A coming-of-age memoir evoking farm, mining, and small-town life in Alabama’s Tuscaloosa County as the world transitions from the Great Depression to World War II
In the 1930s, 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 chronicle of her family’s daily struggles in Tuscaloosa County alongside events in the wider world she gleaned from shortwave radio and the occasional newspaper. She wrote about Howard Hughes’s round-the-world flight and her horror 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 her family and beloved animals.
Yet, with her father’s encouragement, she did leave, becoming a clerk in the Kress dime store in downtown Tuscaloosa. Despite long workdays and a lengthy bus commute, she continued to record her observations and experiences in her diary, for 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.
Drawing on her diary entries from the 1930s and early 1940s, Henderson recollects a time of sweeping change for Tuscaloosa and the South. The World through the Dime Store Door is a personal and engaging account of a Southern town and its environs in transition told through the eyes of a poor young woman with only a high school education but gifted with a lively mind and an openness to life.