Christmas Shopping Through a Newcomer's Eyes

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I came to this country in the winter of 1964, at the age of eight. And on that very first American winter, my adopted American grandfather took me and my younger brother to The Emporium, on Market Street, in San Francisco. We saw our very fist American Christmas display, met Santa Claus for the first time and sat on his lap. And then we saw our very first American Christmas Carnival, of all places, on the rooftop of The Emporium. We rode a Ferris wheel, tasted yummy corn dog on-a-stick, and fell in-love with cotton candy—a cloud of pink, sugary delight.

Though that night, up on the rooftop, we were chilled to the bone, experiencing our first real winter, to me and my brother the night was pure magic, and we were glad to be living in America!

Image Credit: Allan Ferguson, Flickr

Over the years we often shopped at The Emporium, for Christmas, birthdays, school clothes, or just window shopped when we didn’t have money to spend. Oh, but I remember those basement sales…the women were unbelievably vicious! It was like watching the animal channel; observing a pack of hyenas fighting over dominance or meat. The women were vicious, to say the least; they shoved, pushed, grabbed, yelled, and even slapped one another. The only rule that applied was she who grabbed first or intimidated the best, then the item just might be yours—or if someone tugged and pulled harder, yanking it right out of your hands, then it just might be theirs.

Basically, if you found an item that you really wanted to keep and buy, you ran like fire was lit under your butt. And let me tell you, I learned a lot about the English language hanging around the Emporium basement during those first few years in America. But it wasn’t words my mother and father would have wanted me repeating!

The Emporium was opened for almost 100 years; it will always have a special place in my heart. It was yet another piece of history that closed—it opened in 1896 and officially closed in 1995.


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