Someone once said that “Christmas, children, is not a date; it is a state of mind.”
No where was this more true than in Columbus, Ohio, at the Lazarus Department Store. The annual unveiling of the store front windows on High Street brought delighted children and their equally enchanted parents. Those store windows became part of a Christmas tradition: “Let’s go down and see the Christmas windows!” Visiting Santa at Lazarus was equally a tradition. Perhaps it will be at Christmas that the citizens of Columbus will most grieve the loss of this store.
“Oh, man, Christmas at Lazarus was a true celebration,” says Rick Linville, who has been coming to the store since he was a child. “It was the most exciting time of the year for us.”
The Lazarus toy department sales staff, which usually consisted of seven or eight associates, grew to 140 after Thanksgiving. The Talking Tree greeted children as they made their way to see the Jolly Old Man. “If there were Santas anywhere else, they were pretend,” insists Jean Harkless, a long-time customer. “This was the real one.”
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We are indebted to several institutions for sharing the wonderful images that bring this story to life: The Ohio Historical Society, WBNS, and The Columbus Dispatch. In addition, we are grateful to The Columbus Foundation for supporting this production.