“The head of the street” was the place to be at Christmas time in the Twin Cities for many years. It meant the intersection of Main and Lisbon streets where the enchanting decorations on Peck’s department store facade and in its windows were the focal point for crowds of shoppers. Shoulder-to-shoulder, shoppers filled the sidewalks and lined up to board buses that arrived in a constant flow.

A trip back to those days would be a marvelous experience, and one way to do it is through the pages of old newspapers. They were packed with Christmas ads for the many large and small stores in the bustling downtown areas of Auburn and Lewiston. Most of these businesses are long-gone; some are still doing business at other locations in L-A.

Let’s take 1947 as a destination in time. Advertisements in the Lewiston Daily Sun and Lewiston Evening Journal are a magic key to unlocking a flood of memories for many members of the older generation.

Peck’s tops the list. Its main windows featured life-size, animated holiday scenes, and a visit to Santa’s Village at Peck’s was every child’s objective. This store’s history spanned 101 years at the head of the street until it closed in 1981. Today, the building is a call center for L.L. Bean, as well as other office tenants, and the four-story building is still an attractive anchor building for Lewiston.

Up and down Lisbon Street, the stores of 65 years ago sold many items that have disappeared from daily life.

At Peck’s, ladies’ nylon stockings sold in a two-pair box for $2.90. The ad stated, “There’s stardust in a woman’s eyes when Alba nylons are on her legs.” They came in 45 gauge, 30 denier, which are specifications of quality that shoppers don’t need these days.

The Record Shop at Lisbon and Pine, which would later be re-named DeOrsey’s when it moved next to Berry Paper Co., listed dozens of 78-rpm records at 75 cents each. There was “White Christmas” (by Harry James, not Bing Crosby), “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Gene Autry, “Too Fat Polka” by Arthur Godfrey, and a Frank Sinatra tune that missed the hit list called “The Dum Dot Song.” The record stores in those days had listening booths where you could preview the songs before buying.

Penney’s on Main Street near Peck’s had a big bread box sale; Bauer Hardware, 239 Main St., had sleds for $3.85 and hand-cranked food choppers for $4.50; Berry Paper Co. had the fashionable “Parker 51” ball point pen for $12.50 and $15. And everything imaginable was available at Kresge’s, Newberry’s, Ward Bros., Senter’s, Atherton’s Furniture, Montgomery Ward, and so many more stores.

In Auburn, Gee & Bee Sporting Goods was at 58 Court St. and today it is still in business on Mount Auburn Avenue. Downtown Auburn also was home to Carroll’s Music Store, Wilson Dollar Store, and Flanders’ in the Auburn Hall building, which sold “Correct Clothes for Men.”

Christmas shopping is different these days, but it’s a holiday that will always make memories, no matter how customs and places may change.


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