I don’t know when malls came to be, maybe my family just never went to them when I was younger. We didn’t need malls or supermarkets. We had lots of local stores around for everything we needed to buy. We got bread at the local bread store, “Giangrasso's.” We got groceries at the local grocery store, owned by Irving and his wife. We got cold cuts at the local deli, “Meatland.” We bought or fruits and vegetables at “Valentino’s." Our pastries always came from “Circo’s,” and even today, on special occasions, my brother will go back there for them. And we had a fish store, barbershop, beauty parlor, hardware store, appliance store, pharmacies, butcher shops, a linen store, men’s and women’s clothing and shoe stores, and last but not least a toy store called “Morris“ (before Toys R Us came into being). Everything anyone would want could be found on Knickerbocker Avenue.
About the age of ten I started getting an allowance of fifty cents a week. So did my brother. We never spent a penny, but saved it up all year long. By the time it was Christmas we would have close to fifty dollars between us. Around that time too, we started to appreciate the joy of giving gifts at Christmas time and decided we would use all our money to buy gifts for our parents and a couple of aunts and uncles who spent the holiday with us. We would make up a gift list. The list would look something like this: new hat and belt for dad, a nice kitchen radio for mom, gloves for my aunts, and a scarf for my uncle.
Of course we could not go out alone and shop. My brother is younger than me and I don’t think I was even allowed to cross the street yet. So after dinner my mother would take me on Knickerbocker Avenue to get all the gifts on my list. I really enjoyed shopping with my mom. I remember one year it had snowed a lot and the weather was very cold. We bundled up good and went Christmas shopping. We went in and out of several stores that would have the items on my list. As we walked, my mother would always meet someone she knew and stop and chat a few minutes while I froze in silence. Even though I was wearing my winter boots, my feet were frozen and they hurt. I complained to my mother that it was hard for me to walk. She took me into a little alcove in front of one of the stores, took off one of my boots at a time, and tried to warm my feet by rubbing them. It was a temporary fix. It got me back on the road to shopping and home again. When I think back and remember that night, I wonder how many mothers would have come up with that idea and actually do it? It taught me something sweet about my mother’s love (and it also taught me to make my girls always wear two pair of heavy socks, under their boots, when it snowed!).
That was when we learn how much fun it was to buy gifts and wrap them to give them away. After that first year we continued to save nearly all our money every year so we could buy gifts for our family at Christmas. The gifts were nothing special and fairly inexpensive, but the love and thought behind them was immeasurable.