Nightly, television newscasters and live eye reporters show the hustle and bustle of shoppers at each of the malls or other locations around Connecticut, all speculating how well retailers will fare during the Holiday gift buying season.
It reminds me of a time before malls and all the discount retailers when holiday shopping meant going to the G. Fox & Co. department store in downtown Hartford or to main street Middletown. More likely however, many from our community did their gift buying locally at establishments such as Clark’s Corner Store, Muller’s Jewelers, Ravis’ Home Supply or Thatcher’s Drug Store.
The Christmas season was special. It didn’t start before Halloween which seems to be an annoying trend of late. It was after Thanksgiving when the air filled with excitement. Working behind the soda fountain at Thatcher’s, people always seemed much more pleasant, outgoing and engaging in that season. The drug store or what was the community gathering place, always took on a different appearance as well. Raymond “Deke” Thatcher meticulously placed his Christmas Rexall order in the late summer. He would wait with anticipation to receive box after box loaded with all kinds of odds and ends, some arriving in late October. We’d probably call most of the items stocking stuffers today.
The unending orders and boxes contained a full array of cosmetics, compacts, lipstick tubes, knickknacks of all sorts, pipes, cigars, special tobacco blends such as Amphora, and item after item that would tax the store’s shelving capacity. Special displays were positioned at the head of each isle as it captured the patrons who parked along West High Street or on the side of the building at the corner of Main Street. Back then, the store seemed gigantic. I can remember as a young boy Eaton Smith telling me as I picked up or Sunday newspapers that it was going to be the biggest drug store east of the Mississippi! Today, in retrospect, it is hardly one quarter the size of CVS or Rite Aid. But it had something all these locations now compete for – a buzz of customers eager to buy the latest the store had to offer.
And what was even better? You could sit on a counter stool, have a hot cup of coffee, hot chocolate or a milk shake and take a few minutes to unwind.
No, not a bad place to be. Merry Christmas!