Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Velma's Journal--December 12, 1931
Needing a break from my grueling final's preparation, I decided to do some Christmas shopping for my family. Now that I am earning a side income, I feel obliged to repay those who have shown me kindness and love in the past.I also had it in my mind to find little gifts for Dottie and Sarah even though Hanukkah ended for her two days ago. Both have helped to make New York City feel a bit more like home for me during these past three months.
I have heard Abby say that the only places worth shopping in New York are either Bergdorf Goodman or Saks Fifth Avenue. I'm sure I can afford neither, but I thought it would be fun just to take a trip downtown by myself and see what treasures I could find. So I rode the IRT downtown to 50th street and walked across to Fifth Avenue. I was told that both stores were within walking distance of each other, Saks Fifth Avenue being on 49th street and Bergdorff Goodman's being on 58th street. Once I reached Fifth Avenue, I noticed the towering Sak's which stood with its rigid canopies and faux columns like a giant gift box under St. Patrick's Cathedral. What grand sights to see standing next to one another. When I walked through the doors, I was amazed by what was on the other side. Like Alice stepping into Wonderland, I was in another world, one that was completely unknown to me. The smells of perfumes and powders immediately caught my nose, as my eyes spied these giant trees that wrapped up the columns of this marvelous room. There were white lights wrapped around every branch which made the store look positively magical.
Wandering around, I noticed that many people where looking, but not buying much. . Walking through the women's department I saw a rainbow of cashmere scarves lied out on a mahogany table. I just loved the look of them and decided that I would purchase one for Dottie and one for Sarah, and green since all three of us love the color green. My mother's favorite color is blue, so I picked a blue one for her. Then I went and bought simple pins that suited the personalities of each of the women. A diamond shape for Dottie because she is a diamond in the rough, a locket pin for Sarah so she could put a small photograph in there. My mother would a receive a horse pin for when she goes to the races.
I went upstairs to the men's section and decided on silk neck ties for my brother and father. Although the event, rarely presents itself that they would wear them, I thought it would be nice for them to have for holidays and special occasions. When I brought my purchases up to the cashier who, I think, was amazed to see a girl of my age with such expensive tastes. When he rang the total, which I shall not record here, he asked if I was interested in opening a charge account at the store. I told him that would not be necessary. He then asked if I wanted the items gift wrapped and I said, of course. He packaged them and told me to take them to the gift wrapping room on the fifth floor. I did so. I choose different wrappings for each of the the people I was giving, which made the young woman behind the counter less than happy.
When I was through I exited out to Fifth Avenue and saw the most peculiar thing. Directly across the street from the store were heaping mounds of earth behind make-shift fences. There were dump trucks and bulldozers all standing dormant. A sign on the fence read, "FUTURE SITE OF THE JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER CENTER." It went on to say that it was going to be a complex of fourteen commercial buildings. I found the optimism of the sign and the size of the lot odd considering most development has been halted due to the Depression. The stranger sight was a line of men waiting beneath a 30-foot pine tree. It was wrapped haphazardly with garland, as if decorated for Christmas. At first I thought it was another breadline. But then I realized the men were being handed slips of paper. Most likely paychecks by the looks of their faces. Seeing as they had lunch pails and hard hats, I presumed they were being paid for their labor. I can only assume that the Christmas tree was erected in celebration of the work which is so scarce. The Christmas of 1931 would, perhaps, be the best for them. One they would never forget.