Will Edwinson

Author & Storyteller

Christmas Shopping In The Old Days

Christmas GreetingsYesterday was the big hype day of Black Friday where the so-called Holiday Shopping season was to begin.  It isn’t even referred to as the Christmas shopping season anymore—just the shopping season. The times have changed from when I was young.

One evening during the Christmas season a few years ago, I was strolling down Main Street in Old Town Pocatello, Idaho.  It was about 34 degrees; there was no wind, and a light snow was silently wafting its way down and glimmering off the holiday lights. 

 That scene took me back to my teenage youth in Soda Springs, Idaho.  I did my Christmas shopping after dark in those days just so I could enjoy the festive street decorations and the Christmas music as I walked from store to store looking for that special gift for family members and that special girl who happened to be the latest infatuation of this love-struck teenager. 

 In those days of the early 1950s, Soda Springs had a much larger business district than it has today, and the stores kept late hours during the Christmas holiday shopping season which customarily began the day after Thanksgiving, but without all the hype of so-called Black Friday that we see today.  Common sense simply dictated it was time to get started with the shopping. 

There was no need to leave town and head to the big city to do our shopping, either.   Most everything people needed, or wanted, could be purchased in small town America in those days. What wasn’t available in local stores, could be purchased through Montgomery Ward or Sears-Roebuck catalogs—hence, the reason for starting early.  These catalogue orders needed time to be processed and received by Christmas.

 J.C. Penney was on the scene in my small home town, and there was a full line Western store that carried everything from fine dress suits to jeans to dress boots to work boots, dress shirts, ties, and everything else to fill out a Western wardrobe.  Soda Springs even had a satellite branch of a large clothing department store from Pocatello that offered a full line of men’s clothing. There was the Jane Adams dress shop exclusively for the ladies where they could shop for the latest up to date dress and shoe fashions. This little community even hosted a fine jewelry store.

The local drug store carried a large line of gift items, and the Western Auto store carried a full line of toys for the kiddies as well as a full line of appliances and other items. In this small community, one could find about anything wanted for that special person on his or her  Christmas list. 

 One thing that was missing from these stores, and all the other stores in the larger cities as well,was the hype to get you to come in and spend your money. They weren’t trying to make that big killing on “Black Friday” with their phony discount sales.  It’s amazing how many people fall into the trap of those sales this day and age.  One could shop at his or her leisure without having to fight those maddening crowds. The emphasis in those days of yesteryear was on the quality of the gift, not the quantity. I agree with Rube,  it seems a bit droll to me to call it Black Friday seeing as how every day in the past eighty four years that the stock market crashed was referred to as a “Black” day.  But I digress.  Back to my original point.

Another thing that made shopping momentous for me in this little community, was the Christmas music that came floating over the town.  Soda Springs had six large bell Speakers—not unlike those used in rodeo arenas—mounted on utility poles in the middle of the city square.  These speakers were hooked up to a phonograph in the City Hall on which city employees played Christmas records. 

 Music emanated from  those speakers and was heard out to the farthest corners of the community.  The residents and shoppers of Soda Springs heard the carols Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Faith of Our Fathers, Silent Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy To The World and many more, in addition to the lighter holiday tunes.  Nobody was worried about offending anyone with these sacred songs.  After all, we were celebrating Christmas, the reason for the season!

 I’m a little saddened at what’s happened to the Christmas season.  It seems to have been turned into a happy go lucky good time Charlie rock and roll Happy Holidays fifty- five day shopping spree.  There was a time when a small inexpensive intimate gift given in the true spirit of Christmas was enough.  Now we are encouraged, every year, to outdo our previous year’s spending on frivolous things we think we want, but really don’t need.  It’s almost reached the point to where we are made to feel it’s our patriotic duty to spend all that money to bolster the economy.

 If you enjoy reading about and remembering days long past, you can go to upper right on my homepage of this website and receive a free copy of the prologue and first three complete adventures contained in my little book Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. It’s also available for sale on  www.amazon.com.


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