I could’ve added this entry to the end of my previous one on the Maryland Faerie Festival because I found this store just a few miles from the festival fairgrounds in the town of Darlington. But I decided to make it as a separate post instead because seeing this particular store has brought back a bunch of childhood memories for me.
I was born in Baltimore and I lived there until I was five years old because my parents decided that they would rather live in the suburbs. My mother even confessed to me years later that she and my father deliberately picked an area where mass transit was non-existent because she was so desperate to put all forms of city life behind her. So we moved to Glen Burnie where her wish came true because you literally had to get into a car if you wanted to do even something simple like buying a gallon of milk because the stores were at least three miles away from our development.
While I was in elementary school some developer decided to build a small commercial building at the entrance to our development and a local High’s Dairy Store opened there. That High’s was the only store within a safe walking distance from where I lived. (There were some other stores located further away but it involved walking along the very busy Crain Highway and there were times—mainly rush hour—when you did not dare walk along that road.) Throughout my childhood and teen years (prior to getting a driver’s license) I would walk at least 15 minutes whenever I was in the mood for some candy. Sometimes I would walk with a friend or two.
High’s was your typical convenience store which sold mostly candy and sodas. It also sold some household items as well (such as toilet paper or aspirin) but they tended to be sold in smaller packages and they were higher priced than buying similar items in a grocery store. But the best feature about Highs was its ice cream, which especially came in handy during the blistering hot summer months. I bought many ice cream cones, popsicles, and ice cream sandwiches from that store.
High’s wasn’t the kind of store where you could spend a long time leisurely browsing (in fact the store clerks would start getting surly with you if you spent too long browsing the store aisles). It was the kind of store where you went in, grabbed what you needed, paid for it, then leave as soon as possible.
The High’s in my neighborhood closed for good after I went to the University of Maryland at College Park. Since then a variety of small businesses (ranging from a beauty salon to a tiny CD music store) have come and gone in High’s former location.
In the DC area I knew of two remaining High’s Dairy Stores and they were both located in Laurel. One was in the Historic Main Street District and the other was near the intersection of Routes 197 and 198. I would go to one or the other from time to time but not very often. Both of them have since left. One became a 7-Eleven and the other became a family-owned convenience store that isn’t affiliated with any major franchise.
So when I decided to leave the Maryland Faerie Festival, I foolishly followed a driver in front of me instead of programming the GPS navigation system in my smartphone so I ended up taking a different route from when I arrived to Camp Ramblewood (where the festival was held). I ultimately ended up on Route 1 so I decided to drive on that street for a while. I was also tired and overheated because the temperature that day was in the low 90’s with high humidity to match. I wanted to buy a diet soda so I could have enough caffeine that would keep me awake for the long trip home.
My wishes were answered when I was in the main area of Darlington and I found a High’s Dairy Store. I was surprised to find one because all the other High’s I was familiar with had either closed or been converted to other convenience stores unaffiliated with High’s. (In fact, according to the Wikipedia, High’s once had locations in DC and Virginia as well as Maryland and it had expanded to 350 stores. Since the 1980’s, it has shrunk down to just 50 locations in Maryland and Delaware.) I felt like I had encountered something from my childhood. I decided to take a couple of photos of that store for posterity since I don’t know when I’ll encounter another High’s Dairy Store. The next photo shows the front of the store, which was typical for a High’s Dairy Store.
This particular High’s location happened to sell gasoline, which made this one different from the other High’s I was familiar with (which were just convenience stores only).
I took just a couple of indoor shots. Basically the High’s was just as I remembered it where it was a small store that had mostly candy, snacks, ice cream, sodas, and small household items. This High’s was slightly bigger than the High’s I grew up with in Glen Burnie but it’s still not the kind of store that’s made for long leisurely browsing.
After I took that last shot, the store clerk yelled “Are you taking pictures?” at me. I put the smartphone back in my shorts pocket while the store clerk was busy with another customer.
I basically picked up a Diet Pepsi for myself, paid for it, then left. The clerk didn’t ask me any questions about my picture taking and I didn’t offer any information. I decided to just get out of there quickly then make the long drive back to my home near Washington, DC.