Pieces of the Past has several missions. Its original one was to point out some of Warren’s unique landmarks. It also (hopefully) brings out discussions about life in Warren “way back when.”
The Christmas season in Warren back in 1960 was a whole lot different than today. For one thing, there were no “drug” commercials on TV. Television was plastered with TOY Ads! Remco, Marx, Kenner Gilbert, and more had bought up every available minute of network time. Warren merchants were under a lot of pressure to stock the toys, apparel, appliances, and gadgets that dominated TV commercials.
I remember one great example of “useless” gotta-have-it toys. Kurt Russell had a RADIO RIFLE! When you were done shooting the bad guys you could listen to the Billboard Hot 100 on the radio. Easy Bake Ovens were what all the girls wanted. The thing is, they actually worked. With microwave ovens now, the 100-watt lightbulb oven has been bypassed. Lionel trains were a must. By 1960 if you didn’t have one running around the trunk of your tree you were deprived.
Liberty Street was completely different in the 60s. Levinson Brothers was the anchor. The five floors were busy. Northwest was still BRADFORD Savings and Loan and the building was just starting to be remodeled. The walkway over Liberty Street wasn’t there. Where Northwest has its automated teller today was a separate building that housed a newsstand and two more businesses.
Murphys, and Kressge’s faced each other and sold a lot of different things. Do you remember Murphys always had a “mothball” scent? Friday nights in downtown Warren were amazing! There wasn’t a single vacant storefront on either side of Liberty Street or Pennsylvania Avenue.
Do you remember what we all said to one another? “Merry Christmas” was spoken by the store clerk and the customer’s response was “Same to you!” The Salvation Army was set up on all four corners of 2nd and Liberty. The sound of bells reverberated through the air everywhere. I took my turn ringing bells for The Key Club and several other high school organizations. I got pretty good at ringing two bells in each hand. Four of those little things could really make noise!
I dressed warmly. Insulated long underwear, warm coat, stocking cap boots the works. By the end of my shift, I was pretty well frozen. Christmas in 1960 was a lot colder.
My favorite stores were Wendelboe’s, Western Auto, Montgomery Ward, and The Printz Company. If I was going to buy something for my Mom or my Sister, I knew people who worked there who knew both women in my life.
Grant’s was in the plaza at the foot of Market Street. It was great. I could walk to all the stores. In 1962, I spent an amazing $40 on gifts using money from my paper route. I was so excited that everyone got good stuff from me that year.
What is your favorite Christmas memory?