Guest column/Wishing you an old-fashioned Merry Christmas

The retail store, for me, always has retained a special place in my heart during the Christmas holiday season. I began working as no more than a “Hawker in the Basket,” my first job for Nia and Andy Shutak, who owned the House of Fashion stores in Wellsburg and Follansbee. I then worked at Federmans on Charles Street in Wellsburg for Bernard and Virginia Henry, as well as their sons, Joe and Chuck.

I recall walking down the business district carrying nothing more than my broom and singing the beloved Christmas carol “Silver Bells” in an off-tone voice as the 25th of December drew near.

Growing up, our family went over to Steubenville to the Hub in the weeks before Santa’s arrival, entering from a side door into the men’s department and seeing the gifts that were waiting to be purchased. Then, walking up a few steps, you were quickly in the lobby filled with festive songs and decorated in its best for the yule season. The store motto was “Everything for Every Need.” It was founded in 1904 by two brothers who grew up in Philadelphia, Eugene and Louis Anathan. Their brother-in-law, Martin Bayersdorfer, later joined the business. Simon Anathan married Bessie Frank (1885-1976) in 1913. They had two children, Frances and Jane. The family lived in Steubenville before moving to Pittsburgh in 1947.

I could see the city’s Christmas parade, as many of the employees would stand in the big windows of the Hub to watch. It was a time when a salesperson would help my grandmother and mother in finding the right-sized clothing to put under the tree and to help them select a pair of shows that fit. I recall going into the tea room with a special, “Christmassy” feel — it was a place to be treated like North Pole royalty and enjoy the company of an elf on break while eating soup, salad and crackers.

There were appliances, kitchenware, curtains, china, Royal Dalton figurines, clothing of all sizes, jewelry and, I especially remember, that beloved candy counter. Across the streets, we raced from one five-and-10 to the next nickel-and-dime store with old Jack Frost nipping at our noses. I recall going down a flight of steps and shopping for toys at the end of the block. Then, on to the sidewalk, where the four Traubert children finally ended up in the wonderful world of the Downtown Bakery. We were right in the thick of Christmas baking and loving the smells wafting out of the baker’s oven. There is definitely a feeling of Christmas when the smells of vanilla and sugar fill the nostrils of children.

As a kid, I lived the “Silver Bells” Christmas song. I wish you an old-fashioned winter with pioneer-deep snow and a biting north wind — and a Merry Christmas.

(Traubert is a resident of Wellsburg.)

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