Everything about Debra Jackson and Dollar Palace


I got the image above from an email list I’m on that occasionally sends out funny stuff. And it is amusing: the idea that Walmart is a place that one would need to dress up for. Here is the text for those who can’t see the image:

Debra Jackson says she likes shopping at the Dollar Palace because it is convenient and casual.

“I don’t have to get all dressed up like I’m going to Wal-Mart or something,” she said…

This image is very similar to the College of Planning sign image. It’s been around for years, and every few months a new group of people find it and it goes viral. Again.

As far as I can tell, it dates back to an article from 2005 in The Daily Town Talk. It is now called, The Town Talk. It was founded in 1883 and covers central Louisiana.

Dollar Palace Was a Real Place

The article appears to be about Dollar Palace, which had opened in November 2004. (It appears to be out of business now — but it was in business as late as 2007.) These kinds of articles are standard for local papers. There’s a new business in town so a reporter goes out, talks to the owner and the customers, and files a story.

Is Debra Jackson for Real?

Over at the Snopes forum, Ovalescent noted something very interesting:

I’m guessing it’s just from a quasi-rural area where Wal-Mart is the main grocery/department store. If you’re way more likely to run into family or co-workers, it’s a dressier affair. I personally don’t doll myself up, but I always make sure I’m at least brushed out and cleaned up before I go there lest I inevitably run into someone I know.

That makes a lot of sense. When Walmart moves into a rural area, it becomes something of an attraction. Debra Jackson isn’t some idiot redneck who thinks Walmart is such a great thing. But she is recognizing that it is the economic center of her area.

Is It a Hoax?

A lot of people have just assumed that it is a hoax. But there are a number of things that push against that. The first is that it is an image. One would have had to have gone to a lot of trouble to create the base image. Then, there’s the highlighting and pen outline. That’s a lot of work to go to just to make fun of yokels in a pretty gentle way.

Even if it weren’t an image, most hoaxes of these kinds have no details. At the time, various people were talking about it coming from an established paper. (I’ve found a couple of links to the original article, but it is down and nothing on that site is saved on Archive.org.) It wasn’t the standard, “A large newspaper in the northwest reported about a woman…” There are specifics that can be checked. It passes the smell test.

On the other hand, it would be different if Debra Jackson had said, “I love Dollar Palace! It’s the only store where they keep the darkies in line.” (Dollar Palace was owned by Kenneth Williams, an African American.) In that case, I would start looking for signs of Photoshop in the image above. But as it stands, it seems very likely that it is the real deal, and that Debra Jackson had a good reason for saying what sounds like something very silly.

11 thoughts on “Everything about Debra Jackson and Dollar Palace

  1. For other people, dressing up for Walmart means packing heat:

    She said she usually wore her gun in a holster on her hip, but that day she decided to put it under her driver’s seat.

    “I was not going shopping or going to Walmart or anything like that, I was going to my mom’s house and I was going to my cousin’s house. The worst thing I think I might have encountered that day would be a rattlesnake,” Gilt said about why she didn’t wear the gun on her like she usually does.


    • Oh, my. People worry about the wrong things. I walk a lot and I know that most drivers are actively trying to kill me. Walking through a parking lot is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Worry about things where a gun would be useful is crazy.

  2. I love this, since it’s a perfect example of what makes history awesome. Because of their boring high-school history classes, most people think history is about tedious footnotes. It’s not! It’s all about the “smell test.”

    Do you have a story about a movie theater whose owner overcharged for popcorn? Smell test passed. Do you have a story about a movie theater owner whose owner loves customers so much, they refuse to make a profit overcharging people for popcorn? Smell test fail. It may be true, but you need to quadruple-check it before you assume it’s true.

    And that’s what makes history, or any evidence-based hobby, a blast. You stumble onto examples that don’t pass the smell test. So you check ’em and check ’em again. And then maybe you decide the unusual example is verifiably real. And now your sense of smell is a little more perceptive than it was before.

    • That’s something most people don’t understand. History is really about statistics. What’s likely. It’s possible the pyramids were build by space aliens. But it’s far more likely that it was a contract job — much like the job to build the World Trade Center.

      But it does come back to my general believe that most things are intuition and we use our “rational” brains to justify our hunches.

      • And that’s not wrong. If you’ve studied beekeeping for 50 years, you have experience and insight most others don’t. The smell test is a good test.

        But if you’ve studied beekeeping for 50 years, you probably also have some irrational views common among really old beekeepers. I don’t knock that, I’m the same way, we all are. It’s a constant challenge to be aware of our unclear thinking. Because we never stop doing that, along with hopefully the solid beekeeping wisdom we make good use of!

        • Yeah, I think a little humility is really helpful. I’ve found that age tends to push in one of two directions: they ossify and think they are absolutely right about everything, or they become quite uncertain. I tend to be the latter camp. There are some things that are clear enough, but there is so much more that just make we throw up my hands.

    • However, you know, professional historians do exist. And we NEVER EVER rely on “smell test.” We rely 100% on evidence. Let’s suppose this was an important enough story to research. Here’s what WE would do: we find the actual paper the clipping comes from, and we find the reporter who wrote the article. We find the people interviewed, if alive. If not alive, we find proof they lived – birth records, obits, death certs, etc. We interview anyone who has FIRST HAND KNOWLEDGE that they either gave this interview or that they at least expressed similar views at other times. If they are alive, we ask them if the article fairly represents the sentiments expressed to the reporter that day; just because it was written doesn’t mean something wasn’t taken out of context. We ask them how they recall the interview, which is also what we ask the journalist, to cross check their memories. We also ask them if they have any reflections on the topic now that it’s in the past; we always appreciate people’s perspectives on issues that affect their past, even if we later dispute their analyses. IF we aren’t able to find the journalist, the person interviewed or anyone else with 1st-hand knowledge of the story, we then go to our secondary sources: the article itself, information about the store, about the journalist and the person interviewed, demographic information on them and about the region (such as this article used), and we use one of our methodologies to analyze that information in order to come to a logical conclusion based on facts alone. I personally think it’s fascinating work to uncover facts, analyze them, and present stories in ways that weren’t told before, but we eschew guess-work. I’d rather say, “we don’t know,” than make something up or guess. History is fact-based, and facts by their nature are the truth.

      • This is interesting. Thank you.

        I’m skeptical of claims about “100% on evidence.” I was a physicist for a lot of my life and I know that people’s priors affect everything they do. It’s dangerous to ever think we are just following where the facts take us. I can’t imagine that history is less prone to this than physics.

      • Thanks for being a professional historian! It’s one of the professions I most admire.

        Sorry if I came off sounding like history is a hobby — that’s only so far as I’m concerned. I enjoy taking my best guesses on stuff nobody’s 100% puzzled out yet. When it comes to actually learning things, I read you wonderful folks!

  3. You are correct about the origin. The reporter who did the story, Robert Morgan, no longer works there. I work at The Town Talk, and this quote was an instant hit in our newsroom. It’s amusing to see it come up now and again, although it’s often used in relation to Dollar General.

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