A sister shares her shopping tips: Woodies or Garfinckel’s, please
On Aug. 19, 1960, Connie Scruggs (nee Witul) sat down at her typewriter at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where she worked as a secretary, and composed a letter to her younger sister, Barbara.
Connie was 20, Barbara 17. Connie was enclosing a gift of money and she had very specific instructions on how Barbara should spend it. The letter, which Barbara recently came across and sent back to Connie, is both a model of sisterly advice and a window to Washington’s vanished retail scene.
I found it so endearing that I’m printing it in its entirety:
My dear Barbara:
With the money that is enclosed (so sorry that the amount is so small) you will buy yourself something nice.
You will not buy it at Lerner’s or any other place of that nature. You will go to Woodies, Franklin Simon, Garfinckel’s or Franks and get something that is nice looking as well as being made of a more expensive material. I really don’t care if you spend it on shoes, just as long as they are good shoes that last.
I think that your best bet is a pleated skirt for winter wear. You realize of course that there are enough summer clothes between us to last a long time. Don’t get a sweater to match, but get some blouses of an unusual style. Try for some white blouses, you know that you can never get too many. Farnsworth has a store at 7 corners and they are having a sale. Go in there and see if you can’t find some blouses that are marked half-price.
If you want to get a pair of shoes then go in Woodies and buy a pair of Spaldings. Really sharp.
I better close because Mr. Morrison has dictated some letters and he wants them typed.
I will be waiting to see what bargains and good looking clothes you bring home.
Remember you should always have quality not quantity.
Also go through your clothes and list them and then try to pick what you need. Remember you need a sheath for Church and parties.
Your loving sister,
“I can’t believe I was that bossy,” Connie said when I called her. She lives in Arlington and will turn 75 on the Ides of March.
Longtime Washingtonians will remember the stores she recommended, all of them now vanished: Woodies, Garfinckel’s, Farnsworth-Reed.
What were Spaldings?
“Black-and-white saddle shoes, with red soles,” Connie explained. “If you were in, which I never was, you bought Spaldings.”
Barbara lives in Leesburg now. Connie said her sister can’t remember what exactly she bought. Regardless of her purchases, those tips are as wise today as they were 50 years ago.
Yes, that was me one evening last week standing at 23rd and M streets NW, patting my coat, sick with the dawning realization that the cab from which I had just alighted was speeding away with one of my gloves inside.
I now have only a left glove left. I am moved to commit poetry:
“Ode to a Glove”
I wore you in the winter, mostly.
You kept my digits warm and toasty.
Tangoing, they say, takes two.
And so it was with me and you.
We were once a perfect pair.
Until the day that you weren’t there.
Goodbye, hand-heater; adieu, right glove.
Farewell, five-fingered leather love.