Sunday, August 30, 2009

Department Store Fun

During her high school years, Linda took two buses, an hour’s ride each way, to and from the magnet school located just outside of city center. It was an honor to be invited to attend the magnet school in ninth grade, entering high school a whole year earlier than the kids who went to the local high school. Linda was excited by the idea of the larger high school, which attracted kids from all over the city. She was told that only the top two percent of eighth grade students received such an invitation.

Linda liked the idea of being in a bigger environment. Although she liked her friends in junior high, she was also quite bored with the idea of being in school with the same students for another four years. Linda was no longer satisfied with receiving her stimuli only from books. Her pre-teen hormones were raising her interests in new relationships and challenges. When she finally began to attend the magnet high school, Linda was not disappointed with her experience.

One of the best parts of attending the new high school was the chance to hang out downtown when she changed buses after school each day. If Linda timed it right, she could sometimes cruise the big eight-story department store downtown for about 45 minutes before having to complete her bus transfer without paying another bus fare. The big department store had a third floor ladies’ restroom that featured lines of vanity stations with lighted mirrors and seating, separate from the toilets, sinks and lounge. It’s really too bad that there are no restrooms like that in any department stores today.

Linda and her girlfriends would spend the entire 45 minutes in that restroom trying on new make-up looks and fixing their hair into exotic hairdos. Sometimes the girls would even make a date to spend Saturday downtown exploring all eight floors of the department store, meeting in the third floor restroom as each girl bused in from the west side and the east side of town. It wasn’t unusual for the girls to be late for their dates by an hour or more, but they would wait for the other girls to get there before beginning their explorations. Their second favorite spot was the mezzanine magazine, book and greeting card departments, where the girls liked to linger over the movie magazines and extra special greeting cards with lace, cellophane and glitter that cost over a dollar each.

Once a year the store had a sewing fair that took over the entire third floor where the sewing machines, fabric, patterns and yarn departments were located. Vendors representing all types of merchandise sold to seamstresses and knitters would demonstrate their products, and a lot of free samples were given away. Linda and her girlfriends loved to collect all the free samples and admire the ribbon and lace, examples of party dresses sewn from patterns by Vogue and Butterick, and the intricate sweaters knitted from the fanciest yarns.

One fall Linda used her parents’ charge account at the department store to buy the most extravagant red suede purse that she’d ever seen. It had a front flap over two pockets and a wide shoulder strap. The purse was in the glass showcase of the purse department on the first floor of the store and cost $40, which was a lot of money, because people earned much less than $1 an hour in those days. Linda loved that purse, even though the red suede got dirty quickly and didn’t stay new looking for very long. Another time Linda bought high heeled leather boots that had lamb’s wool fur all around the ankle, which meant that she had to wear those impractical boots all winter long. Instead of walking firmly in the snow and ice, Linda often tiptoed to the bus stop, hoping she wouldn’t trip on those spiky high heels.

Linda had become a shopper, who would continue to make shopping mistakes over many years into her mature adulthood before learning how to make good shopping choices. But those are stories from Linda’s future to be told at a later time.

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