December 17, 2009
Downtown at Christmas, then and now...
Maybe it's the energy crisis, or perhaps a trend toward minimalism, but we were intrigued by two pictures showing Downtown in its Christmas finery half a century ago.
The two photos from the late 1950s show Main and Sixth Streets dressed with garlands, bells and stars. The pictures were sent to us by Gerald Karwowski from the Oak Clearing Farm Collection. Karwowski says the photographer chose a quiet time to take the pictures, possibly a Sunday night.
We thought it would be interesting to compare the streets' appearance then to the present -- although, of course, the comparison is unfair.First, the city's big and beautiful Christmas tree is out of the frame, in a different part of Monument Square, Second, we took our pictures Wednesday night, about 10 p.m. Most importantly, says Karwowski, "During December in the 1950s the streets of Downtown swelled with thousands of people out Christmas shopping." And why not? "At the time, J.C. Penney, Sears, Racine Dry Goods, Zahn's, Thrifty Sandy's and Mohr-Jones were all anchor stores. Elmwood Plaza had just opened and the mall was still a dream."
Karwowski also has fond memories of Sixth Street. On the corner of Sixth and Monument Square, was Fanny Farmers -- "Their fudge was the best in town." That corner is now occupied by Payday Loans. 'Nuff said.