Wednesday, October 23, 2019

1949 I visit Filene's Bargain Basement

Our country is at such a low point as I write this and I feel powerless to do anything about it. It seems that the only way I can get some relief is to travel back in my mind to better times. If you feel the same way I invite you to join me.

In1908 when Edward A. Filene came up with the idea of selling surplus and overstocked merchandise in the basement of his father’s department store in Boston it was an immediate success. Filene's famous bargain basement was launched and in 1949 I made my first and only visit there.

Imagine a room with wall-to-wall females of all ages, packed in like sardines and each one vying for the best bargain available. I was 16 and it took all my strength to hold my own against the push of all those bodies. After elbowing my way to one of the tables I was thrilled to see a peach colored cashmere sweater. It was a brand name in my size and at an incredibly good price. I held it high to inspect for flaws when suddenly a hand reached out and snatched it from my grasp. I was so surprised that I didn’t even try to see where it went.

This was not an auspicious beginning and 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.

Now 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. I was exhausted and I realized that both my dignity and my body were bruised. I was glad to say that I’d visited the famous Filene’s Bargain Basement but I never went back.

It is interesting to note that Edward A. Filene not only devised a new way of shopping but he also introduced practices in the workplace that we take for granted today, such as: the 40-hour work week, Minimum wage, Profit sharing plans and Medical Insurance for workers. He was truly a pioneer in his field.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Perhaps we are wrong to think of those times as kinder and gentler.

We tend to avoid these kinds of places and sales.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Marie Smith said...

We need forward thinking people like that man these days! Someone who makes changes to help the average worker.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Although we live fairly close to Boston, I will admit to having been to Filene’s basement. Too bad you missed out on that cashmere sweater years ago.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Goldendaze-Ginnie said...

from my friend Jan:

How interesting!
I grew up with bargain basements to rummage thru, but never anything like what you went thru.
But best of all, it looks like Mr Feline was a smart and kind man.
How wonderful to read about someone who is not a crook for a change... someone who helped other humans and not always looking to line his own pockets.
Thanks for a bit of sunshine today!

6:18 AM  
Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

Do you suppose he is responsible for Black Friday Behavior? I just heard his name recently on a quiz show and nice to get an account from someone who was there.

9:27 AM  
Blogger NCmountainwoman said...

I have heard of that sale all my life. My mother loved that kind of hectic crowd.

8:43 AM  

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