Song- I’ts Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Growing up in the 1970’s and early 80’s in the New Jersey suburbs I remember a lot of things about this time of year. Back then you would not dream of decorating your house until after Thanksgiving. Same with the decorations in the towns themselves. Usually the Department Of Public Works in each town would do one final curbside leaf pickup, and you would then see them switch gears and concentrate on putting up Holiday lights and signs. When a little elevation was called for in decorating the town tree (which every town had) or for putting “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” banners over Main Street, the volunteer Fire Department would help out. Now where I grew up, in Demarest, New Jersey we had just a handful of stores-a deli, a pizza place, a liquor store, a stationary, a hair salon, a yarn shop, a bank, and that is about it. Before mall culture kicked in and effectively killed off Main Street we would have to go to neighboring towns like Englewood or Closter that had more of a choice of stores. Actual merchants that specialized in one thing rather than one stop mega stores were the reality. So you had a book store, a music store (Flip Side Records in Closter, how I miss you!), shoe stores, tailors, dress shops, hardware stores and many more. In those days there were also still five and ten shops on most Main Streets, or as everyone more appropriately referred to them, five and dime shops. Before discount outlets this was the place you went to buy household staples at a good price. The one thing all these stores had in common was they all decorated their store fronts for Christmas. For some it was just a simple set of lights around the windows, while others like the five and ten went all out and did window displays. Toys of all types and gadgets for the grown ups were scattered among the artificial tree and snow. Lights twinkled and blinked in red, green, blue and clear. Animated figurines became lifelike. Toy train sets chugged their way through it all, and I could not leave until I followed it around on the complete circuit. It brought great joy, and like a lot of other things we do at Christmas, it often became an annual tradition and you would make sure you went every year. Fans of “A Christmas Story” know the opening scene well, with children excitedly pressing faces against the glass in admiration.
Nowadays though, Main Street is vanishing, and it is harder to find places (other than the big stores like Macy’s) that still do Christmas windows. But occasionally you still see a store that does it up in grand style like the old days. The toys and gadgets have changed, but people still stop and look. Last night I walked past one such store here in my neighborhood that still do window displays year round. Christmas time is of course the biggest and brightest display they do. It was cold and rainy, and as I stood there snapping photographs, and trying to get the best angle and view, occasionally having to wipe off the lens from the falling rain I was struck by how many people stopped to look despite the weather.
Like I mentioned in Part 3 of this Christmas series, it was another moment of calm and peacefulness of sorts in the craziness of Christmas. I noticed a few people who stopped to look go inside the store. I like to think they had never seen the store before and were drawn in by the window display. It reminded me of when I was younger and people did the same thing in small towns. Though I know it will never fully return to that time, I am thankful for occasional reminders like that. Of course music also preserves these types of memories, and the opening verse of It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas touches on all of this quite nicely. I thought about using Bing Crosby’s classic version of this song, but then realized how much I enjoyed Dionne Warwick’s version over the years. So the honor goes to Miss Dionne Warwick for today’s Christmas Soundtrack Of A Photograph.
P.S. Big thanks to my wife for song help on this one!
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas- Written By Meredith Wilson
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