The small city where I did most of my growing up decorated the main street for Christmas with beautiful, golden angels. It was dubbed "The Avenue of Angels." Some of the angels, hanging from street lamps, had golden horns lifted to the heavens, while others bowed their heads in prayer. At main intersections, four angels would drape gracefully from each corner, in tinselly gowns twinkling with light, horns raised, to meet in the middle. Oh, they were beautiful! They eventually got old and decrepit and were replaced with a tacky display that was billed as "The Avenue by Candlelight." Never in a million years would the candles hold a candle (if you will) to the angels. When the garish candles finally bit the dust, they were replaced with another version of angels. These new angels are not nearly as graceful or beautiful as the originals, mind you, and they're a little too brassy, but they're a vast improvement over candles.
Back in the day, people would actually go downtown to shop, bustling in and out of stores, shops, and boutiques -- even in winter! There were places called "department stores" and "dime stores" -- lots of 'em -- with well-known names that you'd find in nearly every town -- Penney's, Sears, Woolworth's, Kresge's (other, bigger names in other, bigger cities) -- and most had lunch counters or restaurants right in the store! In our area, there was a regional department store called the H.C. Prange Co.
Prange's occupied a six-story building and had a five-level parking ramp. I have distinct memories of being in the parking ramp at Christmas time with my mother at the wheel -- bumper-to-bumper from top to bottom following an afternoon of shopping. My mother would be damned if she'd let anyone squeeze their car in front of hers! More often than not, she had five, tired little kids in the car, so I really can't blame her for wanting to keep moving forward. Prange's exterior holiday decor was a very simple and elegant tree made from many strands of large, white lights strung from the top of the street-level canopy all the way to a large, brightly lit star at the roofline.
The store windows came to life with mechanically animated displays -- spinning, swinging, twirling elves, gingerbread men and forest animals, for example, cavorting in sets filled with piles of fake, glittery snow. There was music piped outside and the sidewalks were filled with shoppers. "City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style, in the air there's a feeling of Christmas..." Once upon a time, those words rang very true. But, oh, those windows! That display! It seemed to go on and on, but always ended too soon.
Inside the store was an "Enchanted Forest." On either side of a roped off path, there was more of the same animation that sparked the front windows, and towering, white trees -- lots of branches -- more piles of snow and millions of lights. It was truly enchanting! The destination was tucked away, out of sight 'til the very end, though perhaps a glimpse would be caught along the way -- a little hit of red in all that white, heightening the anticipation to just this side of unbearable...
I recently learned that those animated displays have been restored and are on display at a historical museum in the city where Prange's had their headquarters. I smell a road trip...
Typepad wouldn't let me post my pictures today. This has nothing to do with the pictures I have and I don't have any pictures of this, so thought I'd try to see if a thousand words (more or less) could paint any sort of picture. Hopefully, full and living color will return tomorrow.