Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ghosts of Christmas Shopping Past

"As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same." 
~Donald E. Westlake

For the last few months I have been collecting photos of long-gone Christmases and now find myself with far too many for a single post. There's only one solution: a series. Since some of us still have presents to buy — behold Christmas shopping as it once was.

In 1921a festive storefront in Washington, DC, celebrated with trees and flags.
Which lucky people got "talking machines" in 1921?
As the caption says, this was Woolworth's Fifth Avenue window in 1935. Miss you, F.W. Woolworth.

In 1944, Macy's offered children a Snow White Christmas.

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas." 
~ Peg Bracken


  1. As usual, when I see in my email that there's a new Divinpotent Daily post, my heart catches a little with happiness.

    Your old photos are wonderful. When I see old photos, I think of people I love who could have been in them. My dad was 10 in 1921; it's the year my mom was born: these are their windows.

    The 1944 window is before my time—but how interesting it was during WWII—but it reminds me of standing with my dad at later elaborate, often mechanized, Christmas windows, which looked magic and perfect to me then. My dad took us to see store Christmas windows, and neighborhood light displays. This single photo brings all that back.

    And—bonus!—your Donald E. Westlake quote brought back memories of reading and re-reading his wonderful God Save The Mark, which was in our bookcase. Now I want to read it again. (Did you know he wrote The Grifters screenplay?)

    An unrelated addendum: I've been reading Tranströer's Collected Poems, edited by Hass, and I find it harder to get to his heart, or the heart of the poem than I do with most poetry. I'm not sure why. I liked your post of his Vermeer, in which you inserted Vermeers; you *are* a storyteller.

    Happy Holidays, Michele. Thank you for taking the time to enrich my life with your words—as well as the poetry and art (and leaves)—you post.

  2. On my laptop now.

    That's: Tranströmer, remove the extra "but" after my first em dash, and insert a comma after "of the poem."

    I typed my comment on my iPhone, lost it through a "502 Error," (whatever that is), and had to reconstruct. My iPhone won't let me Preview. But, you get the idea…

    And my feelings are heartfelt. x.

  3. Hi Katherine,

    So glad you enjoyed the photos. I love the way old photographs bring memories you didn't even know you had into the foreground. It's as you say, people we loved could have been in them.

    My mom used to take me to see the Christmas scenes in the shops along Fifth Avenue. There were so many great department stores back then - B. Altman, Peck & Peck, Bonwit Teller. Lord & Taylor still does animated windows I passed by the other day and people were lined up to see them.

    Donald Westlake: I read a slew of his books in a row a long time ago, but I don't know if the one you mentioned was among them. If you reread it, tell me if it holds up. I'll check it out.

    Tranströmer reminds me of Ingmar Bergman. He is more cerebral than emotional much of the time. I loved "Vermeer" because it combined both qualities so well.

    Have a lovely Christmas, Katherine!

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