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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published December 10 2011

As I Recall: Memories of Fargo’s Christmases past

When I think of downtown Fargo as it was during the holiday seasons of my youth, I remember the big tree at the foot of Broadway glowing with colored lights.

I remember the street lights wrapped in greens and brightly lit. And I remember the crowds of shoppers. Decorations today are not as showy as those I remember.

In 1951, the streets of downtown Fargo were lined with department stores. On Main Avenue were deLendrecie’s and Moodys and on Broadway, J.C. Penney, Herbst and Sears, to say nothing of the dime stores – Woolworth’s and Kresge’s.

Men’s clothing stores included Ted Evanson’s, Fargo Toggery, Shark’s Clothiers, Siegel’s and Straus on Broadway and Hawkinson-Solberg on Main Avenue.

Some of the women’s clothing stores were Shotwell’s Ready-to-Wear on Main and Stevensons and the Mary Elizabeth Frock Shop on Broadway plus the Store Without A Name and Rose Shop on First Avenue North.

At that time, there were not many parking lots, so people took the bus or walked. Remember, in those days families usually had only a single car – if they had one at all.

You could often, near the evening’s end, see the customers struggling onto the bus or hiking down the street laden with sacks of packages.

The stores were only open on Monday evenings until 9 p.m., but during this busy season, they also stayed open on Thursday nights.

A little more than 10 years later, I was among those working downtown on Monday evenings. I worked at Black Interiors, a design studio at 17 S. 7th St., owned by the late Tom Gunkelman. It was a beautiful store, and stepping inside of it almost felt like being in a museum. Tom was the first one to carry contemporary designs, and many of the furniture pieces and accessories in his shop are now shown in museums.

On the nights we worked, we’d cross the street to the back door of deLendrecie’s for dinner in their lower level, or we’d drive over to the Silver Moon Café in Moorhead for a quick meal.

There were also a variety of other businesses – drug stores, furniture stores, a lingerie shop, jewelry stores, fur stores and one toy store. Small cafés and many bars lined the downtown streets where shoppers could stop for something to revive them.

By 1961, malls had appeared on the north and south sides of Fargo, but downtown was still the place to shop. And although there were some catalogs that arrived in the mail, it wasn’t a deluge of them.

It seems to me that the holidays were less stressful than they are today.

I still love going downtown in Fargo, and I am delighted to see new businesses flourish on the old streets that are so familiar to me. It’s changed, as all things do, but it survives.

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com