Guest Column: Remembering downtown at Christmas

I would like to take you back some 70 years, to the mid-1930s. Yes, I was a young child then; it is sometimes difficult to imagine older people as children, but we were all there once.

Mother and I would walk up to West State Street from our green-shingled bungalow on Elm Street to catch the bus going downtown. Or more likely, it was the street car. Well, no matter, downtown really was the place to go, the center for shopping as well as doctors’ offices. And, of course, there were bakeries, department stores, dime stores and even special meat markets (Salamone’s and Cacciatore’s) with sawdust on the floor.

Most mothers didn’t work outside the home, so it was a treat to look forward to, going downtown with my Mom. It was taken for granted that we would have lunch at one of the dime stores. Let’s see…there was the Metropolitan next door to Penney’s. Across the street there was F.W. Woolworth, and farther up the street was W.T. Grant, on two floors no less, and now the site of the Paragon on State restaurant.

Each dime store had a lunch counter. You would take a step up and sit on a swivel chair with a nice, comfortable back. My favorite lunch place was Woolworth’s. One day, we went down after Christmas and headed for the Metropolitan, where Stewart Square now stands. As happened every year after the holiday, the clerks (they weren’t called associates then) were dismantling the Christmas displays, which must have included a giant Santa. I, in my childhood wisdom, uttered these words in a most melancholy tone: “Sandy Claus fall down.” Mother thought I had just said something wonderful and adorable, and never tired of telling friends and family how clever I was.

Genevieve Sandona is a long-time Rockford resident.

From the Dec. 13-19, 2006, issue

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