Article: Fond Memories of Christmas Shopping at Woolworth’s 5&10 store -1956
HOLIDAY 2022 NEWSLETTER
Featured Item: Shop Our Holiday Sale – Novelty Accent Lamps
Happy Holidays to All!
It’s that special time again, December, the month designated for holiday gift shopping. A time to catch those big, advertised sales, battle the weather and crowds, and hope the presents you purchased on your gift list are just what your special some-ones really wanted. It’s December’s hustle & bustle all over again.
In this issue I feature novelty Blown Glass & Metal Figurine Accent Lamps. They are charming, inexpensive, and sold very well in my stores at The Cannery Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. I have a few left in stock and am offering them at discounted prices. Check them out in the Featured Items section. They may be just the right item for your gift list.
December – how exciting! Back in the day, for me it meant proudly doing my Christmas shopping at our local Woolworth’s 5 & 10, a kid’s affordable department store. I could purchase the finest gifts money could buy for my entire family including the dog, with my $10 Christmas savings and even have money left over for a nice lunch. Such a deal!
Read: Fond Memories of Christmas Shopping at Woolworth’s 5&10 – 1956, in the Article section. You surely will recall the items I bought, and I have included brief histories of each. Very interesting.
Wishing you and yours Festive Holidays and a Happy New Year!
Lorena & Crew
Note: Each item presented is a one-of-a-kind work of art available for purchase. Should any item sell, there are no duplicates. Contact us about any similar items.
Novelty Accent Lamps on Sale!
Small things can mean a lot! Find a special something without breaking the bank this holiday season!
Fond Memories of Christmas Shopping at Woolworth’s 5&10 store - 1956
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town!
It once was that every town had an F.W. Woolworth’s Co. 5 & 10 cent store. Established in Utica, N.Y. in 1879 Woolworth’s became the town’s anchor, identifying a main street as Main Street, USA. Sadly, like so many other long-time anchors Woolworth’s is now gone. I remember during the winter months it was always festively decked out for the holidays. Shopping there during this time was exciting and noisy which added to the festive atmosphere.
The aisles were crowded with people inspecting the latest merchandise, the aroma of fresh, popped popcorn wafted through the air from the candy department, canaries and parakeets tweeted from the pet department, dishes clanked from the luncheon area, cash registers rang up sales and above the din, over the loudspeakers we heard the familiar voice of Gene Autrey singing his hit rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. And so, filled with Christmas spirit I stood there in Woolworth’s ready to shop.
These are the presents I bought for my family.
For my mother - Sophisticat Perfume Gift Set by Max Factor of Hollywood.
My vintage 1956 Max Factor Sophisticat gift set.
Max Factor, (Maximilian Factorovicz), immigrated from Russia to Los Angeles in 1909 with little money in his pocket. Within the rapidly growing silent film industry, he filled a need and became one of the biggest cosmetic giants linked to the glittering world of Hollywood.
Photos of glamourous movie stars praising the beauty benefits of Max Factor products appeared in various movieland fan magazines promising to help woman to feel like screen stars themselves. Max Factor smartly created an empire.
In 1956 Max Factor came out with a luxury-like, (he marketed to the average woman), product - a fragrance he packaged in a captivating gift set. It was named “Sophisticat” and the perfume was called “Primitif”. It was a daring presentation for the 1950’s, (unlike the classic Evening in Paris perfume sets) and sold for $1.50. Essentially, it was a 4 ½” black velveteen cat sitting in a clear plastic dome with a purse size vial of perfume between its front legs. It had citrine-yellow crystal eyes, wore a tiny string of pearls around its long neck and a pink boa behind its back. Printed around the bottom banding on gold paper read: Max Factor, Primitif, Sophisticat, Hollywood Calif., (In other words – the real deal. Sigh…).
Displayed on cosmetic counters, I had never seen anything so beautiful, so mysterious, so delicate. It was alluring and sexy - sure to lure any man into the wearer’s realm. Like most woman of her generation, (The Great Depression), my mother was star-struck. She studied all the beautiful faces of the Silver Screen in the movie magazines. I thought this was the perfect Christmas gift for her, so I bought it.
Eventually Hundreds of thousands of the Sophisticat perfume gift packages were sold around the world by Max Factor from the mid-1950s into the early 1970s. Pure marketing genius!
For my father – Martin Denny’s Exotica...
...the long playing, high-fidelity record album that went to #1 on the pop charts in 1959.
The “Mid-Century” genre known as exotica was a cultural phenomenon with ties to luaus, volcano goddesses, bamboo torches, palm trees and American soldiers returning home from World War II after serving in the Pacific theater. Their interpretation of Pacific Island culture was purely romanticized. My father wore his Hawaiian shirts while relaxing on our back yard patio. I painted a floor to ceiling mural of the fantasy island, Bali Ha’i, storied in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific on our basement wall. It added theatrical atmosphere to the tiki bar that my father built and decorated with shrunken heads, spears, painted shields, war-drum bar stools - the works.
Adding to the success of the album, Exotica, and appealing to record buyers was the album’s photo cover. It shows a model’s face with blonde hair and a come-hither smile peering through a bamboo curtain. She wears a large, golden jewelry loop on her forehead - so very bohemian in 1958! This album is now a collector’s item and of course copyrighted so I created my own version of the photo using a drawing of me done in 1968. Although Exotica is discontinued, you'll find it and similar records in collections and vinyl shops simply because of their visual appeal. When released in 1958 Exotica cost $1.25; today, used-$10, and new $75.
Me imitating a vintage album cover.
In Martin Denny’s faux-exotic, slightly jazzy instrumentals he added bird calls, squawks, croaking frogs, and strange jungle noises to evoke primitive feelings. This was music meant to transport the listener to any faraway ports of call. Denny’s single hit “Quiet Village” went to #2 on the pop charts in 1959. My father played it on our new blonde-wood, Hi-Fi stereo console. Neighbors heard loud exotic bird calls, croaking frogs - the full jungle emanating from our house on Long Island, New York.
Listen to Martin Denny’s Quiet Village – see the famous album cover: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=mnROAXLBy2M
Special lunch at Woolworth's--a toasted ham sandwich and an egg cream!
Time to treat myself to an elegant, thank you very much, lunch at Woolworth’s Lunch Counter & Soda Fountain.
I always liked best the ham salad sandwich on white (Wonder Bread, naturally) toast, 30 cents and an egg cream chocolate soda, 10 cents. The lady waitresses wore white uniforms with a fancy handkerchief fluffed out from a breast pocket and a pencil in an ear. They were very nice but very busy.
So, what’s an egg cream?
For many of us, the egg cream is the quintessential New York fountain drink. If you have never had one you are missing out on a heavenly, fizzy, sweet and frothy treat. An egg cream contains neither eggs nor cream. The basic ingredients are milk, seltzer water, and definitely Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup, (made in Brooklyn), and mixed with just the right touch and proportions to qualify as delicious. The beverage is traditionally made in a small Coke-style glass and costing only a few pennies.
The egg cream’s story is that it was the product of poverty, of NYC's Lower East Side poor Eastern Jewish immigrants. Although the name’s true origins are debated, it is believed egg cream is a corruption of “echt keem,” which is Yiddish for “pure sweetness “. To The City’s crowed tenement dwellers this 5-cent cold fountain drink offered some sweetness and the promise of “hope for a better future,”
The egg cream was created by Louis Auster who served the first of many egg creams from his Brooklyn candy and soda shop in the 1890s. Today, egg creams have disappeared along with the old-fashion candy stores and soda fountains that once dominated the streets of New York City. Sometimes, you can find them on the menu at a diner or luncheonette in the boroughs.”. Here’s hoping you do.
Back to shopping.
For my middle sister I choose - Old Maid playing cards
The Old Maid artwork by: Calvin Haves
Old Maid, a simple Victorian card game for two or more players is still a fun-favorite with children and families playing cards together. It takes its name from a 19th-century illustrated deck of cards showing colorful characters in matching pairs, plus a single (usually prissy or dorky looking) Old Maid card. The goal is not to be holding that card when the game ends.
To begin, you spread your hidden hand out to the player on your left to pick a card. Then, likewise, you pick a card from the player’s hand on your right, each discarding any pairs of cards. If you do hold the Old Maid card, you try to subtly (or forcibly) guide your opponent into picking it from your hand. If he/she does, you both say nothing. Mum’s the word - everyone looking innocent. Playing proceeds in this manner with players giving the suspicious eye around the table as to who is holding the Old Maid card.
When all the cards have been paired except one, The Old Maid, the player who has that card is the Old Maid! You will be ribbed mercilessly for being such a dumb cluck for getting stuck with it. Also, the player who has the most pairs at the end of the game, is the winner! Lots of rowdy fun!
What fun! We three rowdy sisters quickly made Old Maids of our opponents. They didn’t have a chance!
For my youngest sister – Slinky, by fluke becomes the all-time-wonder, kid toy.
Slinky walks down stairs
Some of you may know the story of how Slinkys came to be - it was conceived via a scientific experimental accident. In 1943, mechanical engineer Richard James was working at creating stabilizer springs that could keep ships steady at sea. After accidentally knocking some samples off a shelf, he was amazed to watch them gracefully “walk” away end over end. He showed one to his wife, Betty, and she named it “Slinky”.
They thought it a marketable, novelty item and demonstrated it at a Gimbel's department store in Philadelphia during the Christmas shopping season in 1945. Kids delighted at the fun Slinkys that could “walk” down stairs and do other slinky things. That day the entire stock of 400 Slinkys—selling for $1 a pop – or about $14 in today's value, were gone in less than two hours.
In 1948, the Jameses opened a factory to build the Slinky toy. In its first 10 years, it sold 100 million Slinkys. At $1 apiece, that would be the equivalent to $6 billion, adjusted for inflation. To date, about 300 million Slinkys have been sold. (Do the math.) In 2000 Slinky was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
For Buddy, our dog – A Dog Biscuit Treat
And for teacher - A Set of Four Flower & Lace Handkerchiefs folded and arranged attractively in a flat cellophane box. Totally impractical, but a lovely gift presentation.
Lastly, I needed to buy gift tags, ribbons, and colorful holiday wrapping paper at 10 cents for two folded sheets.
With the gift shopping done and my $10 Christmas budget spent it was time to walk home in the snow with my shopping bag of treasures. I did good that day.
Vintage holiday wrapping paper.