PHOTO COURTESY BENJAMIN HOOKS CENTRAL LIBRARY
Times have changed. Half a century ago, Santa didn't have to trek back and forth to his workshop at the North Pole when he needed to refill his bag with toys for Memphis boys and girls. And neither did Mom or Dad, looking for that last-minute holiday gift.
Hard to believe, maybe, but back then all you had to do was drive over to the local tire and auto-supply store, and take your pick from an astonishing selection of merchandise.
This December 1940 window display at the Firestone Auto Supply and Service Station, located downtown at the corner of Third and Washington, announced, "Gifts for All." And boy, did they mean it. Just look at the Firestone Super Chief wagons, Stanley tool chests, Teddy Tooter and Woofy Wowser pull toys, boxing gloves, Treasure Hunt and other board games, footballs, basketballs, bowling pins, toy typewriters, toy dump truck, printing presses, and lots more.
The prices cause sticker-shock, but a different kind from what shoppers experience today. A gleaming Red Fox wagon cost just $2.99. Tinkertoys were $1.75, and a super-cool microscope set was $3.99.
So many years later, it's possible that some of these sturdy toys have survived — as cherished possessions handed down over the generations, or as costly items displayed for sale in an antique mall (or listed on eBay). But I'm sorry to tell you that the old Firestone store is long gone. The site today is occupied by the Shelby County Justice Center.
Like this photo? Want to see more? The hard-working staff of the Memphis and Shelby County Room (on the fourth floor of the main library) has arranged a nice display of some three dozen vintage photos showing holiday-decorated store windows and Christmas-day activities, including a few snapshots from Goldsmith's Enchanted Forest. There's even one photo of a cute little kid proudly wearing the brand-new cowboy hat he got from Santa, but I promised I wouldn't say it was Wayne Dowdy.