When I was just a wee one in Duquesne, I remember shopping at Christmas with my mom. Although it is had to imagine if you visit Duquesne today, but as I was growing up, there were a number of shops and stores where my mom enjoyed. The shopping Mecca in Duquesne, as I remember it, was primarily located on First Street between Grant Avenue and Hamilton Avenue and on Grant Avenue between First and Second Streets. There were several other shops that Mom enjoyed going to that were further up Grant Ave. such as Salkowitz’s Dress Shop, but for the most part we stayed in main shopping area.
There were no such things as malls in those days. Stores were street front and we were exposed to the elements as we shopped from store to store. The stores I remember shopping in with my mother were Sally Fashions for her clothes and Adler-Green for men’s and boy’s clothes. There were two other stores that I remember that I enjoyed visiting. One was the G. C. Murphy 5 & 10 on First Street. I think it was located right behind Alexander’s Market which was on the corner of First and Grant. Just like Perry Como’s song “Its Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas”, at Christmas, Murphy’s was glistening with candy canes and silver lanes aglow.
And then there was Elsie’s, otherwise known as Avenue News. Just two doors up from First Street on Grant Ave., Elsie’s wasn’t really a Christmas shopping destination, but rather a meeting place for the locals. I remember being in the vicinity of Avenue News around shift stage time at the mill. 7 a.m., 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. were the crazy time at Elsie’s. The steel workers who worked from 7 a.m. till 3 p.m. called it the “Daylight Shift.” If they worked from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m., they worked “Night Turn.” But for some reason, the 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. shift was only know as “3 to 11.” Go figure! However, I’ve digressed…..
I have stronger childhood memories of Christmas shopping in McKeesport than in Duquesne. Shopping in McKeesport was our equivalent of shopping in New York City! What a wealth of stores; Cox’s, The Famous, Jaison’s, Immel;s, Katzman’s, David Israel’s, and Kadar’s. Then there were the specialty stores like; The Golden Rule, National Record Mart and the variety stores like; G.C.Murphy and H.L.Green,
I remember going to McKeesport with my dad once when he was Christmas shopping for my mother. Dad was never the type of guy who planned too much ahead. To this day, it never surprised me that we were shopping on Christmas Eve. It seemed perfectly normal. I remember going to Katzman’s with him to buy my mom a slip. The lingerie department was on the mezzanine of the store. The saleslady pulled out several different slips from the wall of drawers that lined the wall behind the glass showcases. She pulled out dozens until Dad finally settle on the perfect color. Leopard skin!!!! It was like the 1950’s of Victoria’s Secret!
Yet another early memory about Christmas shopping was my Christmas Club check. Every year, my mom would start a Christmas Savings Club account for my brother and I at Duquesne City Bank. She would put 25¢ a week in my club account and the same in my brother’s club account. By the time November rolled around, we each received a Duquesne City Bank check what we view as an astronomically large amount………… $12.50!!!! It was amazing how I was able to make that $12.50 cover all the gifts I wanted to buy; Mom, Dad, my brother, 3 of my aunts and 2 of my cousins. Bubble bath was always a top choice for Mom, big bottle, low price, the perfect combination. My dad used to roll his own cigarettes back then, so rolling papers were always a good and thrifty choice. (Today, I would be accused of trying to buy drug paraphernalia when I bought rolling papers, times have changed!) I was always able to find some kind of sports magazine or book for my brother and my aunt and cousins always seemed to end up with lavender soaps. I really made it stretch since there was always enough left for me to buy a pound or so of sugar wafers at the cookie counter at the 5 & 10!
It was always exciting counting the days down until Christmas. I remember that on the very last page of the McKeesport Daily News, there was always a small block that indicated the number of shopping days left til Christmas along with a reminder to by Christmas seals. Oh, those were the days……..