Tag: Christmas

The Golden Age of Department Stores at Christmas

In today’s world of specialty shops, discount superstores, and all the choices we have online, it’s hard to imagine the role the department store once played in American life.  Each town had one of these emporiums, housing thousands of square feet of merchandise beneath a single roof.  Located in the town’s central shopping district, the department store served as a kind of town square.  Wealthy people could not go to a “better” store, and poor folks would not be turned away.  As an economic blender, it was great.

Department stores also played a unique role at Christmas time.  Because their budgets, floor space, and potential profits were so much larger than smaller shops, they took the lead in marketing Christmas as an in-store event.  It cost a quarter to go to the movies, but for free one could linger for hours over fantasy windows, spectacular toy lands, mechanized villages, and red-suited Santa, all set against the backdrop of alluring and highly desirable merchandise.  Whole families trooped downtown each year to enjoy these spectacles, and a new annual tradition became part of millions of American lives.

More Department Store History:  How Retailers Changed When We Celebrate Thanksgiving

 

Retailed realized early on that windows made ideal picture frames for their merchandise.  In the 1920’s, Christmas windows took a revolutionary turn.  Ed Dean, display manager for Dayton’s department store in Minneapolis, began designing windows that were whimsical rather than merely merchandise-filled.  Although Macy’s in New York had long incorporated merchandise into various window themes, Dean’s windows skipped the merchandise altogether.  Among his creations were mechanical cutouts illustrating scenes from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a life-size elephant that swung its trunk and swished its tail, and several circus acts and nursery rhymes.  The idea was to give the windows a new theme each year, and to make each season’s offering grander and more alluring than the year before.  One year it was dolls, another the circus, still another nursery rhyme characters.

Soon other stores adopted the merchandise-free strategy, and fantasy windows became the rule of the day.  In 1946, Marshall Field’s in Chicago used its long parade of windows to tell the story of The Night Before Christmas from start to finish, which proved so popular with shoppers that the store offered the public a new story every year after that.  In cities across America, each season’s store windows became an annual news event, and town residents turned out to see the show.  The amount of free advertising, customer good will, foot traffic, and attention from the retail world was enormous.


Rudolph got his start as a story for one of these old department stores.  You can read his story on our Patreon page.
When Rudolph Mania Started Running Wild

Why are holiday windows always so secular?  Has commercialism completely drowned out Christmas’ true origins?  It turns out the opposite is true – retailers have always been cautious of anything that might seem to exploit religion.  In 1952, to satisfy customers who’d requested a nativity display, Dayton’s in Minneapolis created a sacred side of the store, keeping it separate from the Santa’s, sleigh bells, toy soldiers and decorated trees that enlivened the rest of the store.

Windows were by no means the only investment retailers made.  Awnings garlanded with holly, Santa’s and sleighs climbing store roofs, interior pillars wrapped with pine, elaborately decorated Christmas trees and Santa Villages and Toylands – all these were important in setting the holiday mood.  Marshall Field’s, in Chicago, was a leader in cellar-to-ceiling decorating.  In the 1940’s, instead of having windows to delight the children and decorations of various sorts in different departments, Field’s designers began decorating the whole store around and single theme.  This required not only ingenuity but massive effort as well – the store estimated that some 4,000 employees were required to complete the decorations each year.  The effect was dazzling, and people who might before have been content to see only the windows and the main floor now became interested in seeing the whole store, and as they walked through each floor they invariably made purchases.

The 1950’s and 1960’s were the heyday of downtown windows, with stores striving each season to surpass their previous year’s efforts and those of their competitors.  Stores that had kept their windows dark on Sundays began to light them up.  Eventually, by the mid-1960’s, states started to repeal their Sunday closing laws, and stores began to keep limited hours.

Christmas:  The Hottest Toys For Christmas Though the Decades:  The 1940’s

After the 1960’s, while large stores could still be counted on for interesting and delightful windows, soaring costs caused many retailers to scale back their efforts, to recycle decorations form one season to another, or rely on rented window decorations.  An even bigger factor may have been that new feature on the American landscape, the suburban shopping mall.  With branches of the main store located in the customer’s own neighborhood, there was no reason to lure shoppers downtown, and the advent of the sophisticated attractions like color television, animated movies, television specials, and later VCR’s and DVDs, made children just a little less excited about the prospect of pacing a long line of windows in the cold.

The Hottest Christmas Toys Through the Decades: The 1940’s

 

It doesn’t matter how far back through the decades you go, each Christmas season has had it’s “must-have” hot toy that all the kids wanted.  Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were hot in 1983, but Davy Crockett coonskin caps were just as hot in 1954.  We’re going to be taking a look back at the hottest toys for Christmas’s through time, and we’re starting with the 1940’s.

 

1942

Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books published it’s first twelve books.  1.5 million copies were sold in the first 5 months alone.

 

Lionel Paper Trains

Lionel Paper Trains

After being forced to halt production to their normal metal trains due to the war, Lionel offered a paper train for the holiday season.  In its Model Builder magazine and its Railroad Planning Book, Lionel urged boys and their dads to start planning their post war railroad now.

 

1943

Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders

Produced by Milton Bradley, Chutes and Ladders created a fervor among kids everywhere.

Continue reading “The Hottest Christmas Toys Through the Decades: The 1940’s”

Classic Advertising – Christmas Edition, Part 1

As you know, we love vintage advertising here at Retro Ramblings, and you know we love Christmas, so we really love retro Christmas ads!  Here are 5 classic ads for your viewing pleasure.

Old toy ads are always a favorite of mine, and this Toyland ad has some cool old toys included.  That Hiawatha bike looks pretty dang snazzy, and who wouldn’t want that the western gun set to go track down invisible bad guys all summer long?

 

Coca-Cola may be the king of Christmas advertising when it comes to soda, but Pepsi has had some good ones through the years as well.

 

If you had lights on your Christmas tree in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, theres a good chance they were Noma lights.  I really like the ones shaped like candles.  I could go for a set of those today!

More Advertising:  Retro Comic Book Ads

 

Budweiser’s best Christmas advertising would come in later years when they introduced the famous Clydesdale horses into them, but advertising for alcohol was common place for years, and it only increased during the holiday season.

 

The Colonel gets all the women.  I still don’t know if it’s his own machismo, or the bucket of chicken he’s holding, but either way, the man is surrounded by lovely ladies.  This ad would probably play huge in Japan where going for KFC chicken is a real Christmas tradition.

 

Christmas Mornings of the Past, Part 1

No other time of the year holds more nostalgic memories for me than Christmas.  All my life – from a kid, up through today – I spend all year long looking forward to this time of year, and making plans to make it as special as possible for my kids.  The climax of the whole season is Christmas morning itself.  That magical time of the year when you get up real early, and rush to the Christmas tree to see what Santa Claus has left for you.

It seems that Christmas morning is kind of a tally sheet for the year doesn’t it?  Like, as a kid, you had all these things you wanted all year, and all those wishes would culminate in that one single morning.  If you got a lot of loot, or very cool loot, your year was a success.  If not, well…better luck next year kid.  At least that’s the way it went in my mind all those years ago.  I had a few of what I thought were less-than-stellar Christmas mornings, but then 1986 came along and changed all of that.

Nowadays, I like to look back on different people’s Christmas mornings of years past and marvel at how cool it must have been to be in their shoes on those mornings so long ago.

Christmas Morning

So first up, this kid looks pretty pleased to have gotten the Go Bots Command Center play set under his tree on Christmas morning.  I was a big fan of the Go Bots cartoon, but only ever had two of the action figures….Loco and Dive-Dive.  Now while I wish I had more of the figures, and would have loved the Command Center, I never put it on any of my Christmas lists because it wouldn’t have been very much fun without a lot of the action figures to go along with it.

In the background on his right, someone has gotten some kind of G.I. Joe play set, because we can clearly see the opened box.  I’ve gotta take a few points away from this kid now knowing that he chose to pose with the Go Bots toy when he could have been posing with the G.I. Joe one instead.

I can’t really tell what his brother is holding in the background, but just in front of it is a nice looking piece of gold ribbon, which indicates their Christmas presents were probably well wrapped and made for a very nice presentation.  And I am almost certain, that on the far right of this photo, you can see what is the box of a G.I. Joe Cobra Rattler!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that these kids had a pretty damn good Christmas.  A Go Bots play set, and a couple of G.I. Joe toys means a big Christmas morning, regardless of what other loot they may have found.

More Christmas Memories:  Making My Christmas Wish List From the 1986 Sears Wish Book

Man these kids really hit the jackpot!  You can clearly see a buffet of G.I. Joe play sets including the Cobra Rattler, Cobra Vamp, G.I. Joe Wolverine, and the G.I. Joe Dragonfly helicopter!  I don’t see any carded figures in the picture, but one can only assume these kids already have several of those.  I’m sure there was quite a battle fought between the Joes and Cobra later on this Christmas day.

Continue reading “Christmas Mornings of the Past, Part 1”

Drink Hot Dr. Pepper as an Old School Holiday Treat

Hot Dr Pepper

The ad above from the 60’s makes no bones about the fact that we should all be drinking hot Dr. Pepper this Christmas season.  I’m thinking this is one of those things where some executive was irate about losing potential customers to things like egg nog, or punch every Christmas and ordered his marketers to come up with some new concoction to move more Dr. Pepper.

This must not have been a one hit wonder either, because I’ve seen ads featuring this idea from several different years.  It actually doesn’t seem too bad either, so I may give this a try this year.  I think it would better suite my tastes if I switched out the lemon slice with a slice of an orange.  How about you?

More Retro Christmas:  Classic Christmas Commercials, Part 1

 

Hot Dr. Pepper

Hot Dr Pepper

Retro on the Web: Christmas Edition

As you know, doing the Retro Rambler’s Picks of the Week is one of my favorite posts to do here on Retro Ramblings.  It gives me a chance to shine some light on the great retro themed articles I find around the ‘net, and share the fun of reliving various old memories.  But when it comes to Christmas, my favorite holiday, not any little old list of links will do.  Oh no, at this time of year, nothing short of a mega list will suffice.

So here today I proudly present to you The Retro Rambler’s Picks of the Christmas Season!  If you enjoy stepping back in time to days gone by, you’re sure to find plenty here to whet your whistle, and all of it revolves around Christmas.  So get yourself a hot cup of coffee or hot cocoa, and click on some of these links and find yourself lost in nostalgia!  There may be too much here to digest in one sitting, so bookmark this page so you can keep coming back to it throughout the weeks leading up to the big day.

I’m breaking all these links down by category to make finding your favorites a little easier.  Here we go…..

Movies

25 Facts About Famous Christmas Movies – Mental Floss
10 Awesome Things About Home Alone – Dinosaur Dracula
25 Things To Look For While Watching the A Christmas Story Marathon – Mental Floss
25 Facts About It’s a Wonderful Life – Mental Floss
The Original Reviews of 10 Classic Christmas Movies – Mental Floss
25 Facts About Christmas Vacation – Mental Floss
21 Things You Didn’t Know About The Nightmare Before Christmas – Mental Floss

Television

When Rudolph Mania Stared Running Wild – Retro Ramblings Patreon Exclusive
Remembering 11 Classic Holiday Commercials – Mental Floss
6 Long-Forgotten Local Christmas TV Specials That Should Be Remembered – MeTV
Commercials From He-Man Christmas Special – Dinosaur Dracula
The 80’s Christmas Specials You Just Have to Show Your Kids – Hollywood.com
The TV Specials of Christmas Past – Like Totally 80’s
Let’s Not Forget the Brady’s Reunited for a Christmas Special in the 80’s – MeTV
A Stocking Full of Your Favorite 80’s Christmas Specials – Rediscover the 80’s
Let’s Not Forget About ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas’ – MeTV
Classic Christmas Commercials Volume 9 – Dinosaur Dracula
12 Unforgettable Live-Action Christmas Specials of the 1970’s – MeTV
Ranking the Doctor Who Christmas Specials From Worst to Best – Robots Pajamas
34 Great Christmas Episodes From Classic TV Shows – MeTV
8 80’s Christmas Specials You Might Have Forgotten – Dinosaur Dracula
Power Rangers Had a Christmas Special:  It Was Cheap – Robots Pajamas
5 Classic Christmas Commercials – Retro Ramblings

Music

10 Facts You Might Not Know About Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas’ – Rediscover the 80’s
6 Controversial Christmas Carols – Mental Floss
12 Awesome Holiday Tunes! – Dinosaur Dracula
The Twelve 80’s Songs of Christmas – Like Totally 80’s
Retro Christmas Mixtape – Hoju Koolander
1976 Served Up the Strangest Batch of New Christmas Songs – MeTV
12 Forgotten Children’s Christmas Albums of the 80’s – Rediscover the 80’s

Toys & Gifts

Retro Rambler’s Retro Gift Guide for 2017 – Retro Ramblings
1983 Montgomery Ward Christmas Catalog Shopping Spree – Rediscover the 80’s
29 Real World Toys in ‘Jingle All the Way’ – Dinosaur Dracula
12 Strange Christmas Gifts From the 1970 Sears Wishbook You Won’t Find Today – MeTV
Making My Christmas List From the 1986 Sears Wish Book – Retro Ramblings
A Look at Rankin-Bass’ Santa Claus Trilogy – Cavalcade of Awesome
12 Fantastic Christmas Gifts We Found in a 1963 Spencer’s Gift Catalog – MeTV
1982 Sears Wishbook – Dinosaur Dracula
Top Christmas Gifts We Received in the 80’s – Rediscover the 80’s
10 Most Wanted Christmas Toys of the 1960’s – MeTV
1985 JC Penny Christmas Catalog – Dinosaur Dracula
1989 Sears Christmas Wishbook Shopping Spree – Rediscover the 80’s
11 Tiny Toys That Were Always Stuffed in Our Stockings Back in the Day – MeTV
The 1994 Toys “R” Us Big Toy Book – Dinosaur Dracula
Most Popular Christmas Toy from Christmas’ Past – Do You Remember
10 Totally Awesome Christmas Toys We Had to Have in the 80’s – MeTV
Highlights From the 1986 Sears Wishbook – Dinosaur Dracula
Toys From the 1991 JC Penny Catalog – Dinosaur Dracula

Cartoons

13 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Mental Floss
Identifying Garfield’s Christmas Presents – Dinosaur Dracula
6 Times That 80’s Cartoons Should’ve Left Christmas Alone – Rediscover the 80’s
9 Forgotten Cartoon Christmas Specials of the 70’s – MeTV
The 1987 Broadcast of a Charlie Brown Christmas – Dinosaur Dracula

Food

These Bizarre Vintage Holiday Recipes Are Best Left to the Ghosts of Christmas Past – MeTV
Ancient Christmas Appetizers – Dinosaur Dracula
More Ancient Holiday Appetizers – Dinosaur Dracula
6 Ways McDonalds Made Us Love Christmas – Pop Rewind
10 Old-Fashioned Christmas Candies That Will Take You Back – MeTV
Five Cereal Boxes From Christmases Past – Dinosaur Dracula
80’s Christmas Movie Drinks to Go With Classic 80’s Films – Like Totally 80’s
Holiday Food Ads from 1983 – Dinosaur Dracula

Other

50 Vintage Christmas Cards From the New York Public Library Archives – Mental Floss
15 Vintage Christmas Ads You Would Never See Today – MeTV
How ‘A Christmas Story’ Kept Peter Billingsly Normal – BuzzFeed
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling on Christmas Day – Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Energizer Bunny Ornaments from the 90’s – Dinosaur Dracula
How the Transformers Saved Christmas – Branded in the 80’s
How Christmas Trees Have Evolved in Our Lifetime – MeTV
5 Ways Christmas Was Better in the 80’s – Like Totally 80’s
80’s Christmas Ads From Woman’s Day – Dinosaur Dracula
The Origins of 12 Christmas Traditions – Mental Floss
20 Vintage Christmas Decorations That Are Making a Major Comeback – Do You Remember
Are These Christmas Photos From the 1960’s or 1970’s? – MeTV
Christmas Cards From the Soviet Union Space Race – Flashbak
6 Great Comic Book Christmas Adventures – Mental Floss
8 Retro Christmas Traditions From the 50’s and 60’s – MeTV

Videos

Watch These 80’s Home Movies of Kids Unwrapping Presents on Christmas Morning – Rediscover the 80’s
Silent Film Version of A Christmas Carol from 1901 – Retro Ramblings YouTube Channel
A Super Cut of 80’s Christmas Commercials – Rediscover the 80’s

For more videos, come back next Friday for the Retro Rambler’s Christmas Watch List!

Personal Memories & Stories

1986:  The Year Santa Became Real – Retro Ramblings
Christmas Yuleogy – vkimo at Retro-Daze
Holi-Daze:  Toys Unwrapped – Hoju Koolander
Yuletide Yakking – vkimo at Retro-Daze
Christmas, 1988.  A Photo Journal – Dinosaur Dracula
Christmas 1985 Through My Gobots Camera Lense – SockofFleagulls at Retro-Daze
Christmas 1991:  The Year of the Tournament Table – Horror Movie BBQ
NLogan’s Retro Christmas – NLogan at Retro-Daze
vkimo’s Christmas Special – vkimo at Retro-Daze
A Very Lego Christmas – Garage Sale of Awesome
1990:  The Year Santa Died – Fuschnikt at Retro_Daze
Ghosts of Christmas Past – Goodwill Hunting for Geeks
Stocking Stuffers – Hoju Koolander
Christmas Eve, 1986 – Dinosaur Dracula
Christmas Conundrum – vkimo at Retro-Daze
Being Jacob Marley – Junk Fed
Perfect Game – kidcoffee at Retro-Daze
Ghosts of Christmas Past – Adventures of a Geeky Vixen
Christmas at Grandma’s House – NLogan at Retro-Daze
The Santa Diaries – Hoju Koolander
Christmas, Crockett Style – Crockett Foundation
Christmas Memories:  Traditions Come and Gone – Fuschnikt at Retro-Daze
Christmas 64 – vkimo at Retro-Daze
That Dude’s Christmas Memories – TDitH at Retro-Daze
A Very Sega Christmas – massreality at Retro-Daze
The Worst Christmas School Production in the World – Pikachulover at Retro-Daze

 

Well, there it is.  That is one big list full of retro Christmas goodness to enjoy all month long in the lead-up to the big day.  If you know of something I’ve missed and myself and others might enjoy, drop the link in the comments.

 

5 Classic Christmas Commercials

Christmas Commercials

Man, what better way to keep getting pumped up for Christmas than watching some old commercials!  No?  You’re not a fan of commercials, are you?  Well, once upon a time I didn’t used to be.  But that was back in the days before Tivo, Netflix, and other streaming services that allow you to skip all the advertising.

These days, I find myself kind of missing commercials.  Not every commercial break, but some old commercials in particular.  It was rare, but sometimes commercials could actually enhance the show you were viewing.  Hang on…hear me out!  I can remember watching the Mickey’s Christmas Carol Special that aired on NBC every year in the mid-late 80’s, and when the commercials that aired were Christmas in nature, it kept the cool Christmas vibe going for my young self.  So these commercials we’re viewing here today get a pass.

Folgers Coffee, “Peter Comes Home for Christmas”
(1986)

I’m not sure why this commercial ever touched me as a kid.  It probably had something to do with the fact that my old man traveled a lot, and there were times he would come in early in the morning like this.  Never at Christmas though.  He was always in town for that.  But whatever the reason, this commercial has continued to resonate with me for all these years since I first saw it air.

I think it really embodies the spirit of Christmas in the form I like to think of it.  Families being together, and enjoying simple things in life like a fresh cup of coffee is endearing to me.  I actually keep this commercial on my Christmas playlist on YouTube to make sure I see every season.

 

Polaroid Cameras
(1985)

One of the great frustrations for me growing up was trying to prove or disprove that Santa Claus was real.  I tried my own ways of getting to the bottom of things, but trying to snap a picture with a Polaroid camera was never one of them. I give these two kids an A for effort here, as their plan kinda worked.  They just didn’t anticipate Santa being a petty thief and sneaking away with their snapshot.

Continue reading “5 Classic Christmas Commercials”