys like it: it's lime Jell-O, cream cheese, pears, maraschino cherries and whipped cream. You can also make it with orange Jell-O, if you prefer, or substitute pineapple for pears and add mayo and nuts. Ugh. The only way you could make it worse for me is by adding coconut flakes to the mix.

5. Although the Woolworth stores have closed, the Woolworth Company remains "“ it's just called something different now. You're probably familiar with it "“ it's Foot Locker, Inc. In the "˜70s and "˜80s, the company bought or created a bunch of specialty stores to boost sales and expand the business, from Champs Sports to Northern Reflections to a timepiece store called Best of Times. This included Foot Locker. When it became clear in 2001 that Foot Locker was its best-selling brand, Woolworth changed their name from Venator (which it had adopted upon closing all of its five-and-dime stores) to Foot Locker, Inc.

lunchcounter6. The Woolworth lunch counters were home to some of the most famous civil rights protests during the 1960s. On February 1, 1960, four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University sat down at some stools reserved for whites only at the Greensboro Woolworth's lunch counter. They were refused service, so they refused to leave. More people joined them every day, and eventually the owner closed the store for a few weeks because of a bomb threat. That very lunch counter desegregated a few months later on July 26, 1960. A section of the lunch counter, which closed when the store closed in 1993, now resides at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. An International Civil Rights Center and Museum is planned for the spot in Greensboro where the vacated building stands.

7. In 1979, The Guinness Book of World Records declared that Woolworths was the largest department store chain the world.

8. The Woolworth building in New York has been a pretty popular spot for movies and television shows. It can be spotted in Enchanted as the building that Narissa scales with Robert in her clutches, it's one of the buildings that is destroyed by the Cloverfield monster, and it's the headquarters for Mode magazine in Ugly Betty, among others.

RF529. Barbara Hutton, Frank Winfield Woolworth's granddaughter, was sort of the Paris Hilton of her day "“ a socialite who was famous just because of her family. But there was a lot going on behind the money. Her mother, Woolworth's daughter Edna, committed suicide when Barbara was just six. Barbara was shuttled around to various family members after that. She inherited $50 million on her 21st birthday and then went through a string of husbands, including abusive ones, freeloaders and Cary Grant (who did not ask for a penny when they divorced, by the way). Her only son died in a plane crash in 1972 and it's said that she kind of lost it after that; by the time she died seven years later, it's rumored that she had dwindled away all but $4,000 of her fortune.
10. Brits might be familiar with a Woolworths that is still in operation today; that company used to be owned by the same company as the U.S. Woolworths. Since 1982, it has been operating as its own entity, however, and stayed alive even when the ones in the States closed. That has since changed, though "“ the company announced last year that it would be closing and shuttered its last windows on January 6 of this year.

Do any of you remember going to Woolworth's? I'd love to hear your experiences, so share in the comments if you have any!

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



More from mental floss studios