Blue Light Special… by JoAnn

Downington, PA / USA - February 24, 2020: A closed Big K Kmart store now sits empty after being closed and shuttered.

When I was a kid in the 60s, my parents would take my sister and me shopping at a new place called K-MART. We were used to the downtown scene. Walking the sidewalks of downtown Johnson City, Tennessee. All my life up until then, I had held my mother’s hand, window shopping or going inside for an adventure in what treasure we could find. I adored going downtown!

But something new had been built on the other side of town. It was a huge building, or huge by our standards back then, and it was called a superstore. Supposedly, it held everything within it’s massive walls. We would be able to shop for everything we needed, from clothing & shoes for the whole family, to household items for Mama to use and all the things my daddy needed to take care of the family car. According to the advertisements in the newspaper, they were also extremely cheap at this place. Not only did you save time shopping, you saved money!

I remember our first trip to this K-mart store. It was big, colorful, and shiny. It was so different from what we were used to. I remember feeling nervous to go inside, as was my mother. We were greeted with the smell of fresh popcorn when we walked through the automatic doors. A snack bar was nearby, and you could hear the corn popping. They also served ICEE drinks and submarine sandwiches. I had never had either one, so I hoped Mama or Daddy would decide to treat us. There were big wooden bin-type tables filled with every clothing article you could imagine in the ladies’ department. Racks and racks of clothes were hung for what seemed like miles to this little girl. I was most excited about the shoe section. They had so many shoes for kids. Mama let me look at them alone while she investigated shoes for herself. Daddy went off on his own, wanting to check out what they offered in the home repair and automotive sections. My dad was always a bargain hunter.

Something strange I had never seen before caught my dad’s attention. It was a blue light on top of a pole attached to a table with wheels on it. With the blue light flashing, a man came over the loudspeaker and told the shoppers that a special bargain was available for just a few minutes in a specific area of the store. Of course, my dad hurried to check it out. So did a lot of other shoppers as well. In about 20 minutes or so, that blue light would move to another part of the store, and it would be announced again over the speaker system with a new item. This kept my dad moving. My Mama wasn’t as interested in all the chaos, but it was right up my dad’s ally. He got a kick out of it.

I could not tell you exactly what bargains my dad may have found with one of those blue light specials at K-mart. But I remember the whole experience of shopping there with my parents and sister as an enjoyable memory. We continued to shop there for the remainder of our lives. I enjoyed shopping there as an adult because of the nostalgic feelings it gave me.

After my mother passed away in 2000, I found items she had bought from K-mart in her cedar chest that still had the straight pin and paper price tag attached to them. It gave me a big smile as I held those items, knowing I was probably with her when she bought them so long ago.

My dad could also perfectly imitate the man over the speaker, enticing K-mart shoppers to come check out the available bargains. He, of course, put his own spin on it, always looking for a laugh. He would describe how the blue light was in the ladies’ intimates section and that ladies’ panties were wayyyy down! Ha, ha! What a crazy thing to remember about a dad, but every time I do, I laugh. Thanks Daddy.


  1. Tommy on September 21, 2023 at 6:41 am

    Your dad used to sing that jingle to me when your parents came to visit. His version of it always made me smile, and he enjoyed singing it as much as I enjoyed listening to it.

  2. Christine on November 18, 2023 at 1:40 pm

    What a fun story!