Now & Then
Little Sister writes: “Even though I haven’t darkened any doors of the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis for years, I am sad to hear that Macy’s is considering closing the store. It’s another bittersweet reminder of a bygone era — not for Macy’s, but for what once was Dayton’s flagship store.
“Shopping there was a magical experience for me, growing up in the ’50s and early ’60s. There were few, if any, malls at the time, so some of my earliest memories, before I started school, were of my mother and me and our downtown adventures.
“We lived in a small town about an hour’s drive from Minneapolis. Once in a while, my dad would have to spend the day at his company’s main office, and being a one-car family at the time, my mother took full advantage. After getting the big kids off to school, we’d take Highway 65 all the way, and Dad would drop Mom and me off at my grandparents’ house in Nordeast. From there, we would walk the few blocks to Danielson’s Drug Store on Central Avenue, where we would catch a downtown bus.
“From the minute we went through Dayton’s heavy revolving doors, I was in hog heaven. What struck me every time was that all the lady customers were decked out, as my dad used to say, in all their finery. You wouldn’t think of going out without dressing up back then, even for shopping, although our attire must have certainly had a conservative rural flair to it. I took in the patent-leather high heels, bright red lipstick, fox stoles, white gloves, and hats of every description. I often wondered how they kept the seams in their hosiery so straight. I knew my mother and older sister had a time with theirs.
“I looked forward to many parts of the excursion, because there was so much to drink in. The lady elevator attendants always looked so professional; I was sure they had one of the most important jobs in the whole store. Their perfume would greet you as the doors slid open — scents which were those you could find at the first-floor cosmetics counter: Tabu, Blue Grass, White Shoulders, or Chanel No. 5.
“Just as exciting was the escalator ride to the upper floors, a ride that seemed to go on forever. We would often meet my aunt, who was a Dayton’s accountant, for lunch at the Sky Room on the eighth floor. The food was heaven, and it felt like being in another world. For dessert, my mother would take me to the candy counter on another floor. She would always get humdrum chocolate-covered peanuts for herself, but would allow me the agony of having to choose something else from the dizzying array of choices behind the glass cases. I usually settled for chocolate stars with sprinkles.
“I recall that mysterious bongs would sound periodically throughout the store, sometimes two or three at a time, and repeat itself. It was a musical sound, a pleasant reminder of where I was, and I imagined they meant something incredibly important. Mom said they were just signals for the store management, but I couldn’t buy into such a mundane theory. Those chimes just added to the atmosphere and grandeur of the place for me.
“Something else that intrigued me was the fourth-floor ladies lounge and restroom, where a gleaming black-and-white checkered floor greeted you. There were upholstered chairs for weary patrons to relax upon and enjoy a cigarette. Another curiosity: PAY toilets! Of course, my mother always said the abundant free ones were perfectly fine for our needs. After all, the free ones had a handy shelf that pulled down for your parcels, and they had the paper seat covers my mother insisted upon. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what luxuries lay beyond that door with a nickel coin drop. When it was time to wash up, I marveled that pink frothy soap would squirt generously into your palm with just the press of a hand. And how grand it was to have a uniformed attendant hand me a gleaming white paper towel from a stack she had ready and waiting. Then I’d watch my mother generously reapply her lipstick and press her mouth on one of those towels. It would leave behind a perfectly formed red imprint. I so wanted to do that! There were invariably quite a number of similarly stained towels left behind in the wastebasket.
“We would usually visit the other downtown department stores, too, like Donaldson’s, Young-Quinlan, and JC Penney. Sometimes we would grab a root beer at the Woolworth’s lunch counter before it was time to take the bus back to my grandparents’ house and meet Dad after work. But for many reasons, it was Dayton’s that left the biggest impression. It could be that we would faithfully have our picture taken with their Santa at Christmas, visit the eighth-floor holiday shows, and marvel at the intricately designed window displays. Yes, it was and is no contest for me. Dayton’s had all the other stores beat. They still do.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We will now (and always) welcome memories, from wherever you grew up, of the Golden Age of Department Stores — now long past. Please send them to BB.email@example.com. Thanks.
Then & Now
And: In memoriam
John in Highland reports: “Recently, one of our fellow Army veterans, Tom Stevens, passed away. He was part of our group of 30 St. Paul-area young men who entered the Army on the 12th of May in 1969. The family allowed me to have a copy of this photo of our basic-training platoon, which I had never received.
“Tom and I are in the picture. If you were part of our St. Paul group and you were assigned to the 1st Platoon of ‘D’ Company, you might be able to find yourself in the photo. Thank you for your service!”
Month at a glance
During our move from the daily Pioneer Press and twincities.com to BBonward.com, at the end of last month, we somehow mislaid our traditional and customary first-of-the-monthly report from The Stillwater Scouter. He had sent it in plenty of time! Apologies, Scouter. Apologies, readers!
Here, then, is our first (and, we hope, last) 11th-of-the-monthly (Veterans Day!) report from The Stillwater Scouter: “The month of November is known to some as ‘Movember.’ First public mention of this appears to have occurred on an Australian TV newscast in 1999. The idea of growing moustaches for charities to raise awareness of various cancers was to ‘change the face of men’s health.’ Participants are known as ‘Mo Bros.’ The activity has gone international and has in some places morphed into ‘No Shave November.’
“November 7th to the 13th is Dear Santa Letter Week.*
“Prime Meridian Day is November 1. A meridian is a reference point used by navigators (originally mariners). Longitude was developed by the Greeks prior to 120 B.C. For centuries, the chief method of determining longitude was to use reported times of lunar eclipses in different countries. Many seafaring nations set their own prime meridian. The main one used today was established in 1884 at a conference held in Washington, D.C. Twenty-two countries voted to adopt the longitude at Greenwich, England, as the prime meridian.
“On November 9, 1938, the first recorded high school ‘Sadie Hawkins Dance’ was held.
“November 15, 1937, saw Al Capp (creator of the ‘Lil’ Abner’ cartoon strip) invent Sadie Hawkins Day. The idea of its being OK for a girl to ask a guy out to a dance suddenly became appealing to both sexes. Women now had an opportunity to confront the shy guy they liked.
“National Button Day is November 16. The oldest button might be made of a curved seashell and could be 5,000 years old. It was found in the Indus Valley. Original buttons were probably ornaments. Buttons may have been seals of authority as well. Functional buttons with buttonholes for fastening or closing clothes seemed to have first appeared in Germany in the 13th century.
“Mother Goose Day is November 19. If there was an actual mother goose, she could have been Bertrada II of Laon, wife of Pepin the Short, and mother of Charlemagne, the de facto founder of the Holy Roman Empire. A patroness of children, she was known as Bertha Greatfoot or Queen Goosefoot. By the mid-17th century, a mythical Mother Goose was widely known by French peasants and nobility alike as a fairy birdmother who told charming tales to children. Some of these stories were a source for plays by both Shakespeare and Molière.
“On November 20, 1923, Garrett Morgan received U.S. Patent No. 1,475,074 for his three-position traffic signal.
“It is held that Edward Teach, a.k.a. the pirate Blackbeard, died November 22, 1718, off North Carolina in a bloody battle off Ocracoke Island. It is reported that he received five musket-ball wounds and 20 sword lacerations before dying.
“November 23 is Fibonacci Day. Fibonacci numbers are numbers characterized by the fact that every number after the first two is the sum of the two preceding ones. Graphed, it is elegant. There are examples of it in nature.
“On November 26, 1862, the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ manuscript was sent as a Christmas present. On November 26, 1922, archaeologists entered the tomb of King Tut. (Same day but 60 years later.)**
“On November 29, 1775, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, established a Committee of Secret Correspondence.
“* The Scouter suggests getting a child to write to Santa may have many benefits . . . and that The Scouter may write one himself.
“** Which of the two is more important is up to you.”
Our theater of seasons
Or: Keeping your eyes open
Mounds View Swede: “I took no fall-color trips this year, so just kept within a three-block radius of home. There were two striking trees that really ‘called’ to me.
“I am especially drawn to leaves with the sunlight shining through them. That glow catches my attention every time. Since they are on other people’s property, I am careful with the angle I choose to minimize anything other than the tree and leaves themselves.
“I hope you enjoy them, too.”
Dumb Customer Jokes
Polling Place Division (responsorial)
Thursday’s Bulletin Board opened with a report from IGHGrampa: “Some things, you just should not joke about.
“I finished marking my ballot and took it over to the aide at the ballot box. ‘Just slide it right into the old paper shredder here?’ I quipped to him. His rather icy non-reaction let me know how my joke was received. Maybe he’s heard the joke before.”
We presently heard from Gma Tom: “To respond to IGHGrampa’s entry about putting his ballot into a paper shredder:
“Your election official was probably biting his/her tongue instead of making a snappy reply.”
IGHGrampa: “I see that survivor guy is out looking for Bigfoot again. He and the guy with him have a number of cameras, one on a tripod that he carries all the time, and some trail cams and infrared cams.
“You’d think that with all that gear, they’d be sure to get a bit of Bigfoot footage. Think again. They had camera on themselves most of the time. Point the cameras at the woods, guys — the woods!
“We did see a short trail-cam segment of the nose of some whiskered animal. There are a couple of night segments of the guy looking scared and acting like he’s hearing mysterious noises around him, but no Bigfoot — fooled once again.”
Today’s helpful hint
Willard B. Shapira of Roseville, reporting: “Ten-HUT!
“I want you to know that on Friday, November 11, Veterans Day, Chili’s restaurants will serve free special meals to veterans. If you have proof you served, you will be served — and even if you can’t prove you served, your word probably will be honored and you will be served. Anyone accompanying you can order off the regular menu at regular prices.
“I’m unsure whether all Chili’s are participating, so check first.
“I assure all of you that Chili’s and other restaurant who do this never serve S.O.S.
“As a veteran (Minnesota Air National Guard, 1954-1958, honorably discharged, A/2C, based at Holman Field, St. Paul), I have several times availed myself of this offer at the Chili’s in Roseville where I live: Fairview at County Road B2. I wish I could remember the name of the privately operated Roseville restaurant where I once dined for free on Veterans Day, but my 80-year-old memory fails, darn it, or I would have checked to see if on Veterans Day they still are serving free meals to those who served.
“I have met other vets at restaurants on Veterans Day. None was in full uniform, but some wore caps, jackets, other garments. There were some male vets and some female vets. I’m not sure all branches of the service were represented, but I do know there were few if any officers who identified themselves as such. Most but not all vets I met were willing to talk about their service experience and post-service lives. Some served as far back as World War II.
“Even though the meal is free, I always leave the wait-person a nice tip. I also have written the corporate management of Chili’s thanking them, and I have Sainted them (or tried to, anyway) several times in a Saturday Pioneer Press following Veterans Day. You vets — and those who accompany you — can do the same: Chow down and . . . dis-MISSED!”
Band Name of the Day: The Pay Toilets
Website of the Day: Fibonacci number, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_number