Downtown and Christmas Memories

by J.c. Paustian from Just Act Natural

I wrote this blog two years ago, but it’s worth repeating:

If you haven’t been downtown in a while, I would take a look-see. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the diversity of businesses that now exist on this one-mile stretch of College Avenue.  Are there vacant buildings?  Yes, there are, but Appleton Downtown, Inc. is diligently working on that.  It’s not an easy task, especially with obstacles like the economy and parking standing in the way to start a new business.

Several of our customers have heard me bring up the story of my childhood memories of coming downtown.  I’m going to rehash it here once again, so forgive me if you’ve heard this story before.

200 block of College Ave., downtown Appleton December 1972 Post-Crescent photo


As a kid it was a big deal to hop on the Valley Transit bus and come to downtown Appleton, especially at Christmastime.  My brothers and sister had great memories visiting downtown during the holidays, checking out Prange’s, Gimbels, Sears and other smaller stores that had Christmas decorations in their windows (picture the scene from the movie A Christmas Story where Ralphie is transfixed by the Red Ryder BB Gun and other animated Christmas toys in the store windows.  That was me, only this was from the mid- to late-‘70’s.)  And, we can’t forget about Bruce the Spruce, the talking tree inside Prange’s.  Seeing him was a combination of excitement and terror.


Avenue of the Angels, downtown Appleton, December 1973 Post-Crescent photo.


Now that my wife and I have our very own store downtown, I hope to bring back at least a slice of that Christmas magic to kids in the area.  I got a glimpse of that this morning before the store opened.

Avenue of the Angels, downtown Appleton December 1972. Post-Crescent photo.


One of our decorations in our window is a snowman holding a stick with marshmallows roasting them over a campfire, and the stick moves up and down.  Well, nearly every morning, a group of tots from the YMCA stroll down the avenue all roped together like a Mt. Everest exploration team.  As I was vacuuming the front area, the first child noticed the snowman, then a second one and before I knew it, all of the kids were huddled around our window watching the snowman roast his marshmallows.


December 1973 College Avenue Post-Crescent historical file photo.


It was a beautiful scene and watching their little faces and listening to their “oohs” and “aahs” immediately took me back 30 or 35 years.  I think I got back that slice I was looking for.

So come and check out not only our store, but the other mom and pop stores downtown and support these local businesses by doing your Christmas shopping in a relaxing atmosphere.  Remember:  “Peace and love, not of push and shove!”

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