In the town where I grew up there used to be a large K-Mart-style store, called Murphy’s Mart. It was quite a place in its era, at the forefront of the super-center concept where a person could theoretically purchase underwear, a club sandwich, an oil change, and bullets. Along with millions of other improbable combinations…
And when I was a youngling my friends and I used that place like our own personal giant and incredibly cool playground.
I don’t know how we got away with all the stuff we did, but can’t recall being hassled too much by the employees. We ran free inside Murphy’s for years and, with only a few exceptions, were left to our own devices.
And what were they thinking?!
I do remember getting an earful when we were playing hide & seek one day. Some kid went rampaging around a corner and knocked an “expensive” vase off a shelf. It shattered loudly, and shards of glass went flying in every direction. It looked cool as hell, like a fireworks display. But the assistant manager (or whatever) didn’t share our enthusiasm, and we were told to “git.”
Also, my friend Mike and I set off a firecracker in the men’s room one afternoon, and they weren’t overly amused by that episode either.
There was a man in the corner boof, taking a crap. He had the place all funked-up, and was humming and rattling a newspaper, like he was in the comfort of his own home. Mike and I had our pockets full of fireworks, and one of us came up with a fine idea…
A firecracker was placed on the sink, with the fuse hanging over the edge, then lit with a butane lighter. We took off, walking briskly toward the exit on the other side of the garden center, but didn’t make it very far.
The explosion was impossibly loud. It sounded like a stick of dynamite had gone off, like the entire front of the store must now be missing. Holy shit!
The guy inside the crapatorium started howling like he’d been stabbed, and there was pandemonium everywhere. Customers were taking cover behind displays, and I think one old dude had his WWII training kick-in, and completely hit the deck.
As soon as we passed through the doors, security grabbed us. They shoved us around, and man-handled us into the bowels of the operation. One of them had me by the top of my right arm, and kept “accidentally” ramming me into walls and doors.
They wanted our names, and telephone numbers. I went first, and told them the truth. But Mike believed he could outsmart the men, and gave them fake information. And I can’t remember the exact name he used, but it was something ridiculous, like “Snappy McGee.”
Yeah, that didn’t work in our favor. Those dudes weren’t in the mood for fun ‘n’ games, and I think they made a bigger deal about it because of Mike’s pen name. Both of us experienced substantial parental heat later in the day.
Besides detonating explosives in Murphy’s, we also liked to occasionally wind-up all the alarm clocks, and set them to go off at roughly the same time. Good fun. The workers would always come running, and we thought that was an absolute riot.
And in the electronics department was a demonstration tape, on a chain, which could be shoved into any of the tape players on display. We’d crank the volume on one of the stereos as high as it would go, ram in the tape, and start that brisk walking again.
Then this would be heard within a full half-mile radius: KRACO! EIGHT-TRACK STEREO!! BWOW WOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!!! That would be followed by sirens, helicopter sounds, machine guns, a guitar solo, etc. etc.
And we’d be over in the book department, buckled-over at the waist, laughing a wide streak in our shorts.
A kid named Danny removed a fire extinguisher from a pole one day, and sprayed some woman in the side of the face with it. But we didn’t usually hang out with him, and most of us agreed he’d taken things too far. I mean, seriously. That kind of stuff could get us banned for life. Then where would we be?
He also shoved over a rack of winter coats once. Again: too much. It felt like we had an unwritten agreement with the staff, and Danny wasn’t interested in holding up our end of the bargain.
Of course, all of us flirted with the limits, on occasion. I remember being with Steve one night, bursting large rubber balls in the toy department with hammers. We’d scrape the claw side of it across the surface, which would cause a loud squalling sound, then: WHOOSH! For some reason we thought that was the absolute pinnacle of comedy.
And we’d occasionally change the prices on albums, something that was possible during that pre-computer era. Once I bought a copy of Exile on Main St. (a double album) for $2.99, using the price tag off a bottle of shampoo, or something.
There was a large effeminate man who managed the record department at Murphy’s, and he actually caught Rocky and me changing prices one day. We tore out of there, and didn’t stop running until we were practically in the next town. We were running like the hounds of hell were on our heels.
Yeah, like that poofter would’ve chased us… I can see him now, sprinting across the parking lot with his wrists pressed high against his chest.
In any case, we had to lay-low for a while, after our encounter with “the dancing bear.” Heh. That dude liked to pretend he was a music expert, but stocked Elvis Costello in the humor section, and the Lords of the New Church in gospel.
But of all the shenanigans we pulled in that place, my favorite was the tennis balls. We’d go into the sporting goods department, and hurl tennis balls, or handballs (who in 1970s West Virginia played handball??), in random directions.
In the rear of the store was a snack bar, or diner, or whatever you want to call it. And we’d often fling balls into it, from a great distance.
After a while we began sending a scout, to see what actually happened when the projectile returned to Earth. One time I was the watcher, and Mike was the thrower. And an old man was sitting there with a BLT and fries in front of him, and the ball landed right in the middle of his lunch.
Food jumped three feet in the air, and the old guy almost went over backwards in his chair. And I’m not joking, I thought someone might have to call 911 for me. My lungs nearly collapsed from laughter. It doesn’t seem quite so funny now (wotta grand gang of assholes we were!), but it sure did then…
So, there you go. Those are my main memories of the late, great Murphy’s Mart. Did you guys ever pull similar stunts inside a local store growing up? If so, we need to hear about ’em. Use the comments link below.
And I’ll be back on Monday, if not sooner.
See ya then.
I started young. When I ws 3 or 4 (!) I used to hide in the circular clothing racks in the woman’s section of Sears and stick my arm in the sleeve of the shirts. When a woman came by looking through the clothes, an arm would be in one. I thought that was the funniest thing. I know I was 3 because my mom was pregnant with my brother and came looking for me. She was yelling my name and I wouldn’t answer because my target shopper was so close. My mother got so upset thinking she had lost me they had to drive her home and lay her down. She knew – that was just the beginning of my reign of terror.
And THAT, my friends, is one of the reasons I have remained childless.
Wow this is one of the best updates that I have read. My co-workers think im crazy!
Daniel Likes to Dance says
I used to peel off the security tags at best buy and then flick them like a paper football through the door sensors. Good times. Now they put them inside the package.
Brenda Love says
OMG Jeff! My mom totally worked at a Murphy’s when I was growing up. As she couldn’t afford a babysitter, I was left to my own devices to walk around and amuse myself. I knew every single album in the bins, and discovered KISS totally independent of any outside influences. When I saw them, I HAD to know what it sounded like….
Thanks for bringing up some memories today!
when I was a kid, it was my mom that was always the troublemaker. On one notable shopping trip to the mall, we were sitting on one of those benches in the center of the main drag and from down the hall we hear this obnoxious kid, maybe 2 or 3 years old, screaming and wailing and whining about some toy he undoubtedly wasn’t allowed to get – with his mother about 15 or so feet behind, following him down the hall and trying to coax him back.
My mom leaned toward me and my sister and whispered “I’ll give him something to cry about” and just as he passed in front of our bench, she outstretched her leg, sending the little snotty-nose flat on his face onto the hard tile.
As Brooke and I sat there horrified and yet terribly amused by our mom’s behavior, the little boy’s uptight mother ran over and snatched him up and coddled him and shot my mom the death stare and said something to her that as a child, made no sense to me but I could tell wasn’t nice.
Shopping with mom was the best.
Joe T. says
Sugerman’s Eynon Drug Store…”Polish Disneyland”
Great update that has brought out some equally great stories! I’ve had similar escapades at the local Zellers…once upon a time they had cartons of cigarettes for sale, out in the open, right near the entrance to the store. A good friend of mine had an oversized full length army jacket that was populated with pockets and could hold 8 cartons, easy. None of us even smoked…
I still can’t believe Jeff tried to buy truck tires for his Camry!
Just starting the weekend with an AppleJacks, sweet whiskey goodness! I have a party to go to but I’ll check back later in case Jason and Brandy want to get drunk and play…or should I not be encouraging that sort of behaviour?
Deep thoughts by Kevin:
I’m searching for some “t” and “a” to join “me” in the forming of a “team”
I didn’t behave like that as a child as I would have gotten a serious beat down. However, a few years back I was in a Value City Furniture store around Christmas and they had set out Santa and Mrs. Claus dolls on each of the beds in fully-clothed chaste repose. This simply wouldn’t do. Needless to say, Kris and Ms. Kringle made a porno.
Do check back. I invented a new drink – raspberry vodka, champagne and Tropicana orange/strawberry/banana Twister juice, on the rocks with fresh raspberries and an orange slice floating on top.
I don’t have a name for it yet, but it is divine and the effect it has on my sobriety is perfection!
Divine Twister…no, no…that’s a little too simplistic.
You need something symbolic and descriptive. Fruit juice and vodka screams the sunshine state. Toss in the champagne and you have a…
Florida New Year
Taiwan On says
When I was in high school (a long time ago) my buddy had access to his fambly’s VW micro-bus. On occasion, a bunch of us dorks would take that microbus down to the parking lot of the local Mammoth Mart and see if they were lazy enough to have left any carriages out. If we found one, it was high times. You see, we could roll back the door of the microbus, grab hold of the carriage, and get that broken-wheeled assembly moving up to speeds that God had not intended. Then , at the last second, we would veer off and let the carriage slam into whatever obstacle seemed to offer the best chance of amusing destruction. Good times.
I like where your head is.
I’m thinking something along the lines of “SandInMyBikini”
You’ve got sand/bikini – florida-ish
and the “ini” cuz its kinda like a martini
And, also, sand in your bikini isn’t a big deal at the time, when you’re having all the fun at the beach and whatnot, but later on when you get home and have to clean it all out, not fun (that’s the hangover part. champagne hangovers, ouch – sand in your crotch, ouch)
I cant tell if i’m making sense or not. god bless liquor.
Good Evening / Good Night / Good Morning Surf Reporters….
Vague is the word when it comes to Murphy Mart, but
Mom drove ‘prolly the first car I remember, ’69 Oldsmobile Delta 89(88?), all I know it was 100 feet long, 25 miles wide and took regular gas, delivered di- rectly into the ass end of the car, via flipping down the license plate frame .
Murphy Mart was eventually acquired by the new upstart of the time, via Flint(?) Michigan, K-Mart
Worked in a K Mart 20 years later as a night stock boy. There were many many shenanigans late at night after the manager locked us in for the night
That’s good, real damn good. It has the innuendo of a “juicy pussy” or a “slow comfortable screw up against the wall” but with an added aftertaste. A certain je ne sais quoi? Sand indeed.
was murphy mart a regional chain? i believe it was….
According to the interweb it was a regional chain. There were two stores, the department stores already named (Murphy’s Mart) and variety stores called G.C.Murphy’s. By 1989 there were 108 Murphy’s Marts and 263 G.C.Murphy variety stores. And it came to an official end in 2002.
“Mom drove ‘prolly the first car I remember, ‘69 Oldsmobile Delta 89(88?), all I know it was 100 feet long, 25 miles wide and took regular gas, delivered di- rectly into the ass end of the car, via flipping down the license plate frame .”
OMG, I totally know what you mean,
my mom had Galaxy 500. We used to call it the “Boat”.
If you were sitting in the back seat (I always was),
you had to literally YELL to talk to the people in the front
My Mom loved that car,
she said she liked so much because of the size.
She felt “safe” in it.
A side to the story, my mom was only 5’2
and didn’t weigh more than 100 lbs soaking wet.
she looked odd in the car to say the least.
Thanks for the confirmation. I thought so. The Murphy Mart was in it’s own building, kind of like a Big Lots today, and the G C Murphy was inside the mall.
Ahhh, nostalgic memories
to paraphrase JK ~ “Will somebody hold me?”
JCIII – You’re welcome. I was trying to think back over a store that I might be nostalgic about. The only thing I can come up with is TG&Y. It was a five and dime type store and a pharmacy.
There was also this one store that my mom would take her books of stamps to from the grocery store. She’d trade them for lamps or figurines, crap like that.
S & H Green Stamps!!!!
S & H Green Stamps, that’s it! I just looked them up and they now do a version online. Anyone that’s interested can go here to find out more.
Bill in PA says
I refuse to answer on the grounds that I may incriminate myself.
Heck’s was another one – and also, Hills.
MM was a stand alone store, GCM was a downtown type of store. Many of them have become Dollar Stores – I think..
When I was a kid (before malls were invented), G. C. Murphy was the Walmart of its day. It carried everything you needed. Ours was on our main downtown street, just of north of F. W. Woolworth’s, kind of like Murphy’s, but a bit junkier. If neither of those stores had what you wanted, you didn’t need it.
I left out Kresge’s, which of course, became K-mart. And the quality of their crap has never improved.
My posts are showing up plus one hour. Somebody’s server didn’t get the daylight savings time conversion patch.
Like Jorge, I never did anything because the Former Father would have killed me. Must be a Detroit Fathers thing. I was less scared of the cops than the FF, except that they would have called the FF, so in the end I simply behaved myself.
Is this thing on?
i will volunteer to do the R. Lee Earmy part from FMJ. just ask bill from wv, i know the whole routine.
Zippo Hartley says
the super secret update link won’t work for me…BOOOO
Kelly from Iowa says
Me either. 🙁
dan d says
wow great storys been following the murphys mart web page and found this site too as a former customer in highschool and employee i had my share of adventures at murphys both as a teen ager and as a young adult by that time the stores had been changed to ames . growing up i remember the selection of in expensive model railroad supplies offered each winter. the stuff would wear out the wheel sets so each year id by new cars swap the wheel sets out and return the cars for my money or exchange them for some other railroad stuff in therory THE GC MURPHY COMPANY underwrote my model railroad empire for nearly 12 years by keeping me in a good supply of wheels and couplers….. as for working there out of highschool we had a great time the one episode i remember was someone got a little crazzy with a display of the new 2 liter pepsi bottles and took a needle and punctured about 20 some bottles just fizzing on to the floor ….also one night we had a lame 24 hr sale well about midnight it was dead snow was falling fast////…..one of the dating clerk couples headed off to inventory the bean bag chair pile in the upstairs stock room we kept making monkey noises over the pa system and other rude noises also an impromtu volley ball game broke out using the service counter as the net all was good till some one (me) klutzo served the ball a LIITLE TOO HARD andWOOSH took out the light fixtures above the service desk some coat hangers and a roll of duct tape and we engineered it all back together short bulbs we heisted some from the lower stock room (under the bean bag inventory session and left the broken glass on the stock room floor the murphy couple thought they rocked the bubs loose later that night….