1949 … my one and only foray to the famous FILENE’S BASEMENT …
In 1908 Edward A. Filene came up with a great shopping idea. Instead of simply having a clothing sale every once in awhile (as his famous dad had been doing) why not sell the surplus and overstocked merchandise of the department store on a full time basis? A year later Filene’s “Automatic Bargain Basement” opened it’s doors and it was as overnight success.
I was 16 in 1949 when I made a visit to that famous discount store. I remember the long line of frenetic women waiting for the doors to open and then using all my strength to hold my own against the push of all those bodies. Once inside I elbowed my way to one of the tables and was thrilled to see a peach colored cashmere sweater in my size and at an incredibly good price. I held it high in front of me to inspect for flaws & before I knew it a hand reached out and snatched it from my grasp.
This was not an auspicious beginning so I decided to step back and reconnoiter. I saw that the savvy shoppers had large Filene shopping bags. They would quickly scan a table and shove anything that seemed of interest into the bag. When they had their fill they would retire to the end of the room where large mirrors were hung. Then they would take their time inspecting their choices…keeping everything close and out of reach from the other shoppers.
Soon I had the maneuver down pat and, at the end of the day I’d spent very little and had quite a bit to show for it. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it. Even at age 16 I was exhausted and I realized that both my dignity and my body were bruised. To this day, and unlike a lot of my female friends, I have never enjoyed shopping for clothes and I bet it has a lot to do with that first and only trip to Filene’s Basement !