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

Friday 31 August 2012

Back To School Shopping In and Around Retro Boston in 1970

Hello, My Fellow Retro Boston Lovers!

As a retired teacher, that strange sensation of August dwindling away and the ever growing excitement that yet another new school year was about to begin will forever be part of who I am as a person. Each September meant new faces, new challenges...and few new clothes!

A recent glance at the Boston area obituaries online gave me a focus for this “back to school” update. I read that my former first grade teacher at the Edward Devotion School in Brookline had died. Mrs. Harris, who lived to the golden age of 91, was and will remain for me the image of a perfect teacher. Did I have other fantastic teachers in Brookline? Oh, yes indeed...maybe too many...since I found myself becoming a teacher after so many outstanding role models. But sweet Mrs. Harris, who retired from teaching back in 1981, was good for me in so many ways...I was not mentally prepared to go from those three short, gentle hours of school in idyllic kindergarten to the whole day (8 AM until 2 PM) the very next year. It seemed SO LONG to my young mind and I fought the system...I wanted out! Mrs. Harris, still rather new to the Devotion School staff at this point in the fall of 1971, gently made me feel that school was really not so bad...even now with a few hours added each day...I could survive. Her warmth, wit and reassuring smile won me over and made the days begin to fly by. I dedicate this update to the late Mrs. Harris of Brookline...a legend for me and for many others!

Going back to school in September of 1970 in the Boston area was an amazing experience. I am sure it still is today...but my experience is classed as very “retro” now...sadly, today’s children will just have to wait a bit for that vintage feeling to kick in! I wanted to be at school like all my older friends and with my sharp new clothes acquired from a variety of Boston area stores; I was ready to begin my schooling days in Mrs. Hamburger’s (no joke) morning kindergarten class. Three hours a day were just enough at this point and I felt so grown-up to be finally part of this new world of school!

By 1970, Boston was the scene of much unrest. Rallies and protests seemed to happen almost every week in all parts of the city. The Vietnam War was still making headlines and dominated our TV screens. The public was rallying for peace. I recall before starting school that year being brought to a peace rally held in Copley Square that was sponsored by various religious groups in the city and culminating with a large service held in Trinity Church. Even at five years old, I knew what peace meant and could see the longing, the frustration and deep sadness etched in so many faces in the crowded church. Another urgent issue loomed as well...Pollution levels reached an all time high in the summer of 1970 and Bostonians began to see smog appearing in the skies most afternoons. The 1970’s had come and life and attitudes were changing. People were demanding action and wanting to be heard and seen! Clothing styles were beginning to reflect this mood of change and began breaking with wardrobe traditions already crumbling by the late 1960’s...bold and colorful, flowing and free...just look at the pictures and ads I have gathered if you have any doubt at all. The 1960’s was giving way to even more outward signs of inward expression. Bring on the plaid and Peter Max!

I recall that shopping for school clothes in the summer of 1970 was done in a few distinct shopping sessions. A few trips involved going places in the car with dad...department stores like Zayre, Bradlees, Ann&Hope, Marshall’s and Turn-Style. These names were now becoming part of the fast growing suburban Boston area shopping scene. Shopping now involved both out-of-town by car and in-town by MBTA. The downtown stores were still competing gallantly and used the “back to school” sales as a way to focus shopper’s attention back to the retail heart of Boston.

I am thrilled to see the effort that Raymond’s made in the fall of 1970 with their career and education week. Just look at all that was going on in their Boston store each day of that special week. Filene’s wins the ad wars for having the most delightful ad campaign for the “back to school” crowds...just look at the artwork and classic 1970 styling. Woolworth’s was the BIG news with the September grand opening of the new Boston store on the corner of Washington and Franklin Streets. The arrival of the new Woolworth’s was a huge event and I vividly recall going soon after the grand opening and enjoying a look around the brightly lit four floors of this impressive, ultra-new downtown store. Also note the fact that Jordan Marsh, Filene’s and Gilchrist all have more modern store logos in use that would become the new signatures for each as the 1970’s rolled along.

Enjoy this collection of ads and photos from Boston in 1970. I look back and really find it shocking that forty-two years have gone by since I walked into school for the first time...Room 222 was the big hit on TV during that year...the big kids on that show all seemed so super cool to me. Yikes!!! That really feels “retro” now!





PS...Sorry to have to admit that the 1970 class photo in this update is not mine BUT it could be in just so very many ways!

PPS...The Jordan Marsh memory project is always looking for more memories and nostalgia items to be added to the materials being gathered. Please contact me soon; I’d love to add yours!!!