by Brule Eagan
As a small boy in Niles, it wasn’t often we made a shopping trip into Chicago for anything.
Couple of times, I remember Mom dragging me into Marshall Field’s. I remember the elevators tended by human beings who managed to stop the car level with the floor probably seven times out of ten. And looking down into the center of the store was a great treat. She took me to Carson’s once or twice, too. And The Fair (that’s how old I am).
They were great stores with great experiences, but they weren’t Sears.
I’m reminded of this only because the great Sears, Roebuck and Company has finally given up the ghost and called it a day via the bankruptcy courts.
It’s sad, to me, because it used to be such a big deal.
Once again, this is Niles in the 1950s/early ‘60s. The biggest retailer was Pankau’s Rexall drug store on Waukegan at Oakton, just a couple of doors down from the Certified Food Store, which looked like something out of the 1920’s, and was a store we never went into except in case of a dire emergency, which means maybe twice in my recollection. The nearest supermarket was a National in Glenview.
The big Sears we all went to back then was at Six Corners.
It was, to me, a long way to go back then, because it wasn’t in Niles, but then, at Milwaukee and Irving Park Roads, it wasn’t all that far, either.
Anyway, it was a trip into Future-world whenever we went, because the store was in Actual Chicago, and the store was, to me, absolutely futuristic.
In the middle of the city traffic, it was a big, imposing building that looked like it held the Secrets of the Universe. That’s the first thing you noticed.
The second thing you noticed hit you as soon as you walked in.
You could not help but be bowled over by the aroma of roasting nuts at the candy counter. It was just overpowering, and had everything to do with my ongoing craving for cashews. It just made time stand still.
The candy counter was pretty imposing itself. It seemed to take up the entire first floor, although thinking about it now, it probably seemed that big because the aroma just dominated the area.
Mom hauled me to the January and back-to-school sales with the understanding that I was there for some clothes that I wouldn’t wear holes into in three weeks. That meant a trip upstairs.
The Sears at Six Corners had the first escalator I remember. Riding it was somehow calming, especially since it was accompanied by the sound of muffled bells.
Those bells were the signal for some activity — perhaps a shoplifter in dry goods — but I never could crack the code.
After that, it was all a blur. “Try this on” “Do you like the color” “This one has stripes” “You’ll grow into those pants” “No, you’re getting white socks” and on and on until we went back down.
Mom got what she was after, we didn’t get any nuts, and we were back home in Niles in a flash.
Before long, Sears would open a store at the then-new Golf Mill Shopping Plaza, just a couple of minutes from the house. It was beautiful, too, but it wasn’t the same.
It had the aroma of roasted nuts, and an escalator of its own. It even featured a vacuum cleaner hooked up in reverse to keep a beach ball floating in the air, but it didn’t have the vibe. It just wasn’t a trip to Sears.
Doesn’t matter now; it’s all going away for good.
It’s not all about the memories of the store at Six Corners or the store at Golf Mill, it’s also all the shopping experiences that followed.
How many of you bought a Die Hard battery at Sears? I know I did.
How many bought Sears Road Handler tires? I did. They were great. Michelin made them.
My first set of golf clubs were Arnold Palmers from Sears. (I stunk at first. Then, I upgraded to Pings. I still stunk, but I looked better doing it with the Pings.)
My washer, dryer, and microwave are all Kenmore; I’ve had them for years, and they’re showing no sign of slowing down.
And don’t get me started on Craftsman Tools.
I could go on and on.
It’s sad I can’t say the same about Sears.
The store at Six Corners closed for good this past summer, after nearly 80 years.
The Golf Mill store closes in December after 58 years.