Waiting for Satisfaction at Harvey’s Department Store

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As fall turned quickly into winter, people all across the state hurried to switch on their heat and immediately started complaining about how cold it was. Forgetting that we just had one of the hottest summers in a long time, most of us reverted back to our usual selves of not being satisfied and seeking the need to gripe about something. We are either too hot or too cold, too fat or too thin, too tall or too short, don’t have enough money, pay too many taxes, work too much – and the list can go on forever. Are we ever going to be satisfied? It didn’t happen with those children of Israel who crossed the Red Sea and got to eat food for just the picking, so I guess we won’t be any different either.

Some of us can remember back when it seemed we were more satisfied than we are today. It was the simple things in life that could make us happy, and you know, I still enjoy simple things. Like homemade ice cream on the back porch, a Nehi grape drink once a week at the country store, peanuts in a Coke, fried chicken or hot-water hoe cakes in a well-used skillet, riding on an escalator for the first time, and lights on a Tennessee cedar Christmas tree on a snowy evening.

All of those things I just mentioned are satisfying things I can remember and some I still try to do as often as possible. The one about the escalator I can remember vividly. My first experience with one of those was in Nashville at Harvey’s Department Store many, many years ago around this time of the year. Christmas at Harvey’s was real impressive to a little farm boy like me. They had real monkeys in a cage and all kinds of decorations. Just being in downtown Nashville was like a trip to another country. I remember my first escalator ride because I was afraid my feet would get caught in the steps, and I would be dragged to my death. Of course it never happened, but it seemed more exciting at the time thinking it could be a possibility.

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A visit to Nashville from our home, only 32 miles away, was an all-day trip that did not occur often. Getting to go downtown and visit Harvey’s was an adventure I will never forget. We really didn’t buy anything, but I can still see that bright shiny staircase moving up and down. Today, we take things like that for granted, but back then, it was a scientific wonder. Simple, but amazing if you had never seen it work before. I have to admit, I still worry about catching my foot and being dragged to my death – or at least making a complete idiot of myself.

I heard a story of a family who never got out too often, somewhat like ours years ago, and made their very first visit to a big-city department store. The father and son were looking around while the mother shopped. They were filled with wonder, just as I was the first time I visited Harvey’s, by almost everything they saw but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and then slide back together again.

With the look of awe in his eyes, the little boy asked his father, “Daddy, what’s that?” The father, never having laid eyes on an elevator before, answered, “Boy, I’m not sure. I ain’t never seen anything like that in my entire life.”

While the boy and his father stood there, an older lady in a wheelchair rolled up to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened, and the lady rolled between the shiny walls into a small room. The walls closed, and the boy and his father saw the small circular numbers above the walls light up.

They watched the lights until they reached the last number, and then they began to light in the reverse order. Then the walls opened up again, and a very nice-looking younger lady stepped out. The father, not taking his eyes off the young lady, said quietly to his son, “Boy, why don’t you go get your momma.”

From then on, that family was never satisfied either. Hope this Christmas your experiences are simple enough that you are satisfied with what you have and never have to wish for an elevator door to open.

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