Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Merry Christmas to All

Another evening of Christmas shopping winds down at one of America’s earliest and most famous shopping centers. This is Framingham, Massachusetts’ Shoppers World, pictured here all-decked out for the season in the early 1970’s.

A two-story outdoor shopping center, opened in 1951 and anchored by a magnificent “flying saucer-like” Jordan Marsh department store on one end (which is visible in the background of the photo), Shoppers World drew customers from a wide swath of the greater Boston area. It was a wonderful attraction at holiday time for years on end. Among its many distinctions, Shoppers World boasted the first of many shopping center-based indoor theatres of what would become the General Cinema Corporation.

The original structure survived more or less intact, despite a plethora of tenant changes and store remodelings, until 1994 when it was demolished. A completely different “Shoppers World” center now sits in its place.

My very special thanks to Michelle McElroy of the Framingham History Center for the use of this great photo. Michelle writes a blog called This Is Framingham, a mix of current event news and area history. Recently, Michelle started a fun new site called Different but the same, where she compares past and present packaging of household-name food items and consumer products.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you, friends and readers of this site, for your continued interest and for your comments and kind emails. Wishing you and your families the joy and peace of what Christmas brings and a wonderful and healthy new year!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot...

… like Christmas!
Ev'rywhere you go -
Take a look in the five-and-ten

glistening once again

With candy canes

and silver lanes aglow

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Toys in ev'ry store

But the prettiest sight to see

is the holly that will be

On your own front door

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben

Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen

And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!

Photos by F.W. Woolworth Co., circa 1948-55.
Lyrics by Meredith (“The Music Man”) Willson, circa 1951.
Bing Crosby vocal imitation by You, circa 2010.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Nativity at Sears, Early 1960's

An elaborate nativity scene tops off a Northern California Sears store, in a circa 1962 photo from Display World magazine. King Herod’s palace looms in the background. In real life, the Herodium, as it was called, was only three miles or so away from Bethehem, so the artistic depiction makes sense. It’s a very nice contrast to the typical Santa/Christmas Bells/Snowflakes themes most often seen on their holiday store exteriors. Artificial palm trees complete the effect.

As you can see, this architectural design featured real palm trees as well. A bonafide classic, Sears built scores of units similar to it in the West (see examples 1, 2), their strongest region at that point in time.

In a nod to the secular Christmas tradition, a white-flocked (As they all should be. At Sears, at least!) Christmas tree is visible in one of the main floor display windows.

This store still exists in Mountain View, California at the San Antonio Shopping Center, located on that state’s historic El Camino Real highway route. Not sure if they went with a Nativity scene this year (my suspicion is they haven’t in years), but flocked Christmas trees are probably a safe bet.

And once again, since we’re talking Sears, thought I’d mention the great Wish Book Web site – featuring Sears Christmas catalogs from several classic eras, scanned in full for your dream-reliving pleasure. Fun stuff, especially at this time of year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas at Chris-Town, 1962

Eight-foot tall toy soldiers guard the facade of one of America’s most fondly-remembered malls, Phoenix’s Chris-Town, in this 1962 photo. The soldiers (and the candles, also eight feet tall) represent a type of decor element that is seen less and less today. Both the soldiers and the candles were manufactured by General Plastics Corporation, a Marion, Indiana-based firm that supplied Christmas decorations for malls, department stores, office buildings and city streetlights everywhere for decades.

The mall itself, which opened on August 24, 1961, was a superb example of interior design. It featured three gorgeous public areas - the Court of Fountains, the Court of Flowers and the Court of Birds, all delights for local shoppers, especially the latter. The mall’s anchors were J.C. Penney (one of the very last “yellow-letter sign” Penney stores), Montgomery Ward and the first and only branch of the 66-year old downtown Phoenix department store, Korrick’s. In 1966, Korrick’s sold out to Broadway-Hale Stores Inc., and the store was remodeled and rechristened with The Broadway nameplate.

To learn more about Chris-Town, of which now just a remnant exists, let me recommend this wonderful website, which is entirely dedicated to its history. It features many excellent photos, including some great night shots from the following Christmas, 1963.

All these scenes need now is a little snow, right? Oh yes, this is Phoenix we’re talking about. Then how ‘bout some white-colored pebbles?

Monday, December 20, 2010

'Tis the Season of Good Taste!

A pastoral holiday scene adorns the backwall of an IGA supermarket, circa 1968. It’s a tasteful depiction of a snow-flocked, apple-bearing cypress tree, standing proud while a lone reindeer looks askance from the side.

Clearly, good taste wasn’t strictly confined to the holidays at this particular IGA - just look at the clean lines of the clock/light fixture/directory sign to the right. I’d love to hang one of these in my living room, minus the directory signs, of course. (Wouldn’t you?) Maybe one will turn up on eBay, and then all I’ll have to do is install $3000 worth of header steel in my ceiling!

In the foreground is the jams and jellies aisle, filled with brand names that still exist today, long before glass jars gave way to plastic. Of particular note are the “big three” peanut butter brands – check out the standard size jar prices, fitting every peanut butter budget – Peter Pan at 46 cents, Jif at 47 cents (and virtually the same label design as today) and Skippy at 48 cents. Gotta stock up for those peanut butter cookies! Then, of course, you had Smucker’s “Goober Grape” (69 cents) for affluent kids.

And in a stroke of IGA marketing genius, the iron-on patches are located right next to the peanut butter display, perfect for exasperated mothers (like mine) who constantly had to patch holes in our jeans. My brother might have been the world record holder - he would wear a hole in a new pair within 4.7 days on average, sledding season or not.