Going shopping with my mother and sister just wasn’t one of my favorite things to do when I was growing up. It felt like it went on forever, and I got plenty of tired of just standing around (though when I was fairly young, it was occasionally possible to get away with playing hide-and-seek with Amy among the clothes racks for a short while). Perhaps the most irritating part about it would be when I thought I was good with whatever shirts or pants I’d just tried on, and here would come Mom, just as I was emerging from the changing room, with something else in hand she thought I might like instead (I’ll confess that she was sometimes right). I didn’t have much patience then, but you know that I’d go back there right now in a heartbeat if I could.
Between the summers of 72 and 76, the three of us would make regular forays into Covington or Cincinnati. The former had Sears, Penney’s, and Coppin’s, which was a local department store. Downtown Cincy had three more area-based stores: McAlpin’s, Pogue’s, and Shillito’s. On those occasions when we crossed the bridge into Ohio, we invariably parked in the Pogue’s parking structure on 4th Street. It was plenty tall but compact enough that it was hard to maneuver around; you’d exit by going down a tight circular spiral in the middle of the garage (amazingly, it remained in use until a couple of years ago). I have strong memories of watching the pneumatic tubes those stores had for dealing with credit purchases, hearing the doorbell-sounding system they had for paging employees (dink-dink—pause—dink—pause—dink-dink-dink-dink), and having to sit in the waiting area outside the “women’s lounge” while Mom and/or Amy attended to business. These were the stores my mother had patronized in the 40s and 50s, and I wonder if she thought shopping at them would ever come to an end.
We’d almost always take I-75 northbound on these trips, and I’m thinking that it was the summer of 74 that the bridges for I-275, a circular beltway around Cincinnati, were being constructed over I-75 just north of Erlanger. I can recall being diverted onto temporary roads just a little to the east of where the interstate runs now so that we could get around—I believe it was pretty bumpy going in places at least some of the time this was going on. I can’t imagine how backed up traffic would be now if a project of that type were being conducted.
For some reason, thinking about having to negotiate that bridge construction brings to mind “Please Come to Boston.” I can only assume it might have been on the radio during one or more of those trips. I heard it frequently during its time on the charts, and I have to admit that I’ve always liked it and the story of devotion and dissatisfaction it told. Dave Loggins reached #5 with his only hit, and that’s where it is on this show.
The doom of the Covington stores was sealed when the Florence Mall, about ten miles south, opened in the fall of 76 (Sears had relocated there a year earlier). Penney’s, Pogue’s, and Shillito’s became the other three anchors at the mall, and McAlpin’s set up a new store a few miles away. I don’t know when Coppin’s closed but I doubt it made it through the 70s (the magnificent seven-story building that housed it has recently been converted into a boutique hotel—they named the restaurant inside after the store). Buyouts of the Cincinnati chains began in the early 80s—McAlpin’s eventually turned into Dillard’s, and after several transactions, Shillito’s became part of Macy’s. Pogue’s at one point merged with Stewart’s, a Louisville-based store, but eventually they crumbled into nothing. (It probably sounds strange, but one of the highlights of wrapping Christmas gifts these years is getting to re-use the boxes we have from all these long-gone stores.)
I’m guessing the folks in my part of the world who are even just a bit younger than I don’t have too many memories of those store names; eventually they’ll all largely disappear from the local vernacular. I suspect that this story was repeated across the US in any number of cities. Nostalgia kinda hurts sometimes, ya know?