Note from Dan: Wayne Goodman penned this last week on this thread.
“I remember watching some of those long ago parades along Church Avenue with the inflatable balloons and the pageantry. Downtown Roanoke was still the shopping center for most of Southwest Virginia. and the department stores and merchants along Jefferson Street, Church Avenue, Campbell Avenue., and around the market square and First Street went all out in the Christmas season. As a youngster my mother or grandmother took us to visit the Santaland at Heironimus or in Pughs
Often a week or so before Christmas my grandmother, who lived with or adjacent to us for many years would take me and/or my brothers and sisters as they grew older on the city bus on a Saturday morning and we would spend the day downtown in the Christmas-time atmosphere. I usually was able to save a few dollars during the year and grandma would add a dollar or two to it and take me to Woolworths or SS Kresge to shop and buy inexpensive trinkets and gifts for my family. We would have lunch at the Woolworths lunch counter or at the soda fountain at the old Thornton and Creasy pharmacy and then take in a movie at one of the five downtown theaters ( usually some b-grade western at the old Rialto.)
Then on another day before Christmas, my Father would take me with him downtown to the city market area to grocery shop at the old A & P store which was where we bought most of the staples for the family except for the meat. That trip always included a swing around through the market area, hot dogs at the Roanoke Wiener Stand, and buying some oranges, apples, and nuts from the vendors around the market and sometimes a Christmas tree.
It also usually included a stop in at the Sam’s store to cash my Dad’s payroll check, a service which the wonderful Shapiro family provided for working folks for many many years. The Shapiros, a devoutly Jewish family, nevertheless always had a kind word for every one who came in and wished them a Merry Christmas. And in later years, when the Shapiros were kind enough to employ me during the Christmas season as a college student, I remember that they always put out a big spread and had a party for the employees the last day of business before Christmas..
The pungent odors of the citrus fruit and greenery on the market mixed in with the cooking odors from the restaurants and beer joints along 1st street evoke strong memories of these Christmas trips. The last part of these trips ended up back in Garden City where my Dad always bought the Christmas meats from Nichol’s market. The ham, turkey, and beef that we enjoyed at that season always came from his fresh meat counter, cut by Mr. Nichols himself.
It was a different time and a different day with no malls and shopping centers and Christmases that seemed more family centered and simpler. But some of it seems just like yesterday. We were a family of seven plus two Grandmas who lived within seventy five yards of us, living in a three room house without indoor plumbing or central heating but we had each other and much love in the Christmas season.”