Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Retail Memories of Yesteryear

by Maggie Sefton

Yesterday I returned to my old hometown area of Northern Virginia.  I'm staying with my dear childhood friends before the Malice Domestic Mystery conference in Washington, D.C. later this week.  

Mary's Monday posts always catch my attention, and yesterday's did again.  It brought back so many memories of the wonderful Grand Old Famous department stores of years ago.  Yes, we have large department stores now, set in the midst of brand new shiny shopping centers which are complete with adjacent fancy apartments, cinemaplexes, and fitness centers.  Something for everyone.

Our family lived for fifteen years in West Lafayette, Indiana, in northwest Indiana while my husband was a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Purdue University.  Since we were used to living in northern Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., we had to get used to new surroundings, new landscapes, new weather patterns, and----new shopping centers.  Washington, D.C.  had many beautiful and large department stores, we certainly did not lack for shopping variety.  But once we moved into the heart of the Midwest, we had to get new bearings.

Fortunately, in those days, there was such a thing as a Faculty Wives Club.  I'm sure the name alone wouldn't pass muster nowadays, but back in the 70s  (yes, the 70s) it was totally non-offensive.  There were faculty dinners and various other functions all designed to build community in Purdue's large and diverse faculty and families.   One of the things the club  sponsored was an outing to Chicago four times a year.  Two hours away on the interstate, Chicago was not a place we went shopping regularly. With the travel, it was 2 hours at least to drive up and 2 hours to return.  An all-day experience.  But the Faculty Wives club in those days sponsored a large Greyhound bus to take shoppers up to the Grand Old Dame of Chicago shopping----Marshall Fields Department store, right in the midst of downtown Chicago.

I still remember those shopping trips fondly.  They provided a great way to escape and treat ourselves to a day of shopping, a wonderful matinee theatre experience if we chose, an all day walk through those wonderful museums or lakeshore parks (Chicago, remember, is on the banks of Lake Michigan and has beautiful lakeshore views.  Or, we could simply stroll along Chicago's grand avenues and immerse ourselves in "City."   Yes, some of us do enjoy the City experience, even though it has changed over the years.  And my family always reminded me to bring home some of Marshall Fields' famous Chocolate Mint cookies.  Yummy.  Believe me, they rivaled the Girl Scout's Thin Mints.  Honest!  :)  

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