Remember when big department stores decorated their windows for Christmas?
I grew up in the DC area in the early '50's/'60's, and it was the biggest treat in the world to be taken downtown to see Woodie's (Woodward & Lothrop, RIP) windows before Christmas.
They would have animated Christmas characters (like Santa and the elves, or family around the tree) in beautiful storybook-ish settings in their big windows fronting the streets.
Pure magic. Just one of the things that made Christmas seem so special when I was a kid and that no longer exists.
I'm from Chicago and my family was just reminiscing about the Marshall Fields department store windows at Christmas and going downtown to view them. I miss that tradition.
The only goal of retailers now is to sell the most foreign made crap at the lowest possible price while still maintaining a profit, and idiotic Americans lap it up and think what a great "deal" they're getting.
NYC stores still have them.
So does Philly
I grew up in Union County NJ, in the '70s, and I fondly recall the Bambergers and Hanes Christmas windows. They were so meticulously assembled.
It's just a waste of time. Do you think any American has enough time to waste looking at decorations.
And the decorations don't draw people IN to the store. So again, it's not useful.
Today people are far to busy to bother with such nonsense.
The NYC store windows are still decorated, but I think they don't put as much imagination (or money) into them as they did years ago. They seem rather ordinary, nothing really exciting.
R7 those people you refer to all sound like miserable wretches!
Blame the loony left's war on Christmas, OP. They only want to worship Obama, not Santa and Jesus.
OP this is pure GOP War on Xmas bait.
You must live on another planet, because everywhere I go, here in LIBERAL San Francisco, there are decorations on every fucking building downtown, and every storefront.
Unfortunately, there is more truth to R7's post than I would like to admit. Combined with the reality that retail does not recognize Christmas any longer. It is "Holiday", not Christmas. And the fact that the architecture of most shopping malls does not permit for animated window displays in department store windows. The tend is towards "fish bowl" windows that allow the consumer to see into the store. Traditional Christmas displays block the view into the store and there is not enough depth to fit the display.
R11, I can only assume that you are too young to remember the Christmas decorations of the past. I live in NYC, and even the store windows that still exist are pale imitations of what was done in the past. Also, everything has to have a "hip" or "ironic" spin to it nowadays.
Lansburgh's and the Hecht Co. also had great xmas windows in DC but Woodie's usually had the best displays. One year, they had miniature scenes from Colonial Williamsburg. Another year, they had miniature scenes depicting various Christmas carols. Figures and accessories all moved in those scenes. It was magical. Hecht's had a nice Disney "Sword and Stone" set of windows one year.
Oh, they had styles then!
R13, I was born in 1970, and in my estimation, the decor is pretty much as loud and garish as it was in my childhood. Yes, there might be a few additional Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Holiday decorations in lieu of Xmas, and sure, there are some ironic things abound. But walking through downtown SF is pretty much as decorated as I always remembered from my youth.
Unless you mean to say your 60s were very different from the 70s.
You're right R13. Store windows in NYC today can't even begin to compete with what they had in the past.
Yes, R16, The 50s and 60s were very different from the 70s. For one thing there was an energy crisis in the 1970s that put a damper on a lot of Christmas decorating. It used to be that there were whole housing tracts that were covered in Christmas lights. The energy crisis really hurt that. And afterwards, a lot of people just never went back to the over the top decorations as before.
Then, there was the recession, which led to the scaling back of decorating.
Also, in the 1970s, department stores started to have to compete with big-box stores in a major way. In order to keep prices low, decorating had to be scaled back.
As I mentioned earlier, the 70s was also the beginning of the indoor mall as we know it today. The architecture did not allow for animated displays.
The 70s was also the beginning of a sensitivity regarding Christmas. Before then, the notion that it might be holiday rather that Christmas was unthinkable.
Frederick and Nelson's in downtown Seattle had great window displays while waiting to see Santa. They also had doormen and minstrals who looked like they came straight out of a Dicken's book.
I used to perform part of the Nutcracker as a dancer at their annual Christmas breakfast and got to be in the store before it opened to the public. It was magical
You think San Francisco is more liberal than DC, r11? Gays can marry in DC. Can they in SF?
At any rate I could not care less about Christmas these days. Now that I'm old, it's just another ordeal to be gotten through each year that reminds me of who is no longer here and how limited the time the rest of us have left is.
I feel very emotional and nostalgic this time of year, and I felt like reminiscing about the good memories I did have.
So fuck you.
Until the mid-'80s, Pizitz (Birmingham) had an elaborate Christmas "land" in its downtown store called the Enchanted Forest, complete with a talking Christmas tree.
What r11 and r13 said.
OP, sorry you're feeling "so losy, so nasty, so bitter...".
After 9/11we went walking a lot that whole warm winter. My son was in a stroller. After Thanksgiving we were walking down Madison Ave uptown where we lived and the windows of the small stores on Madisone were better than the frantic department store windows. They had old fashioned things like animated elves in the workshop, animated Santa. My son lived it and still remembers it (he was 3 at the time).
The other thing that I miss was that every department store had a puppet show for Christmas.
R19, I love you for mentioning that. I grew up in Seattle too, and Frederick & Nelson (a Marshall Field company) always had the best store decor. Every year it alternated between all-red and all-green, and it was very elegant. Mom always took us there for our annual Santa photos, because she thought the Santas there were the most traditional looking.
The Bon Marche had great decorations too but there was something very special about Fredericks.
Famous-Barr in downtown St. Louis had them also. We'd always go after Thanksgiving dinner to look at them.
[quote]The other thing that I miss was that every department store had a puppet show for Christmas.
Department stores used to have a visual design department. There were lots of trimmers to do the visuals as orchestrated by the lead visual designer.
R1 I too am a displaced Chicagoan. I not only remember the wonderful Marshall Fields windows, but the giant Christmas tree inside--alas, my parents never took us to eat in the Walnut Room, as it was always too crowded.
I miss Marshall Fields period. Emily Kimbrough, of "Our Hearts Were Young and Gay" fame (yes, I know--who? what?), wrote a charming book about working in the ad department of MF in the early part of the 20th century--"Through Charlie's Door."
There were beautiful Christmas windows at B. Altman and Company, Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.
The every floor had live poinsettias on each counter. Altman's closed in 1989 after 124 years.
r31, Visual Design? In the time you're referring to it was simply called "The Display Department."
Maybe at Gold Circle or Woolworths. At Magnin's it was Visual.
I really miss F&N R28, but I'm glad we both got to experience it.
If only it, The Bon Marche and I Magnin would come back!
Most of the stores here in Philadelphia are decorated. However a lot of large, independent department stores of the past no longer exist; they have been replaced with chains. As for the war on "Christmas" were exactly does this happen. The bank across the street from my office building has a life sized manager out front complete with wisemen, shepards and the baby. I see Merry Christmas signs everywhere.
Fortunoff had their holiday store open until 2007. It was wonderful. And they had a little cafe in the back where you could order food and watch the people shop.
They also had several gigantic Dept 56 type village displays up. One would be rustic with a waterfall, one would be set up like the North Pole. You never saw anything like it.
It's a shame they closed up.
[quote] The bank across the street from my office building has a life sized manager out front
There you go. If they really cared about Christmas he'd be one of Santa's elves
We still have two stores here in Philly that have the Enchanted Village and A Dickens Christmas - great displays, along with our very well known light show that originated at Wanamakers that is now a Macy's but that kept that tradition and it is beauifully decorated also.
For years my parents would take us downtown on the day after Thanksgiving to Marshall Fields. This was in the olden days before it was Black Friday.
We'd start out looking at the Christmas windows for quite a long time. Then we'd have lunch in the Walnut Room. Somehow Dad always got us a table next to the Christmas tree.
I can't imagine taking a kid there today, with the crowds and mayhem. But maybe my folks were hoping we'd get lost in the crowd.
As another ex-Chicagoan I'll add that Carson Pirie Scott's window displays were just as popular as Field's windows during Christmas. I just thought I'd throw them a mention since that defunct retailer never gets much of a mention let alone any praise of its former existence.
Everything that doesn't add to the bottom line has been destroyed. Macy's is a major culprit these days, a shithole that does business with vampires like Trump and Madonna.
I have to agree, look I feel bad for you elder gays living in preAIDS but the world isn't into disco and Elvis IS dead.
Window displays are from a time past when there were no forms of entertainment besides books. Even radio wouldn't hurt it, but movies, TV and Internet provide REAL entertainment.
Window displays are from a time when Mickey Mouse raised his hand and that was considered technical cause a picture moved
This IS the 21st Century. Get out of the caves
R7 is right! Christmas isn't special anymore. Not because I'm old and decrepit. I remember the Friday after Thanksgiving going shopping and seeing the amazing store displays. The toy department was spectacular and I would nearly pee myself. Especially the electric train layout and cars and trucks. I poured over catalogs and made my wish list.
Now, Christmas starts in September. By December 25th, I've opened all the bourbon in the house and started doing taxes. Blech.
Downtown was pretty much dead by the time I was born in 1974, but one of the early malls in my area (upstate New York) did a wonderful elaborate Christmas display until the early 80s. The centerpiece was a heavily decorate Christmas tree that soared about two stories high. Santa's throne (for the usual photos) was inside the bottom of the tree. The tree was surrounded by a display that took up a good third of the mall's first floor; three-foot moving figures of elves, reindeer, and lots of cottony fake snow. It was really gorgeous and I wish I had photos. Even as an adult, I really miss that display.
R44, you are an idiot. We were not watching silent movies on the 1960s. Department store windows flourished for decades after tv became common place. You clearly have no sense of history.
Let's face it, Christmas is for kids. As an adult, it's only magical if you've just fallen in love and spending it with your new love interest for the first time.
So many fond memories of all the magic they whipped up at Christmas time at the Downtown Rich's in Atlanta. They even had a few reindeer on display, with their stalls all decorated like the North Pole. Loved riding the Pink Pig around the HUGE Christmas tree on the roof. My Mother always seemed so glamorous to me then (yes, I know - a fag and his glam. mother - MARY!) Late 60's - Dad, Mom, and I would see a matinee movie or show at the Fox Theater, then dinner at a fine restaurant across the street from the Fox (wish I could remember the name of that place), and finally ending the night at Rich's. Me and Dad in our suits, Mom all dressed up. Such lovely times.
While stores may be decorated for Christmas today, the decorations are just loud and garish compared to what they had years ago.
There was a department store in Newark, NJ that had a monorail ride. It was suspended from the ceiling and you rode in tram-type cars looking down on the store.
[quote] Mom always took us there for our annual Santa photos, because she thought the Santas there were the most traditional looking.
r28, we did that too at Frederick & Nelson's, every fucking year from age two months through college. I think in that whole time there are only three different Santas, and their beards were real; one guy did it for more than 10 years straight.
My mom still puts these photo time capsules out each December. I have the most wonderful pissed-off looks in the photos from about age 12 through 15, as does each younger sibling as they passed through that age.
I really miss the guaranteed plethora of Frangos that I guess were the grown-ups' easy-gift option of the time. Mint or Jamaica Rum?
1970s; Seattle: Nordstrom and Bon Marché. Displays always amazed and amused me.
He's actually correct. It took awhile, but the traditional department stores and the displays started dying right after WWII.
It took a couple of decades, like AM radio, but it went eventually.
The Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland took over the building which used to house Higbee's Dept Store, where A Christmas Story was shot, and restored the Christmas windows, which had been empty for many years. But, alas, they tore down the area where Ralphie saw Santa and put in slots.
That was back when Diane Lane was actually pretty (see link, but you probably shouldn't watch all of it, it appears to be the whole movie, not just a clip). If you do want to see a hot scene with Michael Woods prowling around in his stalkee Lane's apartment, a stylish Pittsburgh loft, look at about 39 - 44:15 minutes
You always knew it was Christmas:
department stores decorated and Santa was everywhere
The King Family Christmas Special
Having to learn your animal part for the church Christmas pagent. "I was the cow that gave my hay for his bed" or something like that.
r50, the monorail was at Kresge which covered a square block on Broad Street and Raymond Boulevard. "Breakfast With Santa" was popular. It closed in 1964, the building still stands.
Yes the war on Christmas...where do people get that? Did someone tell them they couldn't have a nativity in their yard? Why do they have to brainwash the masses?
I loved the windows in Chicago. We usually got downtown at some point to see the displays...if it was snowing, it was even better.
It's just the memories or doing it all over again with your children or your nieces and nephews. Memories are nice.
The old Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans used to do their entire city-block-long lobby as one huge walk-through window display in December.
That's lobby carpet in the photo and angel hair covering the whole ceiling. Behind the trees to the left and right are the check-in desk, bell station, Sazerac Room, etc.
Great place for an acid trip.
It will be past Christmas, but be on the lookout for the fabulous window display at Hemple's in the Twin Cities, beginning January 15.
The store is promoting my new book, I, Rhoda.
Included in the display will be the crown and robe from the night I won the store's "Fabulous Ms. Hemple" beauty pageant.
Mare's even talking about showing up one day and making like a mannequin. What a sport.
[quote]It's just a waste of time. Do you think any American has enough time to waste looking at decorations...Today people are far to busy to bother with such nonsense.
Too busy doing what? Americans spending the better part of $200 billion a year on spa and beauty treatments? Or the $1.2 trillion they spend on things they don't need? R7 would have you think the current batch of Americans invented being busy, and that earlier generations sat around on rocking chairs while whittling twigs.
R22, that name sounds vaguely Jewish, especially for Birmingham. I'd avoid it. They don't celebrate Christmas.
In Macy's, the Santa section was a fabulous winter wonderland. While standing in line, you could see Santa and his elves from a distance. As the line moved and you got closer, you could hardly wait to get up there by his golden throne. I was totally prepared to let him know exactly what I wanted. I didn't just have a list. I had an illustrated list. I had cut out pictures from the Sears Christmas toy catalog and pasted them on my list, carefully listing the name of the toy next to the picture. There was only one picture missing. I wanted "an airplane with folding landing gears." My cousin had one but I could not find a picture. All the pictured planes had wheels that stayed in place. I was very careful about letting Santa know that the wheels had to fold into the body of the plane.
Today, Macy's has Santa booths. There's a whole line of booths, each booth has a Santa. The kids go into a booth. That's pathetic.
LOVE LOVE LOVE the windows at our local Walmart.
[quote]Great place for an acid trip.
No offense but that just seems a strange thing to say in 2012.
Please... Lord & Taylor's windows on 5th Ave are amazing, as are Bloomingdales and Macy's. Barney's windows generally have throngs of people outside taking pictures all year long, but especially at Christmas.
Oh "please" yourself, R74. Lord & Taylor's windows are a pale imitation of what they used to be. Bloomingdale's windows suck. Barney's windows attracted people because of shock value. Tiffany's used to have great Christmas windows, but no more. Saks also disappoints.
I'm from Indiana. As a kid, the annual sojurn to Chicago to see Marshall Field's windows was magical. Every year was a different fairy tale and/or Christmas theme. We would also go to Ft. Wayne to see W&D's windows since my sister lived there. And in Hammond, where I grew up, the Goldblatts windows were all decked out. Goldblatts was the department store used as the source for the department store in "A Christmas Story". The author, jean Shepherd, grew up in Hammond. Wonderful memories of a less commercial holiday season and of childhood magical times.
R71, for a few years Macy's at Herald Square gave kids a choice of a black or white Santa.
[quote]Today, Macy's has Santa booths. There's a whole line of booths, each booth has a Santa. The kids go into a booth. That's pathetic.
Each child is given a token. He or she drops it in a grimy slot. A panel slides up, revealing Santa on a rotating sleigh...
[quote]I'm from Indiana. As a kid, the annual sojurn to Chicago to see Marshall Field's windows was magical.
What a sugarhomo...
Hammond is right next door to Chicago, they share a border. You make it sound like you traveled hundreds of miles.
Gee, sorry R79. I didn't mean to anger you. I only meant we took a drive to downtown Chicago. In the 60's, it took a bit longer than it does now, but whatever. It is obvious you like to bah humbug others' childhood memories. Pity. May the New Year bring you some kindness.
This thread makes me sad. Can you be nostalgic for something you haven't really known?
This reminds me of a story my grandmother told me. In the 1960s, she worked on the Herbertstraße, off the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. Of course, normally the workers *were* the window displays.
However, on Christmas Eve they put up a little tree and decorated it. At midnight, they all cried.
I work across from the DC Macy's -- they used to shut down the street and have a huge ceremony unveiling their holiday windows. If they did it this year, I missed it.
Was just reading the biography of Auntie Mame author Patrick Dennis, apparently his circle would restage whatever Bonwit Teller had in their windows -- back when these things were a big deal.
Some of the animated window displays from Chicago and Columbus are in a Christmas museum in Pennsylvania. It includes a priceless nativity scene that drew visitors by the thousands to the windows of the Marshall Field's department store in downtown Chicago more than 90 years ago.
[quote]I work across from the DC Macy's -- they used to shut down the street and have a huge ceremony unveiling their holiday windows. If they did it this year, I missed it.
What are the windows like? Big red and green displays of things to buy or do they have miniature villages and fairytale type stuff?
You flyover idiots should make a trip to New York where many retailers- not just Fifth & Madison Avenue- have beautiful holiday windows.
Our flyover stores do have beautiful Christmas windows -- but they're nothing like the animated windows that were around in the 70s. Their aim today is to sell merchandise. It can be beautifully presented as they do in New York stores, but it still can't begin to compare to windows of the past.
Philly is decorated from top to bottom. It's gorgeous.
[quote] Today, Macy's has Santa booths. There's a whole line of booths, each booth has a Santa. The kids go into a booth. That's pathetic.
When I took my nephew there 25 years ago, it was worse than going to the bank. The line snaked all along the floor (was it the 9th floor?) and you had to stay within the red ropes. It was blisteringly hot. Little kids were sweating and getting cranky. Jackets were being dragged on the floor. I remember a lot of that fake fuzzy snow being plastered around on fake hills. The hills were empty except for a North Pole sign.
It was ugly, stifling and totally amateur hour. You could see through chinks in the cardboard wall that there were different Santas. The kids were being pushed through by elves (teens and early twenties college kids). When it was my nephew's turn, an elf literally grabbed him and rushed him like a football into a Santa cubicle. He was so taken aback by his sudden "attack" on him after 45 minutes of mindlessly lolling on the line that he burst out crying. I didn't blame him. He was roughly handled. Some cubicle elf quickly snapped a pic, the original attack elf grabbed the kid off Santa's lap and gave an unintelligible spiel about buying the photo and I told all 3 of them -- Santa and both elves -- to shove the photo up their asses, this was the worst Christmas event I'd ever seen. Another elf grabbed me and rushed me out along with the kids.
I was in my twenties and a hothead. I could've shoved that elf right through the cheap ass cardboard wall but I didn't wan to spoil the day even further for my poor nephew.
Next we went to see the Rock Center tree and my nephew told us it was smaller than his Christmas tree at home, because the Rock Center tree "doesn't even go up to the ceiling" and his did.
It was an all-around waste of a day and we never took out-of-towners to either place again. Don't even get me started on that Radio City crapfest.