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Ah, shopping for Christmas in downtown Lima circa 1957

No question about it.

My memories of the best Christmas ever come in a package wrapped from stores located in the Lima square.

I know. It's sounds impossible to viewers born after Neil A. walked on the moon; but it's true.

There was nothing...nothing like going to Lima and shopping downtown for Christmas. Picture this: Somewhere on South Main there was Porter's Music Store. You could actually select a 33 1/3 rpm album, enter a listening booth and listen to the album in privacy. That way you'd know if you wanted to buy it or pass.

There was Kresge's on the corner of Main and High (think CNB today). You could sit at a real-1950s era counter and buy a piece of coffee and a cup of pie for under a buck, maybe under three quarters. Can't remember.

All the major department stores were there...J.C. Penney's, Sears-Roebuck, Montgomery Ward. Who am I missing? (Sam Diller will inform me at today's Christmas eve service).

The Leader, Three Sisters, Greg's were all there. There was a Stechschulte from Grove in The Leader's men's department who alway serviced my dad for all his suits. I grew up thinking that men's departments actually had guys like him. You know, personal service.

Greg's even had elevator operators. Necessary for three floors and a basement. Actually, one elevator eventually became automatic. We always went on the elevator with an operator.

Downtown Lima had more shoe stores than I can name.

Parking? None available. You couldn't find parking in downtown Lima on the Saturday before Christmas even if you shopped early. We usually ended up parking behind Memorial Hall...'56 baby blue and white Mercury, four-door, V-8, AM radio, no seatbelts. two teenagers, one elementary kid (me) and mom and dad. Can't recall if we locked the doors when we got out to shop.

A Niswander, maybe Evan, who grew up in Bluffton and went to school with my parents, had a typewriter shop on High Street.

Back up a sec. The Lima Square wasn't the bricked-in walking area of today. It had parking spots on all four sides. There was a huge Santa in a sleigh pulled by reindeers floating high above the parking spaces, hanging from some sort of mechanism. It was on the north side of the square, as I recall.

Was there a chocolate shop on the northwest corner of the square? You know, next to the theater, was it the Quilna? I know it wasn't the Ranger.

After a brisk day of shopping, we'd tool down Market Street to view the lawn displays of the rich and famous of Lima.

You wouldn't want to head north on Main because after passing the court house because you'd have to cross the double-tracked Pennsylvania Railroad. Pretty good chance you'd be stopped by a train. There were elevated buildings with real people who lowered gates to stop traffic when a train approached. Some trains even carried passengers.

There's more to this tale, but if I told you you wouldn't believe me. Just in case, here's one for the road: coming back from Lima to Bluffton on Route 25 (I-75 didn't exist yet) you'd pass THROUGH Beaverdam. The Dixie Highway took you straight into Bluffton.

That's right...all the traffic went down Main Street.

For me, it was the best of times. White wall tires the width of a man's tie, wheatie pennies, coal furnaces, thus snow"men" with real coal eyes.

Those are the Christmas memories lingering in my mind on Dec. 24, 2009.

What are your memories?