When I was a kid, back before the new strip mall or Walmart was built in our area, the best discount department store to be found was Hills. I love love loved Hills. I still remember going school shopping there, and I can even recall the layout of the store. Hills was probably most well known for their toy section for Christmas and their layaway program. I will never forget their creepy commercial with the Santa mini me elf proclaiming "Hills is where the toys are!"
One of the best things about Hills, beside their lobby full of arcade games, popcorn, and hot dogs, was the fact that they hosted special events. They had fireworks on the 4th of July, which we could often see from our house. They had Easter Egg Hunts. And they had another event which sparked a very vivid memory for me this morning.
Each October, Hills sponsored a Pumpkin Hunt. Bales of fresh, sweet hay were brought in, stacked up, and strewn about. Little plastic pumpkins were hidden, each containing a little prize. Some contained candy, some contained dollar bills, and some contained coupons for free icees, popcorn, or hot dogs from the lobby concession stand. It was the most fun event ever. And the reason this memory jolted me this morning was the smell of the hay. This morning, I used a hair gel that had the same clean, sweet, fresh smell of that hay, and the memory came flooding back to me as sure as if I was 6 years old again, looking for plastic pumpkins.
When I was a teenager, Hills was bought out by Ames, but it was never the same. Eventually Ames closed their doors. As far as I know, the building is still there, but I am unsure if anything is being doing with it. I will forever miss Hills.