The world was a better place when Wacker's, not Walmart, was the place to buy your stuff, especially at Christmas!
The Wacker's in Norman was on the corner of Crawford & Comanche, sort of round the back from Main Street, in the low rent part of downtown.
It was always busy. You had to park along the street, because there was hardly ever any room in the cramped parking lot out back.
Wacker's had started in the Depression, and the Sales Ladies stuffed it to the gills to get maximum profit out of every square inch of shelf space. There was barely room for a Christmas ornament or two.
The aisles were juuuust barely wide enough for two people to pass. You had to turn sideways and say "S'cuse me" as you brushed past each other.
We always hoped we’d see James Garner there, because everyone knew he shopped at Wackers when he was home from Hollywood for Christmas.
The Wacker's building was originally home to a grocery store and a bank, which explains why the lay-away room was an old vault that had 10-inch concrete walls.
I'm pretty sure the owners never spent much on repairs. When you walked from one cluttered room to another, the tired old floor would literally groan under your weight.
Wacker's could sell their goods so cheap because they bought a lot of them from businesses that had recently gone bankrupt or were possibly on fire at the time.
I don't remember a Christmas in my teens when I didn't get cool Wacker's stuff under the tree.
Levi's? Check. Five-button fly, straight-leg, boot-cut or corduroy, thank you ma'am.
Overalls? Check. Especially the pin-stripe kind you'd wear at Norman High with a tight T-shirt that showed off your football muscles.
Flannel shirts? Just 10 million to choose from!
Levi jackets? Are you kidding me? Yep, complete with Marlboros in the front pocket. What? Yours didn't come with those?
Wacker's was renowned for having the best and cheapest cowboy gear in the Christmas universe.
Most years Santa would bring me Levi’s and a pair of rough-out cowboy boots. By the next December, the heels would've worn clean off and the toes gone all shiny, so it would be time for another pair.
While boots would come and go, a young fella's cowboy hat was forever.
To this day, I get emotional thinking about my Wacker’s Sombrero Superlina ─ a $7 straw cowboy hat that smelled of smoke when I bought it in 1971.
Over the years it developed its own unique look and moulded perfectly to my head, at least until my buddy's '64 Chevy named "Gator" accidentally ran over it.
Wacker’s closed in 2001 because Normanites had abandoned the old downtown area in favor of doing all their shopping, especially at Christmas, at the "marts" out West.
What a tragedy.
(If you'd like to HEAR this story read by moi, here you go. I narrated it for a Christmas podcast done in Canada. Here's the link to my and other Christmas stories. HoHoHo!