Written by Gino Provenzano
In the 1970’s, twenty dollars went a long way Christmas shopping on Broadway. You could buy presents for your whole family. In the spirit of the season, my grandfather would give me my yearly Christmas allotment of twenty dollars along with orders to buy presents for my parents and anyone else that I had on my list. With twenty dollars in hand, I set out to fulfill their every Christmas wish. My first stop was the Original Hub Discount (long before the days of movie rentals & Keno). I would look through the glass display case at my options. There it was, a big bottle of Jean Nate for my mother. “She loves that stuff,” I would say. It was always on the floor in the bathroom next to the toilet. Obviously, I was innocent to the ways of the world. Little did I know that she was pouring it into the toilet to “freshen things up” as mothers across South Boston were also doing with their oversized yellow and black bottles. She broke this news to me when I was no longer at a tender age and to prevent the need for therapy. Two more purchases in Hub would follow – Ice Blue Aqua Velva for Uncle George and Old Spice for Pa.
I would then head down the other side of Broadway (“Big Broadway” or “West Broadway”) to visit Gorins’ and Sands’. The perfect places for discount prices. A couple of Asian style bamboo roll up calendars for my brother and sister, “Just what they need.” Now, what should I get my father? How about a Scally cap from Bay View Men’s Shop? Too pricey for my budget. No, the answer was somewhere along those squeaky floors, they had everything. There it was, staring me right in the face. Monogrammed handkerchiefs, perfect. They had a little letter stitched in the corner. Classy!
Some years, I would splurge on somebody on my list and I wouldn’t have enough money to finish my shopping. I was ahead of my time. I would “recycle” old gifts, Those bottles of Aqua Velva and Old Spice always look full. I would rewrap and re-gift long before Seinfeld made it famous. The only tell tale sign of my re-gifting would be some crusty old after shave on the bottle’s cap. They’ll never know. Well, with my shopping done and with a few dollars to spare (sometimes), I would venture further down Broadway to look at the Parakeets in Woolworths while eating a grilled cheese from the lunch counter. Now, that’s what I call Christmas.
Merry Christmas everybody!