Remember Me to Herald Square: Share Your Department Store Memories

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When they came into style in the early 20th century, department stores put the good life on display and served as social destinations. Share your stories and memories of going to department stores.

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Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, LC-D4-34744
Gimbels, Philadelphia, between 1900 and 1910
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-121663
Newspaper image of opening day at Lord & Taylor on Broadway and 20th Street, New York, 1873. Ladies ascending in the elevator.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection, LC-DIG-nclc-04632
Entrance to Wanamaker's New York store, 8:30 AM, 1910. This photo is from the records of the National Child Labor Committee.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-123584
Macy's Building and Herald Square, 1907
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, LC-D4-33679
14th Street Store, between 1900 and 1906

Artist Myrtle Edwards attended fashion shows in the 1930s at various department stores and sketched these fashions for the New York Herald Tribune. The published sketches gave information on where to buy the items, on what floor, and even the saleswoman to ask for. This image was provided by the artist's daughter, Andrea Edwards Anthony.

Artist Myrtle Edwards sketched department store fashions for the New York Herald Tribune in the 1930s.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, LC-G612-T-45120
Upscale living room display at B. Altman & Co., New York, 1944
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, LC-G613-80281
Restaurant at Abraham and Strauss, Brooklyn, New York, 1965


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Comments [58]

Carol Hoousendove from Metuchen New Jersey

Oh did I love New York when I was young. I would shop on Fulton Street get samples I was a size two at the time. I would then go to Juniors to have D on Menu which was cheeseburger, FF & Onion rings. Desert Cheese Cake. Then I would get on A train to return home. This was at night and I was alone. I was too young to think about danger. This is when I started wearing dark glasses. If you do not look at people on subway you were safe not to be flashed.
What a great time in my life.

Feb. 16 2014 05:28 PM
Jon Saltzberg from Queens, NY

I had an internship for two summers when I was in college, working in a social services agency at Eighth Avenue and Thirtieth Street; but I would take extra time every lunch hour to walk over to Altman's; at the Charleston Garden, you would get a lunch of homemade blueberry muffins, very small, but delicious, with the blueberries staining the cake, the world's best coffee (Starbuck's should hang its head in shame), and a scoop of chicken salad, egg salad, and carrot salad filled with raisins, all on a bed of lettuce, and lying next to it, a big celery stalk filled with pink-tinted cream cheese. This would also come with dessert, which would be either a huge slice of coconut layer cake, laced with lemon preserves, or chocolate fudge cake, filled with cherries. The price for all this? Maybe $4.35, or thereabouts; we're not going to see the likes of this again. When the store closed, I mourned.

Jul. 06 2012 03:08 AM
Arlene from Flatbush, Brooklyn

We lived in Brooklyn, so going into Manhattan on the BMT Brighton Line was easy. With my mother we always ended up in Macy's book shop where Modern Library books were 95 cents, but on sale they could be reduced to 29 cents. Later in the 30s when I was in high school I discovered the more expensive book shop in B.Altman. I remember that when they were closing the book shop the bargains were great. I still have classics that were
priced at $5 but sold for $3 at the closing sale. That must have been 1938 or 1939!
My books are well-used but still in prime condition. What a treat is was to browse through books in that plush environment!

Dec. 17 2011 02:45 PM
Judy Scara from North Carolina

Back in the mid 50's, when I was in high school and living on Staten Island, one of life's greatest joys was a trip to Macy's Herald Square to purchase fabric. What a fabulous place. Material from all over the world; women from the United Nations wrapping themselves in beautiful cloth as a way to measure the correct amount for a sari; a fashion show exhibiting items made from popular sewing patterns and fabric from the store. Like most teens, I had limited funds. So, if I wanted "to go", then I "had to sew". Now, all these years later, I still sew everything, and made most of the clothing for my 9 children. However, fabric stores are disappearing, and here in NC there is only one small store in a 50 mile radius. If Macy's would bring back fabric, I'd gladly drive north to stock up.

Oct. 17 2011 05:36 PM
rob merrins

I remember many stores, Gimbels, Ohrbachs,Alexanders,Korvettes, Mays, Gertz and Sterns all great stores Alexanders was great on 59th street and Flushing Gimbels in Herald square and Paramus. ALL the good stores are gone I used shop in Mays in upstate Fishkill N.y where they advertised their commercial every day a sale day at Mays.

Mar. 04 2011 08:26 PM

B. Altman's on 34th.
As a student at Cooper Union, I worked there part time. for 5 years. It was always my mother's favorite store and she took us as toddlers to see the magical Xmas windows. I have lots of pictures of them.
The I got to work there and get to know the store!
What a grand place it was. The Ladies Room on 5 or 6 even had 2 little toilets for kids.
My favorite was the brass lion water fountains that were next to the elevators- elevators that had operators and the brass second set of doors on them-collapsible -the sound they made!! I wish I could hear them again.
There was an employee cafeteria, the daily special was 35 cents, 1970's. They also had an employee "thrift shop" where incredible bargains were to be had. I bought great things there-Le Creuset, wigs, cashmere sweaters- dirt cheap. You had to fight like it was John's Bargain Store.
The good old days!

Feb. 24 2011 06:43 PM
Mary P. from Bronx

I have the best memories of eating at Charleston Gardens in Altman's with my Mom in the 1970"s I used to feel like I was sitting in a southern plantation. It was amazing, and so big to a little girl! I, too, remember the bunny basket with the sandwich and brownie. So glad to know there are others who remember this magical place!

Feb. 04 2011 08:48 PM
Peggy from Williamsburg from Brooklyn

I remember getting off the G train at Hoyt and Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn and walking underground into McCrory's Department store. You could follow the smell of the waffle vendor all the way up the stairs from the train and hope that Mom would let you get an Ice Cream and Waffle sandwich. Sometimes if we were really lucky, we might eat lunch at Juniors restaurant around the corner from the store and share a slice of cheese cake.

Jan. 17 2011 10:31 PM
Jean Markey-Duncan from 5th Avenue and 34th St.

My father started as a stock boy summers during college. Then Pearl Harbor and Dad joined the Air Force and fought in the Pacific. After the war, Dad and Mom went shopping at B. Altman & Co. and met some of the people he had worked with prior to the war. They asked if he was coming back. He had no intention of doing so but they made him an offer and he decided to take it.

In those days the store was a village unto itself. Owned by the Altman Foundation after Benjamin Altman died, the store had a family feel. Shopper felt it. There was a magical feel to the store. The shopper felt cared for because the employees felt cared for.

As children, we would spend time with Dad at the store. There was nothing like it, we felt at home. All the employees seemed to know us. There were 8 floors of retail but what customers did not know was that there were two subterranean floors housing display department responsible for creating the magical and elegant feeling the store was known for. Also housed below ground was the gift wrap function and shipping. My father could tell you more. It did not stop there. When the shopping ended at the floor 8, which also housed the stores restaurant, the Charleston Gardens, the support floors began. Administration on Floor 9, others functions on 10, 11 and 12 with floor 13 housing tailors, people to monogram clothing and there was even an artist who would monogram and etch costume designs in glassware.

Happy employees made for service oriented employees and the customers felt this. The roof of the 5th Ave. side of the building housed a handball court for employees.

As kids we had the run of the store. The women's bathroom was elegant. A bronze dragon spit out water in the water fountain. There were velvet cover chairs in the women's lounge. Shopper's could go into the store and spend the entire day shopping because all their needs and comforts were considered. Employee's knew many customers by name.

Dec. 30 2010 09:33 AM
Marlene Tarshish from Macy's Herald Square

I worked at Macy's Herald Square throughout college - great memories of The Cellar, wooden escalator and the years selling gloves - does anyone wear opera-length gloves anymore ?
I was headed home in the ambulance from a stay at NYU when I passed Macy's - upon singing "Remember Me to Herald Square" the stretcher detached from the floor locks and I headed toward the doors of the ambulance - I'll never forget Herald Square !

Dec. 27 2010 09:44 PM
Ellen from Gramercy Park from NYC

My great aunt proudly worked at B. Altman's on 34th & Fifth for years. She hated her given name, Myrtle. At Altman's during that era, the saleswomen were given letters to identify themselves, so if one was summoned over the public address system, their name wasn't broadcast about. Her call letter was "D" - and she quickly chose "Dee" as her new moniker. She was very proud of her association with the store and would take us to lunch at the Charleston Gardens, where of course we had to wear white gloves.

Dec. 27 2010 02:10 PM
Katie from NY

At least four times a year; Mom and I would get up early on Saturday am and wait for BALTMANS in White Plains NY to open and we would shop, have a wonderful girls lunch in the Charleston Garden. I could still tell you the layout of that store. One of my fun memories was meeting my Grandmother there who had taken a bus from CT and we had lunch and headed home to Bedford where I lived. The menu was so special as well as my mother daughter times there with my mom.

Dec. 26 2010 10:45 PM
Janet Molnar from Union, NJ

I grew up outside of Philadelphia, and have many fond memories of riding the train into the city with my grandmother and my little sister to visit Wanamaker’s, where we ate lunch in the tea room, and sometimes listened to the pipe organ concerts.

But the most important thing about department stores as far as I’m concerned, is that I wouldn’t even be here without one! My grandmother, the one who took my sister and me downtown, met my grandfather when they both worked for Gimbels on Market Street. She was a salesgirl in “men's furnishings” (which apparently meant neckties, etc.) and he was a buyer in another department. Since it was absolutely forbidden for employees to date in those days, especially if one was superior to the other, they had to keep their romance a secret. At the end of the day, they would stand outside waiting for the bus, chatting as if they did not know each other. Then she would get on one headed east for the ferry back to New Jersey, and he would get on one headed for the western suburb where he lived with his parents. But my grandfather had been a track star in high school. He would get off his bus at the very next stop, race back east until he got ahead of my grandmother’s bus, and hop on and ride with her til she had to get off at the ferry landing. They were married in 1933, and he was still romancing her sixty-some years later when he passed away!

Dec. 24 2010 06:30 PM
Carola from Brooklyn

Another Altman's fan! I never went there with my family - my parents' budget only permitted Klein's, on Union Sq, where my father loved to shop. But our family friend Nellie, who was of Russian origin and very elegant, worked there, and occasionally I would get to meet her there for lunch in the Charlston Garden. It was like a dream for a little girl from the Bronx.
When I was older, first with my mother [we would have lunch there when she worked in midtown] and then shopping on my own, Lord & Taylor became my favorite. I am still wearing the wonderfully warm shearling hat that I splurged on there over ten years ago - it seemed like a very high price at the time, but turned out to be a great investment!

Dec. 24 2010 05:06 PM
Steve from Bridgewater NJ

I LOVED the kids' lunch pail at the Charleston Gardens, Altman's restaurant. PB&J heavy on the jelly, milk, and a brownie came in a plastic pail with shovel which you kept. Meanwhile, mom picked at her cream cheese on date-nut bread.

Our local Lord & Taylor in Milburn NJ had a restaurant called the Bird Cage, and it was a hit with kids too- with live birds and cool bus trolleys.

Dec. 24 2010 02:28 PM
Jamieson Scott

I worked in the Ivey's store in downtown Charlotte and they would have a prayer service every Wednesday morning before the store opened. The Rev. Billy Graham was a friend of the owners. My favorite memory of a NEW YORK CITY department store is when I worked on E. 32nd Street during the 1980s. B. Altman's was still open, and I used to go there during my lunch hour. I loved the squeaking wood floors; the spaciousness; the selection of American made clothing that I didn't want or couldn't afford; and the peace and quiet. To me, it was a civilized environment, providing respite from the crazy ad agency where I worked for 7 years. I still have 4 metal card table chairs that I got for almost nothing when they closed -- and I still feel guilty about paying so little for such good chairs. (The ad agency building is now a Korean hotel.)

Dec. 21 2010 08:19 AM
Richard Hall

Macy's in NY was a lot like Bamberger's in NJ, but bigger of course. The only thing was they had strange escalators with spaces between the ribs that you stood on. In NJ the treads were smoother. And, of course, the windows in NY department stores were spectacular at Christmas especially when combined with a stop at the skating rink in Rockefeller Center.

Dec. 21 2010 08:18 AM
Jan Davis

I grew up in Alabama and was a buyer for a department store in Birmingham. I came to New York for my first buying trip and I was mesmerized by the department stores. The memory that stays with me is Lord and Taylor. The beautiful store and the elevators and escalators caught my attention but what stays with me is the Chinese Chicken Salad in the restaurant. The only other store I recalled eating at was Woolsworth - at the counter. I was so sad when I thought L & T would close but they stayed and now that I live in CT they remain my favorite spots.

Dec. 21 2010 08:17 AM
Mary Grace Dembeck

I've told my children this story many times: When I was a senior at all girls St Brendan High School in Brooklyn, I worked part time on Thursdays and Saturdays at a department store named Oppenheim Collins. One day a new employee appeared. He was a junior at St John's College. Wow, I thought, an older man ... and he was soo adorable. I, on the other hand, was a good little Catholic school girl and wore no makeup, so I didn't look too glamorous. I developed quite a crush on him and I eventually asked him to take me to my Senior prom. He turned me down because he said he was going steady with a girl named Annie. I was crushed and I didn't ask anyone else, so I never got to go to my high school prom. :( But I got even with him! We met again a few years later ... and I married him! :).

Dec. 21 2010 08:04 AM
Joshua Persky

Macy's was great, but I loved going to Gimble's downtown and then on 86 St. It just seemed more manageable and fun for kids. Like FAO Schwartz use to do, they let me touch and play with everything. I miss Gimbles!

Dec. 21 2010 08:03 AM
Christopher A. Granger

I remember the lunch counter at the local Woolworth here in Eastchester, NY. The food was never that great, but it was cheap and it was great fun to sit at the padded benched tables and order a soda that came in a paper cup sitting in a metal holder. A friend of mine worked there after school and gave me her name tag when she quit.

Dec. 21 2010 08:02 AM
Roberta Manian

I remember growing up on Long Island and the 'City' was this far-away magical place, where our fathers went to work each day, but for us kids, it was just a faint silhouette viewed from the top of a rise on Northern Blvd. Once a year however, we'd take the LIRR into the city at Christmas time to view the store windows and go to Radio City Music Hall. I remember Lord&Taylor windows were the most magical. In my memory, SilverBells is playing over a loud-speaker, but I'm being told i'm mixing up memories, and that Sacks had the music. I remember the sense of anitipation as we queued up to view each display, the velvet ropes, the fantasy scenes, local villages, home and hearth, all so evocative. The memory that stands out most is being inside Lord&Taylor, riding the escalator down from the 2nd floor. As we slowly descended to the glittering main level, it felt like we were decending into a fantasy forest of all siver and gold, a fairy tale come to life.

Dec. 21 2010 08:00 AM
Barry Benepe

In 1934, at the age of 6 years, my Aunt Gladys took me to B. Altman's at 34th Street and Madison Avenue to wet my appetite for a Christmas present. Without any modesty I gleefully pointed out the shiny green, leather seated, convertible peddle operated police car, priced at $100, parked conspicuously in the aisle. I reinforced my desire on Santa Claus's knee a few minutes later. Needless to say, neither S. C. nor Gladys were able to satisfy my desire in those depression years when $100 was equivalent to $1000 dollars or more today. Actually, I probably understood that at the time, but for children Christmas was a time of fantasy and hope.

Dec. 21 2010 07:59 AM

Every Christmas from age 6-14, my unmarried aunt would take me from Kew Gardens into Manhattan to see the Tree and often to Radio City. But every year, we went to B Altman to marvel at the model train display, which in my memory covered as much space as the entire toy department. I began looking forward to that trip as soon as the summer ended. When the store closed, I made a special pilgrimmage to pay my respects.

Dec. 21 2010 07:57 AM
Dave Harding

I lived in the heart of downtown Paterson NJ until I was 6 years old (I was born in 1944) and it was a paradise for a kid my age. We had 2 dept. stores, Meyer Bros. and Quackenbush's. Meyer Bros. was a classy joint with brass-gated elevators, bells that tinged when they were in use, and sexy red and green lights that indicated whether they were going up or down. The Quackenbush store, on the other hand, had a toy dept. on the first floor with cartoon viewing machines that I couldn't resist. The thrill to end all thrills, however, was the monorail that the Newark Bambergers set up for Christmas in the late '50s and that I could never get to ride on because of my wimpy mother. I must say that Christmases were so much more thrilling for kids back then than they are now.

Dec. 21 2010 07:53 AM
Margaret Jo Shepherd

I was born in a very small town in southern Illinois in 1933. My father was a teacher and, though we didn't suffer through the depression, we didn't have much money. In early December, 1940, my parents took me to Chicago by train. My most vivid memory of that trip was the time we spent in Marshall Fields. Though it was 70 years ago (probably almost to the day), I can reconstruct an intense sensory experience of the sounds, the sights and the tastes. I haven't tried to speculate about the influence of that experience on my life beyond the pure pleasure it has provided throughout my life. I don't shop often in department stores and modern stores don't have the meaning for me that older stores have/had. It isn't surprising that when I moved to New York, B.Altman's was a place I like to 'hang out'.

Dec. 21 2010 07:52 AM
Shelley Volk

I was in acting school in the late 1980's and worked at Macy's on 34th St. as night to earn money. I worked in the sheets and domestics department which was not so crowded. Lucky for me I had a friend who worked on the toys floor and it was insane there. But sometimes on our breaks we would just watch the kids with Santa. Some were scared and cried but so many really believed and had these wonderful happy looks on their faces. Wish I'd had a camera!

Dec. 20 2010 10:27 AM
Sandy MacDonald from Back in New York (two blocks away)

My father was medical director of Lord & Taylor's from the mid-'50s to mid-'70s. Walking through the store with him was like tagging along after a celebrity -- everyone wanted to say hello. A phalanx of nurses tended an infirmary on the 11th floor. If he wasn't in (he had other jobs, including the Met opera house and Teachers' Insurance), I'd leave a cartoon on his desk. My first job, during the summer of '67, was selling paper dresses (remember those?) in a boutique on the main floor. We had a disposable wedding dress that sold for $100 -- which seemed a small fortune to a salesclerk grossing $45/week.

Dec. 17 2010 12:16 PM
Steve from Long Island

In 1970 my grandmother worked in the Gimbels lingerie department. My mother would drop me off there and go shopping. I would sit at the glass counter with the fancy brassieres inside and draw and color. My grandmother would introduce me to EVERY Gimbels employee and often make me do my seal imitation which she loved so much. I was horror stricken, at age 7, when I suddenly realized just where I was sitting. From that point on I willingly tagged along with my mother and never complained of being bored.
I liked how Gimbels had a toy shop, a stamp and coin shop and a lunch counter.

Dec. 17 2010 09:47 AM
Virgina from Putnam Valley, NY

Macy's, herlad Square was where my mother would take me for shoes - "Grow shoes", they were called. As soon as we entered the store, the first chore would be to submit to her removing the jacket of my snow suit, then up the escalator where the bottom and the top step were the terrifying ones. Fourth floor - children's dept. We'd sit in what seemed like rows and rows of chairs and a man would measure my foot with a strange metal contraption and bring out a pair of shoes. lace or buckle me into them, then I'd stand in line for my chance to walk down a runway to another man at the end who'd make sure i was walking comfortably and that they fit just right.
With the new shoes safe in their box and deposited in a shopping bag, we'dd fi ninsh up shopping, stop for a Nedicks hot dog and orange drink on the corner and descend into the subway for the ride home on the D train

Dec. 17 2010 09:39 AM
Rina Kleege from NYC

In the 1960s,w hen you paid for your purchases at Saks and B. Altman (and probably some others, too), the salespeople put your money into a tube like a vacuum hose that was connected to lots of other tubes that ran from your checkout area along the ceiling and throughout the store. Your change came back through the tube as well. It was an extraordinary way of making change.

Dec. 17 2010 08:22 AM
David Stein from Brooklyn

I remember it was the holidays and we lived in NJ. Our parents made a rare pilgrimage to Macy’s Herald Square, to pick up gift for my uncle. He was an old socialist and the anything from a company that had a red star as its logo was gold. I asked if I could get a pretzel before we went in, and my mother gave me money and said they would be in the men’s department. On the way in pretzel in hand I was mugged by a drunk for the pretzel. Pretzeless dirty I went into Macy’s to face my mother who did not believe what happened. Macy’s products seemed to last forever and so did the memory of the drunk.

Dec. 17 2010 07:36 AM
Upper West Sider from Upper West Side

When I first came to NYC as a young bride in the late 1960s, eating lunch in B. Altman's Charleston Garden was a treat for me on a Saturday shopping excursion. I loved that place! Also, since I sew, I miss the fabrics that used to be sold in Macy's (and other dept. stores, I think). For haute glitziness, I went to Bloomingdale's, which I loved in the old days--haven't been there in a long time.

Dec. 15 2010 10:05 AM
Gloria formerly of Bklyn

I remember the autograph and fine book section of B. Altman's. Seeing letters signed by Abraham Lincoln and Ben Franklin for sale for only several hundred dollars and thinking one day when I was grown-up I'd go back and purchase one...I grew-up and they were gone. I also worked in the accessories dept of Bloomingdales in the '70 at Christmastime and they needed extra help in gift wrap so they grabbed all the young women they could find told us to be extra pleasant, smile a lot and sell, sell, sell. It was fun and we met so many interesting people, because in those days Bloomingdales was THE store in New York. Sadly today it is just another store and Altman's is still gone.

Dec. 14 2010 09:40 AM
Patricia Daniels

Does anybody still remember Wanamaker's? A grand, block-square mart built around a huge rotunda...and paradise for kids. After the saleslady finished writing up your transaction, she put the receipt and your payment into a cylinder, and popped it into an tube which carried it to the cashier. In a bit, the cylinder came back with a pop, and you change was there. We could watch for hours, and trace the journey of the banks of tubes that went up and over and around the whole store! At Christmas, they had a tree that rose almost the full 8 stories of the building, and an organ that played carols. It's not your cyber store!

Dec. 10 2010 06:40 PM
Bergen County Shopper

Lots of NY memories:
* another vote for Charleston Garden at B. Altman; the Bird Cage at L&T
* the open-cage elevators at L&T
* at 16 being HANDED ALL my mother's charge plates, getting on the bus at Rt. 17 and going to L&T, Altman's, Saks, Russeks, and finally at Peck&Peck buying the sage green velvet dress I wore to a New Yr's Eve party with COLLEGE students

What's overlooked are the department stores in Paterson, Passaic, and Newark.
* Christmas at Meyer Brothers and Quackenbush where one had huge hanging white bird cages with doves that peeped.
* stopping to see Santa Claus and getting a toy, a tiny baking set with a rolling pin (cf. "A Christmas Story" -- dead on!)
* department stores with TOY floors
* getting a real ski jacket at Max Rothblatt, not a dept store but the only close option other than LLBean
* admiring a friend's coat and hearing the proud response: "It came from Hayne's."

Life changed when Arnold Constable, where I modeled a "back to school" dress, came to Hackensack, and Best & Co. came to Rt. 4 in Paramus. Gag. The precursor to gridlock.

Dec. 10 2010 10:49 AM
carolita from new york city

One of my first jobs as a student back in the 80s was in Henri Bendel, in the old building on 57th street (they've since moved to a 5th avenue site). I remember that though I hated the job -- I was a terrible salesperson -- , I couldn't get enough of their old fashioned pneumatic tube messaging system. For me, finally making a sale was rewarded by being able to write up the receipt, take the cash, and roll them up and slip them into a tarnished brass tube about the size of one of today's Red Bull cans, with rubber bumpers on each end. There was a little door that I would slide shut, after which it would be slipped into it's little chute and whisked up by the pneumatic system like a little rocket. Every sale I made, I felt like that little tube contained a bit of my soul that I was helping to escape the sales floor. Sometimes I'd put a little "help! I'm being held prisoner in the pantyhose department!" note in with the sale before sending it up. I imagined I was not the only one, and that in the 40s or 50s there were girls like the ones I saw in old black and white movies playing the same pranks.

Dec. 10 2010 08:16 AM
Harvey Weitz from Manhattan

I graduated from Baruch College in 1970 and although my major was Marketing and my goal was a copywriting job, my parents insisted that I work right after graduating in any job. I was hired to sell mens sportswear at Gimbels Department Store. I lasted about 4 weeks. The reason was that the store had a dress code and salesmen had to wear suits. I had no suit only slacks and jackets and my parents--as insistent as they were that I be working--sided with me that this was an unfair requirement. Four weeks later I was hired at an advertising agency anyway.

Dec. 10 2010 08:04 AM
Judy from Staten Island

We lived on 9th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen and always referred to Macy's Herald's Square as "around the corner", where we spent many an hour in tow with our mother. Although Mom was an uptown shopper at heart, frequenting Lord & Taylor, B. Altman's, and Best & Co., most of her shopping was done at Macy's. My first memories include having my feet "xrayed" in the children's Shoe Department. My sister and I had our names kept on file, and after the xray, we stepped up to a little platform to have the salesman test the fit of our sturdy school oxfords or classic red summer strapped sandals. Another mission took us up the wooden escalators to the 8th floor, Fabric Department, where we wandered among the bolts of wool, cotton and organza, that mom would transform into jumpers, coats, dresses and gowns for us. I got my first tube of lipstick at the Eve Arden counter, and walked around with my lips pursed for the entire day. A day of shopping at Macy's often ended with a stop for feast and drink. Sometimes we would stand at the Nedick's counter for hot dogs and orangeade drink, but often Chock Full O' Nuts was the favorite place. Sitting on the counter stools, we'd order up nutted cream cheese sandwiches and chocolate drink, and then walk home down 34th Street to Ninth Avenue.

Dec. 09 2010 02:02 AM
Susan Shapiro from New York

When I was about 4 years old, I asked my mother where I came from. Unable to keep her wits about her and calmly say "New York Hospital," she said the first thing that popped into her mind-- Macy's! Thereafter, whenever we shopped at Macy's, I managed to sneak off when she wasn't watching and run madly all over the store looking in vain for The Baby Department. Clerks were unhelpful--they directed me to Baby Clothes and didn't seem to understand that I was not interested in clothes, I wanted a baby! Eventually, a security guard would take me to the office where my mother, probably more than a little embarrassed, would retrieve me. I still remember the frustration of searching in vain for a little companion. (Eventually I got one from New York Hospital, not Macy's--perhaps they ran out...)

Dec. 08 2010 10:01 AM
Mim Quillin from New York City

I have a strong memory of going to B. Altman's restaurant called The Charleston Garden. As a little girl I was crazy about flappers. I had seen them on a TV show called "The Roaring Twenties". I always expected one of those drably uniformed waitresses (complete with hairnet) to break out into the Charleston. I was disappointed every time but it didn't quash my enthusiasm a bit.

Dec. 08 2010 08:59 AM

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to visit Father Christmas at the Bentalls department store in Richmond UK, with a visit to the toy department (and an incredible toy train display) after.

Dec. 07 2010 11:49 AM
Chari from New York, NY

My grandmother, who was a burlesque booking agent, practically lived in Macy's old bargain basement. She would take the subway from the Bronx down to 42nd Street to meet with her "girls" & talk to theater operators, then go to Macy's to shop. I have great memories of taking the old wooden escalators as a kid holding her hand on the days she went to Macy's without first having business meetings.

Dec. 07 2010 10:23 AM
Irene Gregson from San Francisco, CA

I have fond memories of visting department stores in downtown Brooklyn in the 60's. On special Fridays, we (Mom, my sister, and I) would take the subway from New Lots to Borough Hall and visit Dad at the office. After supper at the Fulton St. Automat, we would shop at either Korvettes (with the poetry reciting elevator operator) or if we were looking for something really nice, to A&S's. Sometimes we'd go to May's. It was especially fun around Christmas, we'd see Santa. Those were such great days.

Dec. 03 2010 08:48 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, heldentenor & opera composer from

I remember that grand organ in the Philadelphia Wanamaker's store, all seven stories of it, a total of 30,000 organ pipes, with a total surround sound incredibly full and beautiful and awe-inspiring !!! The organ was originally a star attraction at the St. Louis World's Fair and then installed in the atrium of the department store in 1911. I was starting my professional career as Nanki-Poo [Mikado] and Frederick [Pirates of Penzeance] with the S.M. Chartock Gilbert & Sullivan Company in 1948, when I performed at the Philadelphia Academy of Music, across the street from Wanamaker's. Our conductor was Maestro Lehman Engel, a major conductor for Broadway musicals, a composer, teacher of the theater arts and author. Had J.S. Bach so fabulous an organ, though he had a fine one in the Leipsig cathedral, where he was born and at whose ALTAR his remains lie duly inscribed with his name on the marble floor [Bach composed weekly for the services and played the very same organ that is there now], he might very well have been even more inspired himself, and it might have been still more so inspiring to his audiences.
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Wagnerian heldentenor, voice teacher, & director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where all the Wagner and Shakespeare roles are taught. Website:

Dec. 02 2010 05:09 PM
John Rankmore from London UK

In the Christmas holidays my mother would take me to Derry and Toms department store in Kensington London as a Christmas treat.I was a very inquisitive child and getting bored whilst hats were being tried on I spied a large wheel on the wall which I had to turn.To my glee(short lived)a metal shutter decended cutting me off from my mother.Assistants began shouting and rushing towards me I began to cry and my mother was banging on the fire door from the other side.Eventually we were reunited and ejected from the store.Needless to say it was many years before my mother would show her face in the store again.Although the store has now gone one is still able to visit the oldest roof garden in London 1.5acres.A Tudor Spanish and Woodland garden are all on the roof plus a collection of ducks and flamingoes and it is free to visit if you are in London.

Dec. 02 2010 01:49 PM
William from Yonkers

My earliest shopping memories were in a Cincinnati suburban "open-air" mall. The department stores all had piped in music by the time I came along. I'm glad Macy's in Philly refurbished and is continuing the fine legacy of the Wanamaker's organ. I've read that many of the larger New York Philly dept. stores had pipe organs and/or auditoria in which they provided music, lectures, etc. Is it too much to hope one of them will return to providing such music again?

Dec. 02 2010 01:17 PM
jan from b'klyn.,ny

i'm 55 & remember the ads for Barney's as a place for chubby boys to buy clothes-wow, that has changed! my mother would take me to best & co. for haircuts, after shopping with her at lord & taylor we would eat at the bird cage, their restaurant- when i got older i would go to bergdorf's to bibi's cutaway to get my hair cut- there was a display right by the hair salon of mary quaint cosmetics in tiny little containers they called pots- & i remember being amused when i saw a man trying on makeup there, the 1st man i ever saw wwho i was aware was wearing makeup!

Dec. 02 2010 07:08 AM
jan from b'klyn.,ny

i'm 55 & remember the ads for Barney's as a place for chubby boys to buy clothes-wow, that has changed! my mother would take me to best & co. for haircuts, after shopping with her at lord & taylor we would eat at the bird cage, their restaurant- when i got older i would go to bergdorf's to bibi's cutaway to get my hair cut- there was a display right by the hair salon of mary quaint cosmetics in tiny little containers they called pots- & i remember being amused when i saw a man trying on makeup there, the 1st man i ever saw wwho i was aware was wearing makeup!

Dec. 02 2010 06:59 AM
Philip Skabeikis from Queens NY

Ah. yes. Now departed Korvette's Department stores were the best source of purchasing classical (particularly Opera) LPs when they had one of their recurring sales. As a young adult I was able to purchase entire Operas at affordable prices and started my extensive collection there. Korvette's would regularly host appearances by famous opera singers who would then autograph the librettos of their recordings. I recall meeting Renata Tebaldi at one such guest appearance (early 1960s) and overspending on recordings of "La Boheme", "La Gioconda" and "Turandot" and have her sign them. I recall her graciousness and heavily accented English.

Dec. 02 2010 06:55 AM
Michael Meltzer

All that music sounds wonderful, but the only non-musicstores where I encountered good music were the coffee shops of the 1950's and 60's, and more recently, Barnes & Noble.
It's a shame that the Lincoln Center area has to lose its Barnes & Noble. Someone will move in selling T-shirts and baseball caps and do very well. It's incomprehensible.

Dec. 02 2010 06:53 AM
Paul from Syosset

I grew up outside of Philadelphia and at this time of year I fondly remember my mother taking my siblings and I "downtown" on the El to visit the department stores in center city Philadelphia (each would go on a separate day during parent-teacher conferences) would be a special day just one of us and mom...we would visit all the for presents and select where we would eat lunch...I remember the salsibury steak at H&H or the children's menu in the Crystal Tea Room in Wanamaker's...and I would shop in the secret children's shop in either Wanamaker's or Strawbridge and Clothier's where only children were permitted and the items were organized by was always a very special day and now remind myself of my father who was always nostalgic for old-Philadelphia.

Dec. 01 2010 11:54 PM
Sue from Long Island from Long Island

I remember shopping in A&S as a young teenager. It was where you bought those "special" things. My fondest memory was the Charm School that they ran on Saturdays. How to walk like a lady, use the correct fork, cross your ankles when you sat... and it all culminated in a fashion show! Ah, etiquette! So sad when they finally had to close their doors!

Dec. 01 2010 06:57 PM
David from UES

I was part of the holiday music at Macy's - Herald Square in 1985. A barbershop quartet I was a member of (the Manhattanaires) was booked for the holiday season.

We did secular songs as well as some fairly complicated carols. It's one of my most fun memories of the group.

Our "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (with reindeer oven mitts as puppets) was a big hit!

Dec. 01 2010 06:02 PM
Chris DuBarton from Atlantic Hlds., NJ

The Wanamaker store in Manhattan closed before my time [I wonder where the organ went], but we used to go to the Wanamakers in Philadelphia, just to hear Keith Chapman play the fantastic organ there. We both worked at NBC in Rock Ctr., so during a visit to the AGO office, they arranged for us to meet Keith on our next visit to Philly. He actually gave us a tour inside the organ case and the thousands of pipes, then back down at the console, asked if we had any questions. I could not resist asking if one could actually hear the sound of low C on the 64 foot stop. So he played it by itself just for us! It is almost more heard with your body than your ears! Keith is no longer with us, but I thank him again here!

Dec. 01 2010 05:59 PM
Judith Rosenfeld from Westchester

I remember as a little girl, getting dressed up to go shopping with my mother in places like Wanamakers, and Gimbels, in Westchester. It was an event! You simply didn't go in to these stores in casual dress. I also remember how the wooden floors in B. Altman's at 34th street squeaked underfoot. There was something very cozy about it.

Dec. 01 2010 05:26 PM
Charles from Upper Westside

I grew up in Queens and my mother always took me to Alexander's on Queens Boulevard, long gone now. It was a funny place, all the merchandise was either discounted or slightly defective in some way. But my memories are fond of being there with my mother. It wasn't fancy but it was a big part of my childhood.

Dec. 01 2010 05:14 PM
RITA from East Village

I loved B Altmans at the corner of 34th Street and 5th Ave. There was something so welcoming and folksy about it and yet it carried both high end and medium end merchandise for all pocketbooks. The Charlston Garden on the top floor served lunches in a old world atmosphere and the food was varied and delicious. I actually came back from living overseas in a small part because I missed it.
When it closed its doors I stopped shopping in a department. I still miss it.

Nov. 26 2010 04:42 PM

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