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!


  1. Checked out the Mountain View Sears on Google Maps (455 San Antonio Road, Mountain View, CA); you can clearly see where the Nativity Scene was formerly placed...

    Also did a neat comparison between the Mountain View location these two:

    1001 Sunvalley Blvd, Concord, CA
    5110 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, CA

    These two are very similar in design and (thankfully) remain in business as Sears stores.

  2. Eh, WishbookWeb doesn't have PDF copies.

    Too bad!

  3. This is beautiful. Thanks for posting. Our Sears at the nearby Square One Mall in Saugus, MA -- formerly the New England Shopping Center, I believe recalling -- had that slanted '50s/'60s great script logo when I was a kid, too. As beautiful as the Nativity scene is, it does make sense that in today's world, it would seem a little bit out of touch and not politically correct with respect to the store's different shoppers' backgrounds -- but like many things, it has its place in time and memories, and Sears did it up very well here. Happy Holidays, everybody! ;)

  4. There was a Sears like this in San Jose, on West San Carlos between Race St. and Meridian Ave. It seems to have closed sometime after Sears opened its store at Eastridge Mall in the early 70's. It then sat vacant, fenced off and slowly crumbling even as it still bore the "Sears" name on its walls until it was finally torn down about a decade later. (About another decade after that, a Safeway was built on the site--a welcome addition to the neighborhood.) Thanks for the picture; now I can imagine what the store looked like when it was in its prime. Feliz Navidad! (That should please liberals and conservatives alike--both multi-cultural and religious!)

  5. Walterworld – That ledge on the Mountain View Sears is just begging for a recreation of this scene, in my opinion! Thanks for the tip on those other Sears stores – it was such a great look, and I agree that it’s a great thing they still operate as Sears.

    Pseudo3D – Wouldn’t be hard to convert them to pdf if you have access to Adobe Acrobat.

    Anonymous 1 – You’re welcome! I have a pic of the Saugus Sears that I’ll have to put on here one of these days. The logo change away from the script is the only really noticeable difference.

    Anonymous 2 – Interesting note on the San Jose Sears, and I’ll be t it strongly resembled this one, as you suggest. And I think you covered it well with your Christmas greeting! ;)

  6. Anonymous #2 - I remember that abandoned Sears on West San Carlos in San Jose; I had a friend who lived just down the road from there in the mid 80's.

    We often ate at the then-brand-new Burker King that still sits across the street.

    Seeing that forlorned Sears all fenced off and still sporting it's old script was one of the first times I was bitten by the bug and became interested in old, abandoned structures and the nostalgia that accompanies them. I was only 18 or 19 then; sure wish I would have snapped a picture!

  7. Nowadays, the big department stores barely decorate for Christmas. A couple of stars hanging from the ceiling tiles and maybe a tree near the door. Putting all that stuff and taking it down again probably cuts into profits.

  8. sears store in mountain view ca.
    closed on july 10 2011. now its
    gone its been torn down