We would all gather at the house, starting sometime around lunch on Christmas Day, for dinner, fun, and presents. There were quite a few of us as it included my mom, her two brothers, spouses, their kids, and my Grandpa and Grandma Howard. The time period was the early to mid eighties, and as the youngest of the kids (at that time) I was already ready for presents even before the chocolate pie had been served (and if you have never had chocolate pie, then YOU HAVE NOT LIVED A FULL LIFE).
My Grandma Howard was known as Margie to friends, Grandma to us, Mom to my mom, and at Christmas- Gift Wrapper Extraordinaire. Seriously, people, if you didn’t invest in 3M industries (makers of Scotch Tape) in the early eighties, you missed out on a gold mine. Because my Grandma didn’t really want to see your joy at opening the gift, see wanted to see your sweat and toil in trying to to get through the tape and to the actual gift. And you couldn’t tear at the paper, OH NO NO NO, my grandmother was a child of the depression and EVERYTHING that could be reused was. So if you began to tear the paper, she would stop you with “YOU’RE TEARING IT! It’s pretty and I want to use it again!” So you would stop and reevaluate how to get the wrapping off, through the mile of tape, without ripping it. So hard was the task before you that there should have been a prize for this. (And I don’t know that I actually saw any of that wrapping paper reused…oh, Grandma, you sly dog, you).
Assuming you got through the paper, the box would tell you if you Christmas was going to be good or not. Because the first person to spot the distinctive gold stripes around the edges would shout “BACON’S BOX!” What is Bacon’s you ask? Well, it was one of those classic anchor stores that resided at the mall. They have been replaced with Macy’s or Nordstrom’s and in the case of the Bacon’s in Louisville, a Needless Markup, but for 95 years, Bacon’s reigned supreme in Louisville, KY.
(In one memorable location, it sat at the opposite end of the Lazarus department store. Did anyone else think that it was funny that a store named after a dead Jewish man was down the mall from a store whose name meant tasty fried pork strips. Just asking.)
When you bought clothes from Bacon’s they put it in a box for you. This box was white with the Bacon’s logo on top, and around the sides were one-inch gold stripes. There was no other box like it, and as an 10 year old, I can assure you that it was the last thing I wanted to see when I opened a gift. It meant one thing: clothes. Yuck. The adults however were different. To see the box meant that their mother had bought them new clothes, something that I’m sure reaffirmed that ‘mom loves me’ feeling. So for some the Bacon’s box meant good presents for other it meant just plain old clothes. Again, my grandmother was the thrifty sort (as mentioned above), and after a few years had quite a collection of Bacon’s boxes. So the cries of “BACON’S BOX!!” became more numerous as the years wore on, even though they were stocked with socks from Dillards, a sweater from Penney’s, or, in the case of my sister, a sheared lamb’s wool vest that she just HAD TO HAVE! Even I, who still wanted toys, got faked out a couple of times with the distinctive box.
Of course the years moved on, my Grandpa developed Alzheimer’s and had to be put in a nursing home, and my Grandmother moved into a tiny apartment to be closer to him. My uncle divorced, remarried, and had another child very late in life, my other uncle also married again and moved across the river to Louisville. My mom even married again and move to Illinois. The Christmas tradition had been broken. But now, when we look back and think of those times and the great Christmases we had, we always remember that box and even now in unison we will yell “BACON’S BOX.”
For those from Louisville here is a great link about vintage Louisville Department Stores.