A couple of weeks ago when Joe and I were in the car on our long drive down to Virginia, we got to talking about shopping. I had been to the mall earlier in the week for one of those twice-a-year major shopping trips for basic necessities like socks and pillows and the like. So shopping, something I don't generally look forward to unless it is for fabric, was fresh in my mind.
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We remembered how back when we were kids, if we went shopping with our parents at a major department store, when a purchase was made, the clerk would inquire, "Take or send?" The big department stores in Philadelphia had some kind of an arrangement with UPS and it didn't cost any more to have your package sent home instead of being burdened with it while you did the rest of the shopping. And the next day there was all that fun of a package arriving, even though you already knew what was inside..
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Joe talked about how his parents went to Trenton for their major shopping expeditions. I don't remember my parents going shopping together ever. My mother took care of any shopping that had to be done.
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A couple of times a year she would "go downtown." It was always planned well in advance and was usually scheduled for a "Clover Day," the big sale at Strawbridges. If a trip downtown fell during a time that I was off from school, I got to go along.
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I don't have a whole lot of good memories of times with my mother. But the shopping downtown is surely one of them! We'd take the 9:09 train, arriving about a half-hour later, and then walk from store to store, making our purchases and having them "sent." Several of the department stores were clustered together down around 8th and Market, and we'd go there first. Then, when we were close to finished with all of the things on the list, we'd walk up to Wanamakers, our favorite store. We'd have lunch at the Crystal Tea Room and had to take the elevator to get there -- it was probably on the 8th or 9th floor of this very large department store. We always got the same thing for lunch: Tea sandwiches, tea for mother and chocolate milk for me, and chocolate mint ice cream for dessert. I can picture those sandwiches and taste that ice cream to this day.
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After lunch we'd do whatever shopping remained at Wanamakers and then came the very best part of the day -- before we would go and catch the train for home, we'd cross Chestnut Street, passing the blind pencil salesman who never seemed to look any different from year to year, and go into the great big Woolworths where we'd go downstairs to where the children's things were kept and pick out a brand new book of paper dolls for me. The clerk never asked, "Take or send." She knew I'd want to start cutting them out right away.