Gracious Gardener's Department Store
Friends of mine shared their Gardner's memories. June remembers Gardner's annual spring fashion shows and what an honor it was to be asked to model for them. A 1947 Union Bulletin article reported that the spring review would feature "the newest in spring creations for the discerning miss or matron" and would be "modeled by a bevy of mannequins, both adult and juvenile." Diane emphasizes that Gardner's wasn't the kind of place you would paw through the merchandise. Instead, the elderly salesladies would bring goods out from display cases for you to consider. A few of the employees were memorable; Betty recalls how during the war--when new silk stockings could not be bought--a lady named Lulu was stationed back by the elevator. Customers could bring Lulu their stockings full of runs and she would mend them. Jodee remembers Ila May, who was in charge of the Yarn Department, and could be found there any day knitting or crocheting. Ila May regularly conducted knitting classes and wore outfits she had created with her needles.
You might not expect that in the same store where you could buy baby clothes imported from Italy and fine leather gloves, you were also able to purchase lamb chops. "Ham Shanks, fine for boiling, Beef Roast, grade A, and fryers, young birds" were displayed on the first floor, but were cut in the basement. A gentleman who works at the bank now told me that the butchers who cut meat down below left gashes made by their cleavers in the floor's supporting posts. The meat and produce areas maintained the same elegance as the clothing departments. White-coated clerks were at your service there. Even as early as 1937, "misters" were in place that kept the fruit and vegetables "fresh and cold." Everyday goods such as canned food, laundry soap, clocks, lamps, and pots and pans were also available at Gardner's. Customers could call in orders--before noon--and have groceries sent to their homes with no delivery charge. Joe Drazan provides us with the 1949 photo of Gardner's and its fleet of delivery trucks.
Walla Walla had Gardner's goods and services available for many years and when the department store closed its doors in 1980, its customers knew it was not likely there would ever be another Gardner's Department Store. The store that provided one-stop shopping in gracious surroundings was sadly missed.