I was born in Chicago and raised in Evanston, IL. Marshall Fields was a part of growing up. The downtown State Street store, featured in the slideshow, was a destination that took on particular significance at Christmas time. My mother,Madeline Forgue, never learned to drive so our traveling was EL or train into Chicago, whether for The Chicago Symphony, The Ballet or the stop right at Fields. Every year we went to the toy department before the big box stores over came it. Displayed on shelves, a room full of dolls from all over the world, was the first stop.
I rode the escalators holding my mother’s hand and getting a quick peek at each floor as we slide past. Years later, all grown up and living on The North Shore once again, I found myself in tears remembering my mother’s fur coat and the warmth of her hand. Getting lost in the toy department seemed a rite of passage. I had wandered off, but a voice over the loud speaker told me Mrs. Forgue is lost, will her daughter please claim her at the desk. Thank goodness!
There were always train sets displayed on a round table with glass that kept small hands from doing any damage. For a long time I observed the trains standing on tip toes, but the day came when that was not necessary. There was tea in the Oak Room before a spectacular tree and feeling grown up to be seated in such a magical place. The famous Field’s ‘windows’ at Christmas with a different theme each year had mechanical moving parts to the story being told. I was taken to see the windows, I took my children and finally a granddaughter, Chelsea Rose and her mother.
Fields carried maple sugar candy that appeared in stockings. I particularly like the wooden soldier whose head I bit off first. My first English saddle was bought from fields and riding pants and jackets and boots. My parents both shot skeet competitively and their shooting jackets came from the store too. There was a rare book department my father frequented. Unfortunately, I no longer remember the man’s name who my father became friends with.
My daughter bought her wedding dress at Fields, a glorious thing it was. A designer name and tiny seed pearls came with the dress. Pricey, of course, but this daughter who never asked for anything to speak of would have this dress! Rothchild coats were found in the children’s department. The ones with velvet collars. A Christmas card from the Bush Whitehouse had the children in their Rothchild Coats.
The years took a toll on the shopping experience. The staff behind the counters didn’t seem that interested. You could no longer get Maple Sugar Soldiers. A friend had an awakening when told they were no longer selling Rothchild coats. In high dungeon, she said, “What do you mean? My mother brought me here for my coat and I brought my daughter and I am here today to buy my Granddaughter a Rothchild coat.”
People continue to meet under the Fields clock declaring that Fields’ will never be called Macy’s. People stand and reminisce about growing up shopping at Fields. I hope there was a place in your life that wouldn’t be Christmas without it. The yearly Nutcracker Ballet, a favorite restaurant, neighborhood decorations, your own fireplace. We all share the nostalgia of “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on that.” The Marshall Fields building is not the best of Chicago’s architecture, but once upon a time, not so very long ago, the Field’s children remember when they were small enough to get through the people standing looking at the windows, to see the magical scenes. Today, l follow the Field’s Facebook page.
I write a blog, Mainstreetrockymount.com about preservation, restoration and repurposing commercial and residential architecture. It is the stories that remain within these structures that prompted me to write a Marshall Fields Christmas card. We are now preparing room in our hearts once again for the Christ Child which never changes.
Merry Christmas and Blessings in the New Year, Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin
Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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