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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
I am afraid I am going to have to disagree with many writers, bloggers and talk show hosts; I do not subscribe to the term, “stress of the holidays” as an excuse to be flustered and under pressure. I am always flustered 24/7 and consider the holidays as a wonderful diversion to real life! My coffee buddy, Judy, calls it “getting squirrely” and I love that; generally we use that term the day before fixing a big holiday meal but I think it fits the whole season.

I learned to love the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season working retail and back then (1965-1985) it seemed a magical time of year in downtown Decatur and on the Square in Charleston. Working in retail clothing was always enjoyable to me and in the 1960’s and 1970s the month of November was considered one of the transition seasons for fashion or “Cruise season”. In Decatur I worked at Carson Pirie Scott and Company in the main floor sportswear department but in November, I would work split shifts; the afternoon on the first floor and at night in the better dresses and sportswear department on the second floor. The reason the younger clerks were assigned duties upstairs on evening shifts was because it seemed like half the women in town were shopping for winter vacations and spending a few months in Florida and more sales clerks than normal were needed.

The first time a customer told me she was shopping for their winter relocation to Florida I was stunned. I had no idea people moved from Decatur to Florida for a “winter season”. When I mentioned this to my manager she promptly called a floor meeting to inform all of us night shifters about the “winter seasoners”, which is what she called our customers who were privileged enough to have a home in Florida as well as one in Illinois. Luckily, I did not like heat and sand so I never aspired to a Florida home.

Back then we did not decorate for Christmas, in the retail world, until the week before Thanksgiving and even then some of us thought that was too early. One year I was pretty amazed when I was asked if I would like to work Thanksgiving afternoon to help decorate the store and I sure am glad I did. At the time I was making $1.25 an hour and on Thanksgiving Day they paid us double for however long we wanted to work. I really raked in the cash that day; I worked from 2:00 p.m. to   4:00 a.m. and made an extra $32.00 that week. Wow, I was thrilled because I had just bought my first car, a 1962 VW and my car payment was $95.00 a month. I made half of that month’s payment in one day!

November in downtown Decatur was festive as the stores began their decorating for Christmas and the local restaurants would add holiday favorites to their menu. If I did not take my lunch to work with me  I would have lunch at either the SS Kresge or Walgreen’s  lunch counters, and the addition of hot turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie was always a treat but I really could not afford to indulge too often; I only made $45.00 a week. Sadly the Woolworth’s lunch counter had closed before I began working but my parents met at the Woolworth’s in Taylorville and I can recall them telling me stories of eating at that lunch counter. My Dad said Woolworth’s had the best cherry and pumpkin pies around in the 1940’s. In the 1960’s Walgreens in Decatur had great pumpkin pie and topped with their brand vanilla ice cream was quite a delicious treat. Sometimes my parents would meet me for dinner, when I worked an evening shift, and Daddy would treat us to those wonderful hot turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie. Oh, what wonderful memories.

If you ever travel to Bakersfield, California you can eat in the last remaining Woolworth’s lunch counter.  A father and son team have restored the old Woolworth’s building, which now houses a huge antique store, and they have completely restored the lunch counter and kitchens complete with checkerboard black and white tile floor and the red counter seats. If you would like to see a great video of the restored lunch counter check out this “Youtube” site (

Another of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was to ride along on my Dad’s “Sunshine Biscuit ‘’ (Krispy ‘’ crackers and cookies) route during my school holiday breaks. Daddy did his Tuscola route on Fridays so the day after Thanksgiving, the official opening of the Christmas Season in Central Illinois, I was able to enjoy decorations in other towns. My last ride along was in 1964 and Daddy dropped me off at a new clothing store, “Four Seasons’ ‘ while he visited the “IGA” which was one of his better accounts. Daddy had found the “Four Seasons’’ clothing store in the summer while looking for a gift for my Mom and he thought I would like to shop in the store. I was vaguely aware of the “Four Seasons’ ‘ as one of my High School girl friends and her Mom had shopped there. I thought I was in clothing heaven when I entered the store. I had never seen such a wonderful clothing store and spent the whole time marveling at the vast number of styles and choices and Christmas decorations.

 When I was finished shopping I walked to the “IGA’’ and helped Daddy stock the shelves with the cookies and crackers the “IGA” had ordered. This was a wonderful day and Daddy treated me to lunch at a Tuscola Café which served mince pie with homemade whipped cream and pumpkin oatmeal cookies. Daddy also sold products to this Café in later years when he was employed by “Bunn Capitol”. Sadly I do not recall the name of the Café but the staff and owners were such nice people and Daddy remained friends with them for a long time. If anyone in Tuscola remembers the Café in the downtown back in the 1960’s, please let me know.

Walking down memory lane!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

* 2 Cup(s) flour, 

* 1 1/3 Cup(s)  
Quaker Oats 
(quick or old 

* 1 Teaspoon(s) 
Baking Soda

* 1 Teaspoon(s) 

* 1/2 Teaspoon(s) Salt

* 1 Cup(s) butter or 
margarine, softened

* 1 Cup(s) Sugar

* 1 Cup(s) Brown 
sugar, packed

* 1 Cup(s) canned 
pumpkin {not pumpkin pie filling}

* 1 Teaspoon(s) vanilla

* 3/4 Cup(s) Chopped 

* 3/4 Cup(s) raisins

* 1 Egg(s)

Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with non stick cooking spray In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt In a large bowl beat butter and sugars until creamy and smooth Add egg, pumpkin and vanilla, beat until combined Gradually add dry ingredients, beating after each addition Stir in walnuts and raisins Drop dough onto cookie sheet using a dough scoop or teaspoon Bake about 14-16 minutes or until lightly browned Cool on pan 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

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