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TV Tray

Here’s a story about a TV tray.

Venture, the discount department store, opened its first store in January of 1970 right outside St. Louis, Missouri. By 1971 there were six locations (four in Missouri and two in Illinois). Throughout the 1970s the chain continued to expand, and in 1983 Venture opened three stores in Oklahoma City: French Market Mall, I-240 and Shields, and on the corner of Sooner and Reno in Midwest City. The first two stores were former Woolco locations. The Midwest City location was new construction. Based on the numbers in the two articles I found, I believe the three new Venture stores in Oklahoma were stores #49, #50, and #51.

(Perhaps ominously, the article linked above includes this: “Following right on the heels of the Venture openings, Wal-Mart opens its newest store today at NW 23 and MacArthur, with others planned near NW Expressway and Rockwell and I-240 and South Pennsylvania.”)

Yukon didn’t get a Venture store (we had TG&Y and Walmart), but I remember going to those other Venture locations plenty. We visited the one off of I-240 and Shields many times, and my grandma lived near the one in Midwest City. (Come to think of it, my other grandma lived near one in Chicago, too.) I have a lot of memories of the I-240 and Shields location. It was located next to the Super Saver Cinema 8 (a dollar theater) that we visited on occasion. The pathway from the lobby to the theater was filled with lights which made it feel like you were walking in outer space. My later memories of that same area are not so good. That area became known for its high crime rates. I remember walking down the sidewalk between Payless and Venture one time with my mom when a guy ten feet behind us grabbed a lady’s purse and took off running. He brushed right against me and it happened to fast that I didn’t put it all together until after it had happened.

As companies like Target and Kmart continued to expand, Venture had trouble keeping up. While Venture was busy moving north to south, Walmart was moving from south to north. Venture was sold and restructured in 1990, and despite an attempt to restructure themselves as “locally-themed” department stores after opening an additional dozen stores in Texas, the writing was on the wall. As new Target and Walmart stores in Chicago dug deep into the chain’s market share, Venture sold their Texas-based locations to Kmart in an attempt to stay afloat. It was too late. In May of 1998, Venture Stores filed for bankruptcy, and closed all 73 remaining locations.

According to this article, the Venture location at French Market Mall closed on August 25, 1995.

In the fall of 1995, Susan and I bought that old house in El Reno. At the time, we had no bedroom furniture (or much of anything else). When Venture stores began to close in Oklahoma, they held massive liquidation “everything must go” sales. We attended one of those sales with my dad. It seems like my sister went, too.

I asked my dad about his memories of the sale. “It seems like it was a month long,” he said. “Each week the savings got better and the merchandise got worse.”

I remember it the same way. By the second week, the store was completely trashed. Boxes had been ripped open and destroyed. People were opening boxes and stuffing them with items off the shelves and paying next to nothing for them. Nobody in the store cared. They just wanted the stuff gone.

I remember buying two things during that sale. One was a cordless phone that I pieced together from various units. The box was on the shelf, the handset came from a display unit, and the power cord was on the floor. The phone never worked correctly; the handset and base were mismatched. The other thing we bought was a set of TV trays. By then the trays had been scattered all around the store. One even had merchandise stacked on it. We found a box (for four trays) and crammed six of them in there. I think Susan and I ended up with two of them, my dad ended up with two, and my sister ended up with two, but I could have the distribution slightly off. The box was originally priced at $40 and we got 90% off.

My dad had one other memory from that day. “It was the summer, and they had turned off the air conditioning. The girl who rang us up was sweating to death. After we left the store, you (Rob) went next door, bought a Coke, and took it back and gave it to the cashier.” It’s funny that I have no recollection of that story at all, and yet it sounds exactly something that I would have done. So, “go young me!”

In 1996, I took a government job and moved to Spokane, Washington. The TV trays made the 1,800 mile journey with us. In this picture, you can see the same tray folded up behind our futon. I know it looks like I’m not wearing pants in this picture, but I am. (Well, shorts.)

The trays made the trip back to Oklahoma, too. When we bought our first “real” home in 1998, the trays ended up in the kitchen. We ate on them and later, as we began using laptops for work, used them as laptop desks.

This picture, of Susan with Gidget, is from 2000. It predates Mason by a good year and a half. You can see the trays in the background, leaning up against the fridge.

The TV trays are 20 years old as of this year. At a garage sale a few years ago we picked up three more. They’re darker in color, which makes them easy to distinguish from the originals. One of those first two we owned has green paint of them (from when we painted Mason’s nursery in 2001, I think). The other has a big glob of white glue stuck to it, from a Girl Scout project.

I know it sounds dumb, but we’ve had those TV trays for as long as we’ve been married. They’ve been to Washington state and back. We’ve eaten many meals on them, and now our kids have, too. When I see those trays I think of all the great family memories we’ve made together over the past 20 years.

That was a story about a TV tray.

(Much of the information about Venture came from this blog post on PleasantFamilyShopping.Blogspot.com.)

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3 comments to TV Tray

  • Uncle kenny

    Good Post and loved reading your memories. Best wishes Nephew !!

  • It’s funny how the most mundane objects in our lives hold the most sentimental memories. My 85yo mother keeps giving me her “treasures” for safe keeping but to me they are worthless old junk that I have no clue with what to do.

    But these treasures are our link to the past and grace us to precious memories.

  • I love it! I did a similar remembrance of an end table once.