Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 19

December 19th - Christmas Shopping
How did your family handle Christmas Shopping? Did anyone finish early or did anyone start on Christmas Eve?

Oh, Christmas was that wonderful time of year when we got to dream big for our wish lists!

Growing up in a Navy seaport, we got to see shops with items from around the globe! And Christmas was so much fun!

Mother would take us Christmas shopping downtown. Those of you who are younger may not understand the significance of shopping downtown! In those days, we did not have big shopping centers and malls where one could visit a hundred or more shops all within one central building! No... in those days, one parked in the downtown public parking lots and walked from store to store along the cold, and hopefully snowy! streets!

Oh, the scenes we encountered! The sidewalks bustled with busy shoppers after Thanksgiving! Back then, Christmas displays and items weren't ever seen in the stores until AFTER Thanksgiving! Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade heralded in the new season! And so for me, it still does!

The bigger stores had animated window displays, while the smaller ones had lush gift boxes with ornaments and lights! And on every block we crossed on to there stood a Santa, ringing his bell, with his red bucket, collecting for the needy!

Mother always gave us a full day downtown during the Christmas season! We would arrive before 9 a.m. Most stores didn't open until 10 back then. So we would go into a cafe and have hot cocoa and crullers or doughnuts. Now, you have no idea how delightful this was for us! In those days, we had a few root beer stands, but one simply did not run out for hamburgers to avoid cooking dinner at home! And a stop into a doughnut shop or cafe for hot cocoa and crullers was considered something very special!

After this morning treat, we would bundle up to face the cold, and begin our full day!

We always visited Woolworth's. It was here that our little allowance money would go a long way in purchasing Christmas gifts for one another! Mother would pretend to look in another direction when we picked out something especially for her. And she would artfully steer my sister and I apart when we purchased something for each other! [NEVER, however, have I ever met someone who was so good at artfully spending their allowance on others as my sister! Mother used to laugh that she could give my sister a dollar bill, and she would come home with a gift for everyone in the house, plus a little something for herself! No... I didn't get that knack! LOL]

Many of the old department stores were in tall buildings and you had to ride an elevator to go from floor to floor. Now, this wasn't like the elevators of today! No sir! These elevators were manned! An attendant would call out the floors and what was on each fllor, "ladies wear second floor, men's wear third floor, children's attire fourth floor, toys fifth...", etc. Of course, no downtown shopping trip was complete without visiting the toy floor and a visit with old Saint Nick himself!

When lunch time rolled around, Mother would either steer us to Woolworth's counter for lunch, or into a cafeteria. Let me tell you, you haven't lived if you haven't eaten a grilled cheese sandwich at a Woolworth's! [You young people have no idea what you have missed!] And follow that with a malted milk! [Makes my mouth water just remembering it!]

Usually we had to make several trips to the parking garage to load our many packages into the trunk of the car. Then we'd head back out.

After a full day of shopping, we would head home, exhausted but so happy! Our next big event would be in Santa arriving on Christmas Eve! And we were now excited and waiting upon the jolly old man!

Mother always had everything purchased well in advance of Christmas! She started buying for Christmas immediately after the big day! Yes... she was a big one to frequent the after holiday sales. Sometimes having everything bought and wrapped before Easter rolled around!

I never had anyone in my family who waited until Christmas Eve to purchase gifts... that is until 1997, and my husband entered the scene. Every single year he is within one or two days of Christmas in purchasing gifts. But somehow, he manages to get me the nicest things! So... for him it works! As for me, this is probably the worst year of my procrastinating. But I finished up in plenty of time!

How about you?


Claudia's Genealogy Blog said...

I can remember my parents going into Pittsburgh to do shopping. We rode in a streetcar and I have no idea how they got all those presents home. I was about four at the time.

I loved Woolworth s hamburgers and a vanilla shake.

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

Woolworths! I remember shopping there. The downtown we shopped in was only a couple blocks long but we had a marvelous time!