Your RDA of Irony

My RDA of Nostalgia

So the Sears Tower is now to be called the Willis Tower.  I am not saddened or angered that the Chicago landmark has been renamed for a British investment firm that is renting three floors of the skyscraper.  (But I am surprised how comparatively cheap is the price of fame.)  No, my personal sense of Chicago history was already shattered when Macys annexed and renamed Marshall Field.


Marshall Field was more than just a department store. It was an institution almost as old as Chicago itself. The Great Chicago Fire put on a crimp on sales, but the store obviously recovered. In the subsequent reconstruction, the building would become a landmark of the city, as much a palace as a store. It encompassed a city block in the center of the loop, imposing and beautiful. The interior was just as majestic. The store was neoclassical– if only the Romans had elevators. It was built around an atrium, and its ceiling was crowned with dazzling mosaics–a firmament of gold and blue. If Marshall Field didn’t quite overshadow the Columbian Exposition, the store was still on the itinerary of any visitor.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
But Chicago’s feeling for Marshall  Field was not an austere reverence but a warm affection. During the holidays, the store’s display windows were one of the delightful traditions. Some fable or fairy tale would be charmingly portrayed. Every Chicagoan has a personal memory of the old store. I can tell you how much the young Eugene loved the toy department. It had an unequalled display of toy soldiers.

Marshall Field was also the standard for service and quality. It wasn’t enough for the YUPPIE Eugene that he wore Hickey-Freeman suits. Those were Hickey-Freeman suits from Marshall  Field, a double hallmark of distinction. (Of course, I would buy them on sale.)

You can tell how much I still love that old store; but it has not been that store in years. Marshall Field changed owners and character; only the name and memory remained. And now the name is gone.   And yet I–and most Chicagoans of a certain age–will always know that store by its traditional identity. We may shop at this new Macys and call it that name as a grudging courtesy to the sales clerk, but we really will be thinking Marshall Field. 




 p.s.  And let’s not forget the historic significance of this day:
  1. Leah says:

    Well, I will always call the Sears Tower the Sears Tower. I got engaged there. We were walking around the Loop; my suitor was looking for a romantic setting in which to say the requisite “Will you marry me?” and suggested we might go for a carriage ride. Feeling as I do about proximity to horses, and not knowing his motive for such a suggestion, I replied, “I’d rather be dead.” Since he was willing to accept this and other idiosyncrasies of mine too numerous to mention, he suggested we go to the top of the Sears Tower. Being in a building while looking at other buildings being a more congenial setting for me, it was there that he asked me and there that I accepted. At the Sears Tower.

    Do they still make Frango Mints?

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      So, if you had been afraid of heights, the two of you might still be looking for a place to propose.
      “Do you like hockey?”
      “I prefer my gladiator brawls in Latin.”
      “How do you feel about Chinese food?”
      “Chopsticks are China’s leading cause of famine and splinters.”

      Frango Mints once were made on the premises of Marshall Field. Then one of the corporate overlords discontinued the product line. You can imagine that there was a popular outcry, with sympathetic news about the plight of the fired candymakers. The corporate board eventually decided to bring back “Frango Mints” but outsourced their production. So don’t be surprised to find Malaysian cuticles in a box of the candy.


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