When I was younger I enjoyed a good browse around the shops. I’d often plan a day out either in the Adelaide CBD or one of the larger suburban malls with mum or Naomi or even on my own. There was always plenty to see, even when we had little money to spare we’d play the “If we won lotto” game, choosing what furniture we’d have.
In the millinery department of Myers or John Martins we would have a giggle trying on hats. Mum used to enjoy that too. She also liked going to look at the china ornaments and other giftware where we would admire the Royal Doulton porcelain figures that we could never afford to buy..
We’d go up to the toy department, John Martins was our favourite, especially at Christmas. It was always fun to see all the decorations and visit the Magic Cave even though we were too old to sit on Santa’s knee. You could buy an electric train set from Hornby or Lima or a Scalextric racing car set. I always fancied having one of those. Mum loved looking at the baby dolls too, picking out dolls for the grandchildren that she hoped for and never got. Later, when we started to collect Barbie dolls Naomi and I worked our way round every store in the Adelaide metro area that sold them looking for dolls or clothes we didn’t have yet.
Of course we also shopped for clothes, got our hair done,and browsed in the book and record stores, this was mainly when people still bought vinyl records. I liked to go down to David Jones Food Hall where they had a cookie making machine that always smelled wonderful. They had a gourmet food section that even sold wine. It was the only department store where you could buy alcohol. I never did. I didn’t know anything about wine in those days. David Jones was a very fancy store then. They had marble tiled floors. There used to be a man playing a grand piano on the ground floor every day and at Christmas there was a choir. They didn’t have sales they used to brag, they had “Clearances” twice a year. Clearance sounded more posh then. David Jones bought out John Martins and closed it down. I have never forgiven them for that and don’t like to shop there any more.
Naomi and I enjoyed shopping trips to other cities too. We loved visiting the shops in Melbourne and Sydney. Melbourne had a huge Myer store and for a short time even had an Isetan store which we’d never seen before. The first Borders store we ever visited was in Melbourne’s Toorak and we came home with a stack of books. Sydney had Grace Brothers which was new to us.
Naomi loved the shopping in Singapore the first couple of times she went there too. Singapore and Malaysia were much cheaper then and she bought a lot of toys and Barbie stuff for me.
Yes, shopping, even window shopping, was great fun for us up until the late 1990s.
Now? Not so much. Most of the department stores have either closed or downsized to the point that it only takes a few minutes to look around. I no longer get a lot of pleasure from buying clothes. I’m bigger and the choices are fewer. I rarely see colours and styles that I really like and I don’t go out much so I don’t need a lot. There are still a lot of stores that sell clothes for young people, make up, jewellery and handbags. I wasn’t particularly interested in those even when I was young.
There are still book stores although not as many, but books are much more expensive now. I rarely buy a new one. I know I can either download or find cheap books at Op Shops. Records made way for CD’s and videos made way for DVD’s but now nearly everyone streams so there are not as many of those stores either. Most of the toy stores are gone too. The pink aisle where Barbie lives used to be recognisable in any store that sold her, now I’m lucky to find half a shelf of what I consider poor quality dolls compared to what was around when I was a child or even a new collector twenty years ago. I can’t even enjoy looking at furniture or soft furnishings very often because it’s all either grey or beige. It’s hard to find something I would want to buy even if I did win lotto.
Window shopping is harder because big store windows with interesting displays seem to be a thing of the past. There are so many empty shops too. The new Myer Centre building that replaced the old store was almost empty the last time I was in Adelaide. Myers itself was much smaller and many of the specialty stores had closed or moved.
I know I’m just another old person regretting the loss of something that most young people don’t care about. The days when “going to town” was something to be looked forward to.