Long before Macy’s and Walmart, many years prior to Twitter ads, Facebook promotions and cyber Mondays, there were Gimbels, Kaufmann’s, Gee Bee and Murphy Marts. And there were Black Fridays — well, that part hasn’t quite changed.
Those days after Thanksgiving when Pittsburgh shoppers race to get best deals were in business at least 50 years ago. The testimony is a thick pile of folders titled ‘SHOPPERS’ which resides in our photo archive, most of them are filled with photos of crowds and crowds and crowds of people with boxes and plastic bags, shopping carts, standing impatiently in lines, their faces, frustrated and at times, exhilarated, their hurried gestures forever frozen by the photo lens.
Black Fridays of the past, based on the photos we found, looked suspiciously civilized. It turns that for many Pennsylvanians it had a cozy spirit of tradition — to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving without shoving people because of that last TV set. Well, that last bit is just a hypothesis.
Because only in America, , as one wise person put it, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have ( these days, to be precise, it’s even less than one day — some stores are opening as early as the evening of the Thanksgiving Thursday).
But back to cozy traditions, in the 70s and 80s, folks from Coraopolis, Aliquippa, Gettysburg and other smaller towns in Pennsylvania came to Pittsburgh on Black Fridays for shopping and also the animated store fronts that could not be found in smaller towns.
“Our kids’ eyes are this big,” said Amy Patterson of Scranton demonstrating the size of a basketball with her hands. She was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1989. She brought her kids to see the holiday sights in Downtown Pittsburgh, just as her mother had done when Patterson was a child.
Jody Stouck, whose two daughters snapped pictures of Kaufmann’s windows with their Instamatic (not to be confused with Instagram) cameras, said that visiting the windows had been a tradition for 10 years. Instamatic cameras, dear modern reader, were easy-to-load cameras introduced by Kodak in 1963.
“Seeing them through their eyes is so much better, said Stouck, who used to visit the windows at Kaufmann’s, Horne’s and the old Gimbels store as a child.
To good old days, folks… Happy Thanksgiving!!