A place to recall and celebrate the wonderful stores of a Downtown Boston now alive only in our memories

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

A Day Out In Boston In 1968... Part 1




My memories of the downtown Boston I knew so well began in the late 1960’s with shopping trips during the week with my mother and my nana. My grandmother, nana, had worked off and on for the Jordan Marsh Company from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. She took such pride in showing her little grandson all round the shops that made the Washington Street shopping area of Boston so famous. It was not called “Downtown Crossing” then!
Her work at Jordan Marsh had been something she loved and always looked back on with fond feelings. She had worked in many of the departments over the years but her favorite was the baby clothing department which for years had been located in the basement of one of the large buildings that made up the vast Jordan Marsh complex.
At this time, my Aunt Mary still worked at one of the perfume counters on the street floor right by the bank of elevators still operated by men or women in the old main building of Jordan Marsh. Part of our shopping ritual always included a visit to Aunt Mary and have a little chat with her.
Now in order to go “in town” as we called the trip, I had to get dressed up. My Sunday best was needed. Mother and nana also put on their best for this ritual shopping experience.
We lived in Brookline and used to take the streetcar in to Kenmore Square where we would meet my nana on the platform since she came in from another part of Brookline via bus. All together we would ride the rest of the way to Park Street Station and emerge beneath the steeple of Park Street Church to begin the shopping trip.
We always went down Winter Street and I can still recall the smell of brewing coffee in the “Choc Full O Nuts” coffee shop. Mother liked to go into Miles. Miles was a book, gift and card shop along Winter Street. The Bell Shops was being torn down in my early memories of these days and the Provident Bank building took it’s place over time.
Conrad and Chandler’s still was busy with women shoppers and the windows always got a look in by mother and nana. We would go in sometimes and I can remember the old wooden floors and the black telephones that were at each counter.
We had to go in to Gilchrist’s and visit the bakery along the Winter Street side. I always had a almond macaroon in a little paper sleeve and they were The Best!!
We would walk through the street floor of Gilchrist’s and leave by the main corner door to cross over to Jordan Marsh.
We would enter Jordan Marsh on the main street floor and visit Aunt Mary if she was at work that day. I can recall the elevators with glass French style doors opening and closing with a globe above the floor display needles that lit up to show the elevator was there. The elevators in all the older parts of the store had operators. The 1950 addition of the store had automatic elevators since it was the newest part at this time. We spent most of our shopping trip in Jordan Marsh.
It was our shop and my nana knew every inch by heart.
I can recall crossing over to the Annex Building in a variety of ways. Sometimes by the sky bridge over Avon Street which connected the 1950 addition to the main Annex Building from about the third floor to the sixth. The under Avon Street tunnel was another neat way to go from Main Basement Store to Annex Basement Store. On nice days we often just crossed Avon Street and went in on the street floor of the Annex.
I loved the Annex. It always smelled good.
I think it must have been roasting nuts or the bakery but it always smelled so warm and comforting.
The Annex seemed to be always very busy. It was also the place in Jordan Marsh that had a street floor with a nice high ceiling and that great feeling of space and that there was lots to see.
The music and record department was on the street floor of the Annex. Music always played and it added nice touch to the visit. The street corner of Avon and Washington Streets held the appliances. I had a thing for vacuum cleaners and loved to see the ones on display. Salesmen always seemed to showing off what the latest model vacuums could do for the eager customers.
We were only half done with our day out! Lots more to do and lunch to be had!

I shall write more about a typical shopping trip in my next post.
All the Best, Charles................
PS........The two photos are sample images from the Bostonian Society and these images link directly back to them. Please visit their site and support them in their fine work!
They have so much to offer!
PPS......The photos show the 1890 Jordan Marsh Main Store building that ran along Washington Street from Summer Street to Avon Street until it was torn down in 1975-6 to make way for the low modern building that sits there today. Thanks to Jan Whitaker for locating this great 1940's advert for Jordan Marsh. Please keep sharing! Write me if you want to place your own memories on this blog:-)

1 comment:

salvatore said...

s is a well written very nice story,Iam from,gloucester mass. havent been home in decades. I to in the 50s 60s with my nana and mother experianced these same things in our trips to boston, your memory is so very crisp i could smell and vision the way it was thank you, sam frontierro 821 west east ave apt 14 chico calif