We have a GPS system. We call “her” Gertie. Her name is Gertrude, but, we have come to know her as Gertie and, generally, we get along fine, though we have had a few tense moments and Gertie has had to have a “time out” a couple of times. We don’t employ Gertie often, but, she has come in handy on road trips and unfamiliar destinations. Our only real issue with Gertie is that she cannot get us back to our house. She does find our road, but not our house.
Was it something we said – or the way we yanked out her chord?
I was thinking about our GPS while Christmas shopping. Actually, I was thinking about Sears and navigational systems. For those of you not familiar with Sears, short for Sears, Roebuck & Company, it was one of the first mail order catalogues, then department stores, in the United States and at one time one of the best known retailers, selling everything by catalogue from Long Johns and corsets to houses. Actual houses could be ordered and mailed, in parts, to the appointed location. There are still some Sears houses standing in the Chicagoland area. Sears was a valuable shopping resource, particularly to rural areas, where folks could not easily get to large towns to shop.
Then, there was the coveted Sears Christmas catalogue, which would arrive in the mail and quickly be swept up by young hands eager to circle or star Christmas wishes. Round and round the pencils would go, circling a Tiny Tears doll or shiny, red sleds. It was a wish book and I am sure many of you remember its arrival. How many of you also used catalogues, Christmas and others, to cut out your own paper dolls?
What I was thinking about was the Sears store on Harlem and North Ave. in Elmwood Park, which still stands on the northeast corner. We would pile into our yellow and white Chevy Bell Aire and wend our way to Harlem Ave., then head on north to Sears. On hot summer days with the windows open or cold winter mornings, always on a Saturday for we had only the one car and Ma didn’t drive, off we would go for something needed from Sears.
This was a relatively modern Sears, built in the late 50′s. It was at least three stories high, had a basement, and offices in the rear of the building, where a large parking lot was located. A quick right hand turn just after the stoplight on this busy corner took us into the parking lot and that is where the magic began. No matter the weather, the driver window (and whatever else we could get away with) were rolled down and we would take our place in the queue of a usually long line of cars, listening, carefully listening, as Daddy inched forward. Suddenly, there she would be, the magical, melody voice from above, loud and clear with a clarion call to “the yellow, two door, Chevy, license plate number (whatever), continue to the end of the row, now, turn left and left again, keep going, a few more spaces, you have arrived at your parking spot”.
It was magic, I’m telling you, pure magic.
There was our space, waiting for us. A coveted parking space waiting for our yellow, Chevy sedan. Out we would climb, Daddy locking the car doors with his key, and I would peer up into the windows trying to find the magic lady, the fairy finder of selected spaces, the pleasant, unseen lady who would guard our car until we returned. Off we would go to do our shopping, knowing our car was safely corralled, like the horse and buggies on Gunsmoke or Bonanza, as we wandered into THE mother of all general stores.
I wonder if our pleasant navigational lady at Sears, who never snarled, in a computer generated voice,“turn left, turn left, recalculating, recalculating” , was also named Gertie.