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BY THE WAY

Checking out Carsons at Glenbrook inspires a shopping trip into the past

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 12:01 am

My daughter asked what I would be doing during spring break.

One thing, I told her, would be to see the Carson store, which I had not yet visited.

“You’ll like it,” she said. “I’ve been there, and I like it.”

And the old brain started remembering the glorious stores that once were but no longer are. Like the must-sees in Chicago. No trip to Chicago was complete without a stop in Marshall Field’s. And do you remember the Stop and Shop just down the side street? All those marvelous foods, and that included stuff one could take home and have for dinner that evening.

Who ever heard of that?

Now we’re spoiled: I can stop at Fresh Market and pick up a barbecued chicken breast or ready-to-eat shrimp or chicken salad and mashed potatoes and a serving of corn soufflee and any of a variety of salads, plus a wicked-looking pastry and have a delicious dinner without soiling one pot. But this is now and that was then — when the trip to Chicago cost $3 for a round trip.

Why go to Chicago to remember? There on Calhoun Street was Wolf & Dessauer, a department store we Fort Wayners were very proud of.

“The customer is always right,” preached G. Irving Latz to his co-workers.

I know; I was one — sportswear, third floor. Marie Scheffer was my boss. Right next to our department was the fur section, which Sam Lehman guarded fiercely.

Lehman, always a fresh flower in his lapel. And Van Sweringen was his sales lady. We eventually carried ski suits. That was innovative, believe it or not.

Skiing was a sport only the very rich could afford. But little by little, slopes were opening in Michigan and Vermont and more and more people were discovering the thrill of sliding down — garbed, of course, in a newly purchased ski suit made of wool to keep you warm. Nylon was just making its way into our vocabularies and wardrobes.

Ah, yes. Times were changing. Once upon a time it took a mighty hefty stock portfolio to permit a European jaunt. There was the steamship crossing that took days, during which one dressed for dinner, then the glamorous hotels and sightseeing tours and costly venues.

Now school kids can spend six weeks or a semester or a whole school year abroad — and their parents can afford it because airplanes can make it across the ocean in five or six hours, depending on the destination, and “natives” take in your children, helping them improve their language skills and experience a different culture.

The infrequent telephone calls home (because of the expense) have been replaced by every youngster having a cell phone or other method of communicating through which parents in Indiana can “see” their kids climbing a mountain in Switzerland or singing in a welcoming village or standing in front of Westminster Abbey.

Well, that works at home, too, in the United States.

On my desk is a picture Fran sent to me on her phone while she was standing in front of it in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It’s the Sleeping Gypsy, by Henri Rousseau, that has been a favorite since I was in college and saw a replica of it in a book store. When I eventually saw it in New York, it was everything I had known it would be.

Well, I’ve gone from a typewriter to an electric typewriter to a word processor to a computer. We had a car for which, when it rained, we stopped and put up the side curtains; now pushing a button takes care of keeping the rain out.

The ice man hasn’t made his three-day-a-week delivery for decades. So many old names and old ways have disappeared. But they’ve been replaced by some mighty good new things.

Maybe Marshall Field’s neighbor Carson, Pirie Scott and L.S Ayres and other old favorites are gone. But Tuesday I’ll be going to sound out the new Carson.

Time marches on.

Betty E. Stein is a retired teacher in Fort Wayne,