Christmas shopping in the 70's was a much simple process than it is now. I know I'm not breaking any new ground with that revelation. Besides the obvious technologies that everybody now has that weren't even a DREAM back in our day, there is the actual process of shopping for the gifts. I don't remember when "Black Friday" crept into our vocabulary. I know we never had a
I do remember the the first time, in my life, that Garretson opened up it's doors on Main late on a Friday night, I think it was the first Friday of December and I was in my 20's. They opened the doors and invited Sioux Falls to come out for a fun small-town shopping night. Businesses set out hot cocao and cider, cookies and candy canes and there was carriage rides up and down Main. The local theater troupe ("The Jesse James Players") were making their way around to the different businesses, doing their best to sing lively Christmas carols to the shoppers. Some of the shoppers loved the carols and would sing along. Others were not so much into singing and they'd politely work their way "out of the line of fire"... If they looked at the singers, they felt an obligation of sorts to commit to this performance emotionally... and most of these people were visitors to this quaint town and not used to committing to these people that were so close. People that were ready to hug them... these people that had grown up in Garretson... where people are committing to things all over the place; Jaycees, Booster club, Fire Dept, Church groups, Commercial Club, Softball Teams, Civic Committees (often many of these all at once)... not to mention their own lives and the lives of their neighbors. These people were used to looking at each other all the time... even if they didn't necessarily like it all the time. Some of them were fed up with each other, but they were familiar with each other. They knew each others tastes and distastes, their likes and dislikes. They knew each others' styles and temperments. And they also knew each others' quirks and their jokes. One person would hear a new Ole and Lena joke and they had to remember where they heard it from in case the time ever came that they were going to repeat it. Nobody wanted the following scenario to happen:
Person One: Hey did you hear?...Ole and Lena went to the hospital so Lena could give birth to their first baby. Ole waited in the lobby and finally the nurse came out to inform him, saying, "The good news is that you have are the father of a healthy baby boy. The bad new is that it is a Caesarian." Startled, Ole declared, "Well, I'm glad it's a healthy baby....."
Person Two: "...but I was hoping for a Norwegian. I know I told that to you last weekend after church, remember? We were talking about the Johnsons and their new baby."
Person One: "oh, was that you?... oh, yeah, it was ... hmm.. are you guys going up to the Vikings game this weekend?"
Person Two: "Well, we hope so, depends on the weather, I guess. We'll see."
Person One: "Yeah, I suppose. Well, hopefully they can play good."
Person Two: "Hmm... yep... not counting on it. But you never know."
And it's likely that THAT exact conversation has actually happened.
But the choir group made their rounds. The carriage made it's rounds and the bartenders at the bars served the rounds. The spirits of the choir weren't entirely un-chemically enhanced by the courage from down at the "Munie" (the Municiple Bar and Liquor Store), which at the time was the only place to get a bump to go with your beer. Now, I'm not speaking for all the choir clearly, but I know one temporary member of the group that was roped into singing with the group because I... err... HE was sitting at the bar at the wrong time when a couple of the other male members stopped in to pick up something from the liquor store on their way to meet the group and they talked him into helping them out with the tenor parts. They had a couple of guys to sing those parts, but the more the merrier they exclaimed and the "individual" drawing down the Jack and Coke with his friends was easily pursuaded.
Dad kept the Drug Store open too and ran specials on a few things, but the people that came out from Sioux Falls could still get those same Precious Moments in Sioux Falls at a number of places and the things that were unique to Garretson were few and far between. He stood back and conversed politely with a few different people that would come in and that maybe didn't normally have the time to come into town before the normal closing time of 6 o'clock and they would discuss with dad the good old days of how Johnson Drug used to be THE place to be on a Friday night. Adults and kids alike would come in before or after their movie over at the ECHO Theater across the street. They'd come in and get a Mudball (a scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup on it and rice crispies sprinkled over the top) at the soda fountain or perhaps they needed to grab a pack of gum before sitting in the show on their date.... sweaty palms, slicked back hair to a ducktail and breath smelling of beechnut gum. That's how I picture every boy in the 50's. I have no idea... I wasn't born until 1970. I just saw a few pictures. That's all I have to go by. Oh and I would venture to guess that the girl would be wearing saddle shoes and maybe the boy's letter sweater (if that couple was a serious "thing").
Though the drug store never benefitted too financially from the "Sioux Falls Night" that they held every year for years (and maybe still do), dad did enjoy the idea of exploring options to increase the visibility of the commercial district of Garretson. He worked for years on the commercial club trying to promote the sale of Garretson wares and to intice potential businesses into coming to Garretson. Dad was a man OF Garretson and FOR Garretson... it just happened that "Bob's balloon" was deflated near the end of his time in Garretson. He'd seen too much slip by and too many old friends come and go. He was adrift without a sail (and if he had a sail, there was no wind in it)... when he finally found his out, he took it. None of us held any bad feelings towards dad about it. Oh, we were shocked at first when dad told us that he was selling the store and moving to Sioux Falls, but the shock wore off soon for all of us. It was just such a new concept to us boys.... there would be no Nelsons in Garretson anymore. We'd be resigned to visiting and stopping through from time to time. We've seen people like this... "prodigals"... "former Garretson-ites"... "alumni"... we had all kinds of terms for them. And some of them we knew well: cousins, friends, cousins of friends... most were classmates of our parents or people that had moved out when we were kids. We were always thrilled to see them come back from time to time. We were so proud to show them what time had done for their old hometown. We figured they were in awe... in reality they were probably wondering if ANYthing had even changed.
As a younger child I would be given $20 for Christmas Shopping. I had to get gifts for Grandma O (Viola) and Grandma Gert, Uncle Rolly and Cousin Sara, Chris, Matthew and for Mom & Dad. $20 could go a long way in Garretson in the 70s. I'd typically need to be anonymous, I mean, I couldn't shop at Johnson Drug or Dad and Grandma would see what I got them. So I'd head over to Engebretson Hardware. They had some nice gift-able items that I could get for mom (something for the kitchen), something for the grandmas (for their kitchens), for dad (a tool of some sort... probably something I needed to replace that I had broken or lost), something for Rolly... something funny, a toy for Sara, and a toy or something like that for Chris and Matthew. But that one was trickier. I'd have to stragegize what I could get them that I would be able to play with too. I'd run around the hardware store making a running list of potential things, keeping track of how much each thing cost and how much I'd have left. I wanted to milk every penny out of that $20. I think there were times I bought screws and nails to fill the last of the cents (I'd give those to dad or to Rolly as the joke). Poor Rolly, he was at the short end of many of our gift-giving tricks. I remember for his birthday or Christmas (the same day, by the way) we took at brick and painted "SUCKER" on it. We wrapped it and put it in a box. Then put that box in another box. Then in another box.... and so on... until it was in a large box that barely fit in the back of the station wagon that we hauled over to his house in Dell Rapids when he lived there. It took him forever to get it open and I don't remember him doing anything but laugh. I think he proudly displayed that brick on a shelf for a while. He was always good about joking with us boys. He better have had a good sense of humor, considering many of his gifts were worth 1/6th of $20! lol
I'm just a creative guy that's looking to throw all this spaghetti onto the wall and hope something sticks.