Friday, December 23, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life at Penney's

Christmas in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania, sometime in the late 40’s or early 50’s. The charming Santa decoration says both “Merry Christmas” and “Season’s Greetings”, so everyone is covered. Colorful garland hangs across the storefronts on either side. The building itself easily dates to the earliest years of the 1900’s if not before, and undoubtedly housed other businesses prior to J.C. Penney’s tenure.

Looking at this, I just know that Lancaster must have been home to a gracious soul like George Bailey, protecting the town's virtue and helping people in need so they didn’t have to “go crawling to Potter” or whoever the local robber baron may have been.

A good thing, too - otherwise the neon sign here would have read “Dime a Dance” instead of “Penney’s”!


  1. Be nice to Mr.Potter! He would have been "creating jobs" for taxi dancers! But seriously, thanks for all the hard work you've done in bringing us the stories of all those places we enjoyed so much as kids; until someone invents a real time machine, this is the next best thing and I'll keep coming back for more! Also in the spirit of keeping everyone covered, Feliz Navidad!

  2. That's a great shot of Penney's from a Christmas past! I love everything about it, even the roof of the car at the bottom of the picture. I'll bet that Penney's was a sight to behold at night, too. I also find myself wondering what was house in the building adjacent to Penney's that says "and co." above its store windows?

  3. I'm back again. I felt I should share this. The local newspaper has been having a photo series, a "then and now" deal, where they show an old photograph, and a present-day photograph of the same scene. The one in the paper today shows the public square here in Springfield, with a December 1953 and December 2011 shot from the same place. The 1953 shot has Penney's and the rest of the northwest corner of the square in it. this link has the pictures superimposed with a moveable slider that shows present on the left and past on the right, so they can be compared. I had way too much fun with it! As for the 1953 shot, Penney's is in the process of getting some work done on the ground floor, perhaps a modernizing facelift for its front entrance. But the old J C Penney sign is easily viewable.

  4. Maynard’s Dad – You know, you’re right – we need to encourage job creation wherever we can get it! And thanks very much, I’m glad to try to do what I can until a real flux capacitor comes along. Feliz Ano Nuevo to you! ;)

    Mike – I totally agree, it’s beautiful, as is so much of the architecture from that part of the country. Many famous chain stores found their earliest locations in gorgeous buildings like this. My guess on the “and Co.” (I’ve thought about this as well!) is Sears, Roebuck and Co., but I have no clue, really.

    And thanks for that link, l looked at every one of those pictures! I love the “slider” feature – they did a superb job of lining the photos up at the proper zoom and placement – just great! Thanks again for a wonderful bit of history from Springfield.

  5. Thank you so much for this-I grew up in Lancaster County, post-"Downtown Lancaster with Major Retailers." I think maybe my grandmother worked in this store at one time.