Robertson’s was the big department store in downtown South Bend when I was growing up. It is firmly wedged in my memory, to the point where I still dream about it sometimes. My favorite part was the mezzanine. The book department was on your right as you went up the stairs, and on the left was a luncheonette that served things like club sandwiches, which seemed terribly exotic to me. There was also a bargain basement, with cheap clothes and such, in contrast with the more opulent fare upstairs.
This catalog makes Robertson’s seem much more fancy than it actually was. Certainly the cover line “The store of a million gifts,” was an exaggeration. But I used to linger over each page to deliberate over which item I would choose, given the option. Except the yard of cheese—I got away from that as quickly as possible. Here’s a sample of the delights within.
Look in the upper right. How long has it been since a mantilla was an indispensable element in anyone’s wardrobe? When I was a kid, it was a major sin for any female to go to mass with her head uncovered. Just before we left the house on Sunday, we would all grab mantillas. My mother kept a bunch of them in the drawer of her night table, mostly black lace, some with gold thread woven in. They were awfully fancy and delicate, and I can’t believe we took them so casually. She would secure them with bobby pins and off we’d go.
Here’s something for the guys. Double-breasted pajamas! Kimo-jamas! My favorite is the Red Devil Nightshirt, though, for its understated naughtiness.
One of the hallmarks of this era was the named polyester. It wasn’t just easy-clean, wrinkle-free synthetic fiber, it was Dacron or Orlon or some other varietal. Apparently people wore this as a badge of pride.
Here’s a glimpse into the dream kitchen of the avocado epoch.