Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frances and the girls spend a Saturday downtown

This is not only a fun letter, but a rather historical one, as it catalogs the kind of excursion that is no longer possible in Atlanta: a trip downtown to Rich's department store.

Feb. 10, 1946


Please excuse pencil, but I went out into Bryant's room to fill my pen, left it there and went downstairs.  When I came up, she was asleep.  I am going to write you tonight, pen or pencil!

Bryant had been in bed with a touch of pleurisy.  Her cold has been hanging on for about a month.  It became a deep-seated cough.  She had the doctor come out and he put her to bed with sulfa drugs.  She expects to get up some tomorrow.

Mother's cold is about in the same condition as Bryant's, but she won't go to bed.  She takes cold capsules and keeps on her feet.

I think the cold vaccines the children and I have been taking have helped us.  Father takes them, too.

Yesterday my check came.  I took Margaret, Monty and Emily to town with me to deposit it.  It was Saturday morning and it was raining in torrents. I drove up to Rich's, parked on Forsyth just behind Rich's.  Then the four of us trudged down to the First National Bank under one umbrella.  We went thru the Arcade.  Monty discovered the revolving doors.  She and Margaret started going around in them.  There was one at both entrances -- that made four revolving doors for the round trip.

I took them up to meet Singy's aunt who works on the same floor with Lucile Taylor at the bank.

On our return to Rich's, we passed a man selling bunches of acacia -- lovely yellow frilly bits of color on a drab day.  All of us stopped in front of him and admired the sunlight he had to sell.  Of course, we had to but a bunch of it -- for Bryant, we said -- but I knew all three of us were buying memories of you -- of spring in California and of past happiness.

We bought happiness for several sales girls in Rich's, too.  Three came up and asked us the name of the flower and where we bought it.  When they found out that the man was at the Broad Street entrance to he Arcade, they said they were going to buy some during their lunch hour.

I took the girls up to meet Helen Bauer, a friend of mine who is a buyer for the infants department of Rich's.  Helen's department is on the second floor.  The escalators go up to the third.  After Monty and Margaret had said "Hello...um..." to Helen, they wanted to ride the escalators.  I let them go.

Emily and I discovered some toilet water like you bought her in Carmel -- "Little Lady."  So I bought her some to replace the bottle Carla spilled at Robles.  All this time the others were riding the escalators!  I waited until I saw them going up to the third floor and I called to them.  They turned around and started down the up escalator to get to me!

Finally we got together.  I took them up the stairs (stationary) from the third floor to the sixth to get them lunch.  They were tired enough to sit still until we were served!

They gave the children Br'er Rabbit menus.  The large menus were covered with pictures of the cotton plant.

We started talking about Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and the man who wrote the stories.  Then we decided to go out to the Wren's Nest in West End and see Joel Chandler Harris' home.  So, we did.

When we were driving home, Emily said that she had had a delightful day and that it had seemed more like a day when Daddy was home, because we'd picked up and done something different -- and had fun!

We miss you, darling, and we think about you, and we love you.



Rich's Department Store operated from 1867 to 2005 when it was subsumed by the Macy's trademark.  It started as M. Rich Bros. & Co. and was eventually changed to simply Rich's in 1924.  The large flagship store downtown between Forsyth and Peachtree Streets, where the Gillham family goes in this letter, became part of the Sam Nunn Federal Center in 2005 when the store was closed.

The former Rich's downtown store as it appears today

Joel Chandler Harris was a Georgian writer, editor and folklorist whose first book, Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings from 1880, was a tremendous bestseller and popularized the characters of Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and Br'er B'ar. Uncle Remus' Br'er Rabbit stories were made world famous in the 1946 Disney film, Song of the South.

Joel Chandler Harris in 1880

In 1881 Harris moved into the Wren's Nest, an 1870 Queen Anne-style house located in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta.  He lived there until his death in 1908.  The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places and it is open to the public. 

The Wren's Nest