Friday, November 10, 2017
Christmas is going full steam ahead here in Chicago. I went downtown and everything is decorated. Formerly Marshall Field’s now Macy’s had their windows decorated for the holiday, windows the giant tree is up in the Walnut Room.
Even the street musicians are playing Christmas songs. All this holiday stuff always takes me back. I remember the days when it was a big deal to see what the department stores’ holiday boxes would look like.
Marshall Fields was always the best store at the holidays. The building takes up a square block and has iconic clocks on several of the corners. I worked there in the toy department for two Christmases when I was in college.
Yesterday when I went downtown, I went to the fifth floor in Macy’s/ Marshall Fields. The toy department used to take up half of the fifth floor. Now there is a short display of toys in front of the now defunct elevators. The Santa Claus set up was where my counter used to be. There are clothes where the art supplies and girl scout things used to be. And more kids clothes where the big display of stuffed animals used to be. In the old days, the toy department was every kids fantasy.
When I worked there, it would get so crowded you couldn’t see across to the next counter. There were carolers going through the store. We used a real cash register and provided free gift wrapping.
Marshall Fields had their own holiday characters – Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly. I really loved those characters. All traces of Aunt Holly seemed to be gone, but that’s Uncle Mistletoe in the picture. He was in one of the Macy’s windows. It probably doesn’t show, but he’s a little worse for wear and his face seemed to be missing some paint.
I always feel like I am bridging time when I come to Chicago. My place kind of feels like a time warp. There is an actual record player and a hat box with a couple of hats from the days when no woman would go downtown without wearing one. There is even an ancient enameled measuring cup that I remember my mother saying she used to measure the water for my formula when I was a baby. I found my old pink jewelry box and a small wooden box that I covered with tiles when I went to camp.
The crown jewel of odd ball things is the jar we called the nickel jar. It was called that because we kept nickels in it to use for the phone. It wasn’t like the pay phones you see in public places. It was just a regular looking phone but there was a black box with a coin slot for the nickels. I guess you had to put one in to get a dial tone. I was only a couple of years old when we had it, so I wasn’t actually using it to call anyone.
Who could have imagined then that we’d have phones we could carry around that can ring on a watch.