Monday, December 1, 2008

A Long Ago Saturday of Holiday Shopping

It all started with several weeks or months of saving, planning and anticipation. "The" December Saturday arrived with a burst of sunshine, extra bright as it reflected off the glistening snow blanketing the landscape, then flowing right through the crystal clear icicles hanging gloriously from the low eaves of the roof. As luck would have it, the sky was blue, dotted with fluffy white clouds way to high to worry about walking through a snow storm during the walk to downtown.

As with most mornings, breakfast came first; thick slices of homemade bread, toasted to perfection, a couple of fried eggs and a big glass of the ice cold milk which had just been delivered by that handsome young Milkman on our route. Since going downtown to shop was a big deal for anyone in the fifties, getting "ready" was as important as the shopping itself.

The claw foot tub was filled with water, hot enough to make my butt cheeks rosy without actually scalding my tender young skin. I would settle into the warm water, bubbles courtesy of shampoo, (actual bubble bath was a luxury) rising to my chin as I daydreamed of the fun Vash, my best friend, and I would have that day and of gifts I would buy with the twenty or twenty-five dollars burning a hole in my pocket. Using the Ivory soap and a good rough textured washcloth, I scrubbed myself until my skin was shiny, finishing up with a double shampooing of my hair; had to shine, you know. Bathrobes were for movie stars, so panties and a bra had to do while I put the goop on my hair to hold it into place until it dried, brushed my teeth, combed my eyebrows with a little Vaseline, brushed on some cake mascara, and finally, applied the white/pink lipstick all the girls were wearing then. Soon someone was pounding on the door for their turn, so I wrapped myself in my damp towel, going to the tiny bedroom I shared with my sisters to get dressed.

Since it was a Saturday, and cold to boot, I wore my only dressy slacks, which were not allowed at school, a sweater borrowed from a friend (everyone borrowed clothes) and my precious T-Strap shoes which I knew, but didn't care, would leave my feet freezing. Socks were for sissies. I visited with my siblings and Mom while I waited for my hair to dry enough to go out into the cold for the walk to Vash's house. At 10:00 AM I arrived at her back door (couldn't use the would doom her to be an old maid, according to her superstitious Mom) and was warmly greeted by her parents while she finished making her bed. She finished, we were off!

Winter in Pocatello was harsher in those days, so the walk downtown was like walking through a Courier and Ives post card. Thick blankets of snow on roof tops, icicles hanging from the eaves, white smoke rising from chimneys; boys bundled in heavy coats, hand knit mittens and hats, having snowball fights in the park; little kids in snowsuits making snow angels in their front yards while their Fathers hung Christmas lights; high school boys on their wooden sleighs, hooky-bobbing behind their buddy's hot rod. Sometimes even a girl in Junior High would be lucky enough to get a wolf whistle as those "older" men whizzed by on the snow covered streets. Funny how the beauty of this picture was lost to us at the time.

The walk from home to downtown was probably a little more than a mile, passing quickly as we chattered and giggled about boys, school mates and other things long forgotten. As we went into the Center Street underpass, we knew we were almost there.... for waiting on the other side was downtown and mysterious treasures for our shopping pleasure. Vash, list in hand, knew exactly what she wanted. I, on the other hand, preferred the adventure of "spur of the moment" decisions.

I can still feel the thrill of coming out of that dark walkway through the underpass, seeing the Christmas decorations along the streets, hearing the sounds of holiday music coming from the shops, and watching people, carrying their beautifully wrapped gifts as they hustled along the sidewalks from shop to shop.

There was The Peoples department store, Blocks, Adair dress shop, Woolworths five & dime, (where we got the most for our hard earned dollars) The Paris, a dress shop to die for, where there was never more than one of any dress style, and where every high school girl in town bought her prom dress..if she was lucky enough to be asked to attend. There was a Lerner's shop; a jewelry store where you could buy the very much in fad, dog tag everyone had to have AND get it engraved with your name, all for a buck; the drug store with a soda fountain for the cherry coke you just had to have, along with all kinds of special knick-knacks, costume jewelry or perfume that would thrill your Mom to no end on Christmas morning; the music store with sheet music and the latest 45 records, by Elvis, Fabian, Bobby Darin, Paul Anka, Connie Frances, and all the other great rock and rollers of that time, which you could play before buying (while dreaming of dancing with the boy who wore YOUR dogtag 'cuz you were "going steady"). And of course there was the little mom and pop cafe where Vash would always insist on buying Fish and Chips for our lunch, knowing I couldn't afford it but loved that special treat. She was such a special friend!

We would hit every shop, buy our gifts, enjoy each other's company and the festive cheerfulness surrounding us everywhere, then, after hours of this fun and frivolity, walk back through that dimly lit underpass to our respective homes to wrap and tag those precious gifts, content with the knowledge that we had completed our once- a -year Christmas shopping trip, looking forward to the excitement and activities of the next two weeks until the Big Day arrived.

Those simple and stress-free days, when less truly was more, are a treasure to those of us who lived them. Everyone should be so blessed in their life experience.

May the Holidays bring much joy and happiness to all. Yes, indeed......Life is good!


Jenn said...

What a fabulous story!!

Michelle said...

what happened to the good ole days? when it was such a joy to pick out a simple single gift for special people in our life.??