If you’ve read Finding Thalhimers or attended one of my lectures, then you already know how devoted I am to recording the history of Thalhimers so it isn’t lost forever. So it is with enormous pleasure and pride that I announce the birth of a new Thalhimers book: Thalhimers Department Stores by Emily Golightly Rusk (Arcadia Publishing, 2014). It’s part of Arcadia’s Images of America series, which preserves local and regional histories using archival photographs, so each book is a vivid walk down memory lane.
My dear friend Emily Rusk spent years piecing together the history of Thalhimers, and — much like in ballet — her painstaking work pays off in the effortless beauty of this book. Each deliciously vintage image and its caption allows readers to peer through a window into a different part of Thalhimers.
Thalhimers Department Stores includes these tidbits and many, many more…
- Did you know Thalhimers had showers for its shoppers in the downtown Richmond store?
- Did you know a series of Surrealist window displays at Thalhimers paid homage to Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali in 1948?
- Did you know Thalhimers had a pet shop in the 1960s?
- Did you know that there was a tiny train for Thalhimers’ youngest customers on the roof of the downtown store in the early 1950s?
If memories of Thalhimers spark any sense of nostalgia for you or your family, then you’ll want to add this book to your collection. Buy a copy from your local bookseller, order one online, or pick one up anywhere Arcadia books are sold (I see them at Barnes & Noble all the time). I couldn’t be prouder to have Thalhimers Department Stores on my bookshelf! Sending enormous gratitude and respect to Emily for birthing this book. Thanks, Emily!
All photos reprinted with permission from Thalhimers Department Stores, by Emily Golightly Rusk. Available from the publisher online at http://www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling 888-313-2665.
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In October of 1964, Thalhimers held a storewide, 12-day celebration of Italy. It was a dramatic event of epic proportions that was 2 years in the planning. The downtown Thalhimers store featured a large re-creation of the Ponte Vecchio, Italian hairstylists and designers held court, an Italian glassblower, ceramist and wood carver were flown in from Italy to demonstrate and sell their crafts, exhibitions included everything from manuscripts from the Middle Ages to a Vatican stamp collection to photographs of Michelangelo, a Pinocchio puppet show and “Casa Bambino” shop catered to children, Fiat cars were on display in the Men’s Department, Italian films were shown in the auditorium, each department sold Italian fashions and imports from Florentine stationary to leather gloves, every day the local paper featured full-page ads and editorials with Italian art, the Fine Foods Shop was turned into an Italian Bottega with espresso, pastries, and gelato, one of the window displays was turned into a pizzeria, and even the Richmond Symphony brought in an Italian conductor to perform classical Italian music from Rossini to Respighi. To top it off, one lucky winner (Mrs. Margaret Poindexter – anyone know her?) received a trip to Italy!
In honor of what Thalhimers did to celebrate Italy, my grandfather was presented the “Cavaliere Ufficiale” order of merit medal from the Italian Republic. He was always very proud of this honor.
Here’s the coolest part of this story…as part of the celebration, Thalhimers sponsored the “Ambassador’s Ball” (held to honor the visiting Italian ambassador and his wife) and all proceeds went to the Crippled Children’s Hospital, now known as the Children’s Hospital. Tonight is the 50th anniversary of that ball, and 730 people are expected to attend in support of the Children’s Hospital. Over the years, the event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the hospital.
In honor of the magnificent work of the Children’s Hospital and in loving memory of my grandparents, I have donated copies of Finding Thalhimers as favors for the guests of tonight’s ball. Bravissima Italia…AGAIN!
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People often share stories of unearthing forgotten Thalhimers items while cleaning out their attics, basements, closets, or their parents’ or grandparents’ houses. Mary Almary, a member of one of the book clubs that invited me to be a guest, just sent me a couple photos of some eyeglasses and a sweater she found while cleaning out her parents’ house. She remembers her father wearing the red sweater often.
What Thalhimers items have you come across? What memories do they hold?
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A friend and former Thalhimers associate (who works at the fabulous local shop J. Taylor Hogan) reached out to me with the following question. Her friend owns a dress that was purchased by her aunt from Thalhimers. The dress tag says “Thalhimers French Room” and she has the original dress bag.
I have my own guess at the date of this dress. What do you think?
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I was planning to give this old security badge to my dad for his birthday, but it makes too cool of a necklace! I happen to be 37, so it’s particularly appropriate. Thank you, ebay! And thanks to Thalhimers Security Officer #37, whoever you are. I’d love to hear your stories…
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Last month, I went to New York City with my daughter Lyla, parents, sister Katherine, and two of my nieces. We took a carriage ride through Central Park, sipped frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, and made the requisite little-girl pilgrimage to The Plaza to see the portrait of Eloise. But the reason we were there was far more important than being tourists in the big city. We were there to attend the opening of an exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage entitled “Against All Odds: American Jews and the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees, 1933-41.” Among other stories of heroic Americans who went to great lengths to save the lives of total strangers, the exhibit included the story of Gramps (William B. Thalhimer Sr.) and Hyde Farm.
About a year ago, I helped curator Bonnie Gurewitsch with piecing together this story. While newborn Ethan cried and the dog barked at the UPS man, we spread out lots of archival materials and she chose the ones that best conveyed who Gramps was, what Thalhimers was, and how Hyde Farmlands came about. With the help of Bob Gillette and several Hyde Farmlanders and their children, the story was condensed into a single display involving various artifacts, photographs and documents. And, much to my surprise, the display is punctuated with an enormous photograph of Gramps sitting behind his desk at Thalhimers in 1938.
I lost my camera on the train home (NOTE: now no one will believe me when I say that I had my picture taken with Dr. Ruth at the exhibit opening), so I don’t have any personal pictures to share. Fortunately, a kind journalist from the Downtown Express of Lower Manhattan sent me the following photo of me, my dad, Katherine, and the daughter of the late Werner “Tom” Angress, one of the amazing Hyde Farmlanders. I am so glad to have this one photo to remind me of how grateful my family and I are to have represented Gramps and his brave work to save lives when few others stepped forward to do so.
After 75 years of virtual silence, the story Gramps kept quiet is now being told in a stunningly beautiful way. Visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage anytime before Spring 2014 and see it for yourself.
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