Memories of John Wanamaker’s, Wilmington, Delaware

The weather here is fall-like. I find myself thinking about autumn in Delaware. We had a September ritual. Mother took us to John Wanamaker Department store in Wilmington shopping for dark cotton.


Memories of Wanamaker’s include:

The first floor had the bakery, furniture, and housewares. Up the escalator to the second level and you’d find clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics.  I don’t recall if they sold toys.  Maybe Madame Alexander dolls?

The bakery made drop cakes, which were about as big around as a large cookie. They were domed and dipped in frosting. I always chose chocolate.

The children’s department had a huge swing hanging from the ceiling. Perched on it was a giant stuffed teddy bear. I would reach way up, grab a fat rope, pull hard and set the bear swinging. That was fun.

The Ivy dining room, aptly named because the walls were papered in a green and white English Ivy print. We’d go there for lunch. Marilyn usually got a club sandwich. No memory of what Mother ate. Naturally, I had a cream cheese on soft white bread, the kind that has no nutritional value.

The parking lot was tiered. You parked then descended many levels to the store entrance.

Mother purchased a very 60’s looking coffee table at John Wanamaker. It was long, sleek, low and had a starburst inlaid on the top. The legs joints were wrapped in rattan. Marilyn hated that table.

The lines of the table were a lot like this.


Daddy took me to Wanamaker’s shopping while I was in college. He spent way more than Mother would have. I got long cream color nightgown trimmed in grosgrain ribbon with matching robe. I also bought a navy blue swing coat with brass buttons, new navy pumps, and a cute short dress.

I modeled the items for him as he sat in a chair, beaming. He did love his girls.

Wanamaker’s later became Macy’s. I wonder if that building is still standing?

Ah! First crushes were enormous, weren’t they?

Recently I found my meditating mind circling back to my youth. It occurred to me that another great thing about being sixty-five is the angst of my younger years is behind me.

When I didn’t have much time booked on this planet everything seemed enormous! Now, not so much.

For a time being my big anxiety centered around Carl Jacobson. I clearly remember the hours/weeks/months fretting over him. He was the dreamboat I “loved” in Junior High. He was gorgeous in a Paul McCartney floppy hair way.

Carl played alto saxophone, so I took up sax. I planned to sit next to him in band practice. Little did I know he was lead chair, I was last chair. Our paths didn’t cross. Plus I learned playing sax was a pain–you had to put the dry reed into your mouth and hold it until it became flexible. That made me gag. Furthermore being in band involved wearing ugly black and gold wool uniforms with ridiculous tall feather adorned hats.

Another “nab Carl Jacobson” plan involved basic stalking. Walking by his house. Going wherever he might go. Once I went to a MYF dance (Methodist Youth Fellowship) because rumor had it he’d be there. The passing clothing fad was denim pants that rolled up to just above the knees and wide horizontal stripe t-shirts. Mine was navy and white, purchased at National 5 and 10 on Main Street, Newark, Delaware.

The afternoon of the dance I worked for hours on my “look”. Set hair in big rollers and sat under the dryer. The dryers in the 60’s were plastic boxes with flexible tubing attached. The other end of the tube was hooked into a bubble cap that blew up like a balloon when the dryer was running. My dryer had a fancy feature whereby you could put perfume into a certain spot and your hair would come out smelling amazing. I used Jean Nate.

Then I put on my jean shorts and tee-shirt. Standing in front of my mom’s full length mirror I saw I had very big, very obvious thigh saddle-bags. I reasoned that I could reduce the look of those fat wads by stuffing Kleenex into my pants just above the widest leg lump. Not the best plan. I didn’t consider the fact the tissue balls would shift. By the time I ran into Carl Jacobson my backside appeared to have tumors.

Goodness, I spent a lot of my youth sweating the very small stuff. Being old is good because it’s given me perspective. Yay for being sixty-five.