These photos are of me and my sister on Santa's lap at the Milwaukee Gimbel-Schusters store (ironically now Macys), about 1957. Have you ever seen such an awful Santa beard? I'm sure I thought this was the real Santa item at the time. I don't remember much about that day except the excitement of it all. My grandmother and mother got us girls train tickets, and we rode from Elkhorn to downtown Milwaukee. Gimbels had extravagant displays, and a toy department that was heavenly to a little girl. I remember going to a movie on that trip, the 1957 re-release of Bambi. I haven't had the nerve to watch it since. All that remains in my dim memory is a cavernous movie theater, and the forest fire that kills Bambi's mother.
This is still two years before my mom and grandma went to Milwaukee without us to shop for the hottest new toy, Barbie. Years later Mother told me that Grandpa was not pleased that we were getting the curvy doll instead of a more age appropriate Madame Alexander or Miss Revlon. I wish I knew what happened to that number one Barbie. I suspect her final resting place is our local landfill.
One more story about 1957. I was six, turning seven right after Christmas, and I still believed in Santa. Maybe it isn't surprising, since I started school the next year (no kindergarten for me), and I was the oldest child. There were no older spoilsports in my life, but I wasn't completely innocent. I had my suspicions about those Christmas morning piles of Santa gifts. This particular year, though, something happened to make me believe a little longer. We had a herd of dairy cows, and Christmas Eve they broke out of their fence and left Holstein hoof prints in fresh snow - that's what Dad told me much later. When I looked outside that day, there was the evidence of Santa's visit, trampled snow around the farmhouse. I believed for one more year.