Listening to the radio, you eavesdropped on Happy Holly’s conversation with Santa and tracked his movements with Rudolph and the other reindeer as all dashed from the North Pole and soared toward San Francisco. Without warning, Dad turned off the ignition and escorted everyone toward a magical toy store. You strolled a block from Union Square to Stockton and O’Farrell where a human toy soldier, dressed in a tall purple hat, greeted you with a stiff wave before your family entered FAO Schwarz (located in S.F. since the late 1960’s). Oversized stuffed animals showed their stitched grins along with Humpty Dumpty who sat with an uncertain expression on a rung of a giant tower, which stretched to the second floor.
A fixture back East since 1862, the store always showcased the latest thrill. On this day, you tap danced across a replica of the walking piano featured in the Tom Hanks film Big. Next, you checked out the price tag of a Barbie Foosball Table. Too many zeros to count at $25K. After unloading from the escalator, your eyes went wide at the sight of the Muppet Whatnot Workshop. You joined the other kids and assembled your very own cloth creature with specialized facial features, hairpieces and outfits. On the way out, you sugar-upped in grand style. As you sat in the backseat of the family station wagon on your way home, the tinny voice of Happy Holly melded with dreams of sugarplums and candied bears and fudge and Jawbreakers. Merry Christmas. Note: FAO Schwarz S.F. closed in 2003.