Friday, December 18, 2015

32. Happiness Sold Here: TOY STORES OF OUR CHRISTMASES PAST

PUERTA DEL SOL AD, 1911
"Happiness sold here!"
Then, as now, Christmas came early for many Filipinos at the turn of the 20th century. As early as October, leading departments--many clustered along Escolta, Manila's premiere shopping street, came out with Christmas ads promoting all sorts of playthings--from pull toys, dolls and cast-metal mechanical toys.

LA PUERTA DEL SOL TOY AD, 1920s
Along with Estrella del Norte, LA PUERTA DEL SOL (The Door of the Sun)  was one of the more upscale department stores in Manila, carrying a vast selection of imported goods, including toys of the most wondrous variety. It was here that mothers shopped for foreign-made dolls for their precious little girls, of which La Puerta del Sol had the largest assortment in the city.

I.BECKS TOYLAND AD, ca.1930s.
In 1898, Isaac Beck founded American Bazaar, the first American-style department store which was renamed BECK'S when he moved the shop to 11-19 Escolta. Beck's proclaimed itself as the "Universal Supplier of the Philippines", a wholesale and retail shop that "sold everything". Certainly, the American toys it offered were the main attractions for Filipino kids during Christmas.

ROCES & CO, INC. PLAYTHING AD, 1929.
Nearby Plaza de Goiti in Sta. Cruz, is also a shopper's delight. The "heart of Manila" is home to many shops carrying toys and playthings--like ROCES & CO. Inc., which specialized in sports equipment for children. They sold everything from child-size tennis rackets, roller skates, baseball bats and even punching bags expressedly made for kids.  Today, the Plaza Goiti is known as Plaza Lacson, in honor of 1950s Manila mayor, Arsenic Lacson. The Roces Family were better known as builders of a successful media empire in the Philippines.

PECO AD, Graphic Magazine, 1929
Back in Escolta, the Philippine Educational Company (PECO) was put up by an enterprising Thomasite, Verne Miller, in  at the corner of Calle Tomas Pinpin, in a beaux arts structure known as Natividad Building.

PECO XMAS TOYLAND AD, 1955
The very popular pre-war bookstore sold books, stationery, novelty items--especially toys during the holiday season. PECO had a vast store space, occupying the whole 2nd floor. In 1929, for example, the second floor was converted into a "Children's Paradise" just for Christmas.

SHIRLEY TEMPLE DOLLS, at PECO, ca. 1950s.
PECO was rebuilt after the war and maintained a large warehouse-shop in Quiapo--on Castillejos St. In the 70s, PECO continued to operate in a large outlet on Oroquieta St., within Manila's busy university belt. It also opened a branch at the Makati Commercial Center in the 80s until other bookshops took over.

The shops where our parents and grandparents bought our toys and dolls may have long closed, but for many recipients of their gifts--the happy memories remain,



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