Take in our downtown during the holidays

Those of us of a certain age who grew up in Salem remember — and often pine for — holiday days of yore. This includes a downtown that could’ve been used as a Rockwellian portrayal of Smalltown, U.S.A. Especially around Christmas time. A Saturday Evening Post cover come to life.

We remember a downtown draped in holiday lights and festive cheer. We remember the five and dimes where we went Christmas shopping. Like G.C. Murphy and Kresge’s. Among the shoppers were youngsters, wink, using their paper route tip money to buy gifts for family members. We remember restaurants such as Isaly’s and Aldom’s Diner. We remember Home Furniture with that bare-backed woman on its huge eye-catching sign. We remember McBane-McArtor Pharmacy. We remember watching movies at the State Theater. The Grand Theater was a presence. We remember Fisher’s News. And who could forgot Scott’s candies? How about McCulloch’s and J.C. Penney? Dean’s Jewelry? Schwartz’s? Glogan’s Hardware? And so on and on. Whatever your needs — remember this was pre-mall and pre-big box stores — you could find it downtown while treating yourself to a chocolate malt. No, it wasn’t a bad way to shop. You could even buy shoes downtown.

How many of us too remember those big, fat Sears and Roebuck catalogs? Kids looked forward to rifling through them each holiday and circling suggestions for their parents. Usually by the dozens. Our parents would then pick up their orders — sometimes by the dozens — quite conveniently, at the Sears on Broadway.

We have tucked those olden days away in our memories, hearts and very souls, They are long gone. Like our youth they are not coming back. Malls have been around for years now. So have the big box stores that we all frequent. Online shopping has emerged as the preferred shopping choice for thousands of Americans including folks in Salem.

Despite a changing economic landscape downtowns have survived across America. Including in Salem. Yes, names are different. Different merchants offer different products. A concession to the changing times is you no longer walk shoulder-to-shoulder through crowded East State Street while Christmas shopping. While exchanging greetings after greetings with friends and strangers alike you would bump into.

Yet our downtown still has a pulse. When was the last time you strolled from one end of the downtown district to another? Especially during the holiday season? Maybe it’s been a good while. Give it a try. There are so many good-hearted, hard-working retailers giving our downtown life. They have dressed their stores in Christmas cheer. Support them and appreciate them like Salemites did so many years ago. Enjoy a festive downtown. Take your kids or grandkids downtown. Make some new memories.

A reader sent along some very appropriate words of appreciation regarding our downtown that we would like to share:

“The Christmas spirit has embodied the downtown merchants with their beautifully decorated windows & window displays this holiday season. It looks the best that I have seen the downtown in the 14 years that I have been back home.  I counted over 31 businesses that have decorated their windows or have a beautiful window display throughout downtown, and as far out as the Giant Eagle plaza….

Many people have noticed and commented on how festive the downtown looks this year with so many businesses…. along with the new snowflakes, additional lights to the garland wraps, and the lighted trees on Broadway. It looks glorious! Smalltown America is BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah!”

Hopefully that sentiment will be shared and expressed by many of us who remember what downtown used to be but have yet to make an effort to see what it is today. It is still there, you know.