Christmas Shopping in 1979 | Mark’s Remarks


I was almost always busy throughout the summer and well into fall. As long as there was grass to mow and leaves to rake, I was in business. I mowed my first lawn when I was 9 years old. It was just my next door neighbor and it was only one yard, but for the next 10 years or so, I mowed lawns and did yard work.

It’s good for a kid to work and save up money. There were times I felt pretty grown-up. I could now buy some of my own stuff. I could Christmas shop.

The Christmas of 1979 feels like it was almost yesterday. I was around 12. My good buddies and I had planned on hanging out uptown one Saturday afternoon, so I planned to meet them up there. I don’t know what we were thinking, but we all had girlfriends at the time and had planned on buying something special for all of them. I probably had around 50 bucks, a huge sum in those days. I felt like Daddy Warbucks.

My two best buddies were in my homeroom class that year.  We had already spent the summer going to teen dances at the local community center, and we now fancied ourselves as ladies men. The local country school girls came to the community center, too, so here was a chance to maybe date girls who didn’t know us very well. This was an advantage when you were 12.

Dad dropped me off at the Corner Candy Shop and I went inside. This place could be an entire column topic. Maybe I’ll save it for later. For now, I will tell you this place was a remnant of past days. It was truly an old-fashioned soda fountain where sodas were actually mixed. You could get ice-cream, burgers, whatever you wanted.  We didn’t appreciate it then, but boy I wish I’d have savored every moment spent there. It was a bit shabby and run-down when I frequented the place, but I loved it.

We sat down in one of the old booths and planned our strategy. Where would be the best place to get something nice for these girls without spending too much money and still being able to afford something for our families? We talked out a plan, mentally walking up and down the street.

The wisest and most suave member of this all-male club (not me), suggested we head straight for the jewelry store.  There would be something classy in there and it would score points with not only us, but with the friends of our girlfriends (which could benefit us later if there were to be a break-up). My other friend and I scoffed a bit, but not wanting to appear too out of touch, we both agreed.

Sure, there were good things at the jewelry store and even things we could afford, but again, the wisest of the three of us thought we should exhaust all options before making a final purchase.

Heading east, we hit a ladies apparel store (no foolin’) and saw some costume jewelry and other nice things. There was a lot of snickering while we were in there, and I remember how stern the woman who worked in there looked. This was, perhaps, a place young gentlemen weren’t supposed to frequent.  We left hastily and crossed the street.

There was a type of variety store toward the west, and we thought a stuffed animal might be a good choice. That idea was nixed after some thought.  There was some candy put up for discussion. We spent some time, even though none of us wanted to admit it, looking over the Matchbox car selection. There was even discussing of buying one as a gag gift and telling the girls we’d purchased a car.  After a few moments, it didn’t sound too funny.

The “dime store” was the local 5 and 10 store, another entity we didn’t appreciate at the time. I’ve written about that place before. Still being able to smell the scents in there, I’m sure we lingered for a while and looked over the selection of candy at the candy counter.  You could get a scoop of candy for a few cents, which we probably did.

There was probably some time spent looking at a few comic books and those romance novels that might have some racy scene in it (after all, we were 12), but I’m pretty sure we didn’t settle on anything in here.

On to the east was the news stand, a place of employment for one of us, and then another jewelry store, a flower shop, and another ladies apparel store.

We finally settled on those cheap but classy necklaces at the first jewelry store, and each of us, I kid you not, bought a single rose. Each of us bought a different card, placed the necklace inside, and attached the rose to the card somehow. We were pretty proud of ourselves.

Since this story is riddled with “bygone” inventions and places, I’ll go ahead and tell you what happened next: my other friend (the least wise but street smart), went to the phone booth next to the courthouse lawn and called his oldest sister to pick us up.

While on the phone, he asked her if she wouldn’t mind driving us around town a bit to deliver our purchases. We felt very grown-up and hip as we jumped into her little tan Nova.

She was more than happy, with a bit of a smirk on her face, to drive us around town a little.  I remember her telling us how cute we were, but I’m sure it wasn’t meant the way we took it.

The victor of the day was our wisest friend, who actually got a hug from his girlfriend.

Our other friend was forced to hand his present to her mother. My girlfriend wasn’t even at home.  I left it on her dad’s work bench in the garage.

I’m sure I bought gifts for my family, too, and I can’t tell you if I was even thanked by my girlfriend. After all, in those days, relationships were a fleeting thing and the whole thing could have offended her.

The cheap necklace itself could have been the cause of a monumental breakup; even if it WAS Christmas.

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