Friday, November 30, 2012

Memories of Santa

I was a child of the 1960's.  In my Philadelphia neighborhood, very few mothers worked, most households only owned one car, and families were bigger.  I grew up with four younger brothers and sisters, always sharing a bedroom and often sharing a bed.  (But that was nothing compared to the family down the street.  The Carusos had twelve children, ranging in ages from 28 to 8 years old. In a three bedroom house.  You do the math)

A very 1960's sensibility was that when women went to a big department store - even one in the suburbs - they dressed.  Hosiery, hats and gloves...the whole deal.  I remember wanting to stop at Wanamaker's in Jenkintown on the way home from school one afternoon.  "Oh no..." said my mother. "I can't go in there dressed like this!"  She was wearing slacks. So going to the Center City John Wanamaker's was pretty big on the dress-up scale.  And my parents took us to Wanamakers' in town every year to see Santa.  First there were the store window displays to see.  Then we'd head inside to visit Santa.

I'm sure the lines to see Santa were long, but I don't remember being bothered by that. Wanamaker's had so many wonderful things to see as we waited.  We'd watch animated figures of children and elves and reindeer doing all kinds of fun things.  Seriously, it was like magic.  After we had been to the Worlds Fair in New York and visited Disney's It's a Small World, we came away thinking it couldn't hold a candle to a Wanamaker Christmas.

And then finally...finally, we were on Santa's lap!

It's funny, though.  I don't remember seeing Santa like this:

Don't we all have pictures like this in our photo albums?

I remember him more like this:

What a difference a year makes! And look!  Wanamaker's magically moved over 14,000 miles closer to the North Pole!

My grandmother worked in the lamp department at Wanamaker's. Hmm.  So maybe my love of lamps is genetic?  Anyways,  after we had visited with Santa and saw the light show (at the Eagle), my grandmother would meet us for dinner at the Crystal Tea Room.  I can't tell you how special that was to us.  We used to eat in a restaurant exactly once a year and this was it.  As a child, I remember thinking that the smells were so exotic and the sound of so much silverware hitting so many china plates was music to my ears.  (With five children, my family used Melamine for every meal.  You can imagine why.)

The Crystal Tea Room still exists, but I couldn't find any 1960's photos of the dining room.  Now it's used for banquets, meetings and weddings. 

 Imagine though...a ceiling high Christmas tree, surrounded by colorful boxes.  It was spectacular.  And larger than life when you're a little girl.

Those were some wonderful memories.  I love thinking about them. Thanks for letting me share them with you!

18 comments:

  1. Awesome post, love it. =) http://astitchersstory.blogspot.com/

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  2. Ah! Thtat brings up memories for me too!
    I grew up in the NY suburbs. Our big trip to the city was to meet my grandmother and see the 5th Avenue windows. This always meant lunch at B. Altmans or Lord & Taylor. We always had to be dressed in our best Sunday clothes.
    Wonderful memories!

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  3. Thanks for sharing your Christmas memories...and pictures.

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  4. It was fun to read about your Christmas memories! I have not been to the Wanamaker Store (maybe now it's Macy's?) but I have read about the fabulous pipe organ there! It must be a treat to hear the organ playing while you're shopping and enjoying the store! Frances

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  5. Some friends and I were just chatting this morning about how women used to get all dressed up to go out. Sweet memories!

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  6. Oh so many similar memories - but Christmasish and year-round! Our local department store was The Bon Marche. As a very young girl I was a "Lady Who Luchned" lunched there with my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. The restuarant often had fashion shows where real live models strolled around from table to table and talked about what they wore. I was in heaven! And I even got to be in one show - my brother was a ring-bearer and I was a flower girl for a wedding fashion show - again - heaven!

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  7. Eating out was special and yes, women dressed up more. When I joined the Foreign Office in London in the late 60s it was skirts only and women had just stopped having to wear gloves to work and only wore them when it was cold!

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  8. Wasn't it Wanamaker's where you stood at the rail in the mezzanine and watched the lights on the 2+ storey wall? There is nothing like Christmas memories from childhood.

    Pam

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  9. Thanks for sharing your memories! Love the pics! A good friend of mine believes that part of what is wrong with society today is that no one takes pride in their appearance.

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  10. I remember things like this. Going to the department store was an event. We would go to Gimbles in Milwaukee or The Boston Store. I loved lunching there.

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  11. Fun fact, the "Crystal Tea Room" is also used for the Jefferson white coat ceremony. (When medical students who are beginning clinical work get their white coats, to underscore medical ethics.)

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  12. What a wonderful memory! Oh to believe in Santa again...

    happy stitching...

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  13. Thank you for sharing your Christmas memories. It's interesting to see how different life has become. I don't know what it's like 'over there' where you are but here some people don't even make it out of their pyjamas to go shopping these days! I much prefer the idea of dressing up!

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  14. I grew up outside of Philly too in the 60's. My Grandmother live in NJ in Frenchtown and we would meet her at Hess's. So I think that the Santa pics that my Mom has are from there. The children's meals at the Department store resturant were delivered in a small metal Children's toy appliance and they always had multicolored sugar on the tables. What special memories :)Hugs!

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  15. What a cutie you were, Lee (still are, too!!)... You know, I'm sure I have not one photo of me on Santa's lap--I think I must have been a deprived child (or my parents were too cheap to pay for the photo!).

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  16. What wonderful memories you have and the pictures are too cute!

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  17. Beautiful stories! Thank you so much for sharing

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