October 26, 1967
It isn’t every day that a young infant, celebrating its birthday, has such a heritage of Old Familiar Faces to join in the celebration. Popular-Northgate, youngest offspring of the future is not only the wish - but the predication of its Downtown parents and its older sister, Popular-Bassett, now all of five years old, and as gay and happy as most young children of its age. But in the Popular tradition, also accepting its responsibilities.
Joining in the anniversary festivities is the Popular’s 20-Year Club, recently honored through the press. It has members whose continuous service to the Popular and to the public ranging from 21 to 47 years each, represents in the aggregate, 1,915 years of service! … almost as many years as there are in our present reckoning of time.
An anniversary is a time to look forward, but also a time for retrospect. And looking at this “Family Album” of 65 familiar faces – the Popular points with justifiable pride to them and to scores of others who have measured working hours in Smiles, Service and a Job Well done … helping to make the Popular what it is today.
It’s a far cry from the young and expectant infant, the first Popular, which came into being in a bustling community only a few years after the railroad trains puffed their way into a frontier town, that contained Texas’ biggest hotel, the three-story Grand Central, and had a population of slightly over 16,000 people.
In 1902, Adolph Schwartz, renamed his “Fair” child – been popular for 65 years! These were the days when well-busted ladies stormed the Popular’s doors to see the latest in bicycle skirts and “waists” ear-deep in high boned collars. No “teasing of hair-dos – then - women bought “rats” for their pompadours, topped by Floradora hats that defied the laws of gravitation. It was the year the first radio message was sent across the Atlantic – the first motion picture theatre was built in Los Angeles, to show silent pictures. Hollywood wasn’t even a gleam in the eye.
Public transportation was on the old mule drawn street car – out San Antonio to Cotton, back on Magoffin – over to the then tiny Juarez. The driver was always willing to accommodate housewives along the line – he went right by the Popular anyway – and would just as soon as not, fetch a spool of 50-White thread, or take a message to her husband not to forget the roundsteak for dinner. The only traffic hazard was the bicycle. A few folks had electric lights – most had gas or kerosene.
But time marched on – and in 1905 Frank Bell drove the first horseless carriage on El Paso streets … a Stanley Steamer. By 1907 there was talk of extending Mesa Avenue right on to the hill – up on the rock shoulder of Mountain Franklin. And Pete Kern, just back from Alaska, was dreaming of building El Paso’s finest residential area up on the hill … and he did!
As El Paso expanded, the Popular moved from Overland Street “out into the country” into the ground floor of the Masonic Building at the corner of Mesa and San Antonio … not exactly on the corner … out in front was a big tree, and in its shade a Plumbing Shop? Women were buying high-button shoes with the new Cuban heels – Muna Loa erupted in the Hawaiian Islands – Carrie Nation was conduction her first hatchet raid on a saloon in Kansas … and a record-setting trip around-the-world was made in just 40 days and 19 hours! The Popular was bringing merchandise from all over the nation to meet increasing demands and was already a recognized Fashion center. The old Edison Cylinder talking machine gave way to the Phonograph and the Victrola, and a dog, listening to “His Master’s Voice,” took its place among the unforgettable symbols of America.
The Popular flourished as the city grew, and soon a streetcar line was running up Cotton Avenue, and by 1912 one of the attractions for visitors was a ride on the Highland Park street-car. Construction on a new hotel, to be called the Paso del Norte, was underway at a cost of $900,000! New Mexico and Arizona became the 47th and 48th states, and two more stars were added to Old Glory. United States troops were on the Mexican border … the South Pole was discovered and the Popular was selling the New “Coat Suits” with skirts that swept the floor, fur boas hugged tight around the neck … feathered hats rivaled those on the Cigar Store Indian.
By 1916 Piedras Street was opened all the way up the hill (far short of is present terminus) – which meant more homes Northward and Eastward … and more business for everybody.
The year 1916 was a year of momentous decision for the Popular! The sum of $230,000 must have seemed like a lot of money to the men who had started the little store on Overland only 14 yeas earlier. But that was the price the Poplar paid for the Masonic Building – and soon a new building rose on the site. Six stories high at first, with others yet to come. The Popular continued to look forward, added to its laurels as its buildings expanded upward and outward. Upward to a seventh floor – outward to the Annex on Texas Street, and by late 1927 had secured property for the new building on San Antonio – the same year Charles Lindbergh flew solo to Paris – skirts rose above the knees (they were not then called “minis”) – and boyish bobs became the vogue.
During the next decade and more, rumblings of trouble were herd around the world – but the Popular was still serving the ever-increasing population and El Pasoans, like people everywhere in America, were singing “The Beer Barrel Polka” – and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” on its first time around.
Dec. 7, 1941 …. “A day that will go down in infamy”! The Japanese struck Pearl harbor … followed by the most horrible war the world had ever known! But at last it was 1964 – two World wars had happened some place in between, but they had been only a temporary dam to the flood of community progress and the progress of The Popular, who now expanded still further to meet the post-war needs of their countless patrons and friends. A connecting five-story building was completed on San Antonio – an eighth floor added to the original building … occupying more than half a city block and covering more than 200,000 square feet.
In 1960, the Popular’s big Downtown building, long an El Paso landmark, caught the modern trend of “youthifying” and beautification. It under went a complete face-lifting. In January 1961 the familiar-to-old-times “Annex” Building on Texas Street, gave way to a beautiful companion building. A magnificent new warehouse, with 68,000 square feet of space, was completed on the East side of the city, on Durango street, to expedite the handling of merchandise between it and the Downtown store .. later to serve Bassett and Northgate, as well. A Popular “shuttle” motor-bus transports buyers back and forth, saving at least 60 per cent in time gained by its modern methods.
The Popular, then 59 – not too proud to be parents at their age, had another “blessed event” – the beautiful new sibling, the Suburban Popular Store in Bassett Addition.
THIRD STORE ADDED
On Aug. 1, 1966, the Popular had its second child, Popular – Northgate, just as beautiful and blonde as its older sister, each with its own distinctive personality. Completed in less than one year … making its bow to an area reflecting El Paso’s vibrant, vital growth … a store embodying all the quality, value, selection and service that have become traditional with the Popular.
A complete suburban department store, with fashions and furnishings to meet the needs of all the northeast and outlying areas. Conveniently arranged for merchandise display, and to make shopping a joy … a warm and friendly place to shop – or just to browse. Its most distinctive architectural features are the pre-cast 54 12-ton exposed aggregate panels and concrete vault canopies, the classic dignity of the repeating arches. The masonry is Coronado White Stone, quarried from Mt. Franklin.
Ceilings are acoustical tile – the interior a symphony of colors, with inviting broad expanses of aisles, for unhurried shopping. Air-conditioning is zoned by using 22 separate units, which total 120 tons of air-conditioning … all units monitored from a master panel. Lighting, carefully engineered, uses true color north white florescent and incandescent lights in combination for a true color perception of merchandise. The store is equipped with speakers throughout, bring softly played music continuously. The “Fashion Aisle”, running North to South, has a special sound feature of being able to announce fashion shows .. and call systems are connected throughout the store for announcements and paging.
SONS CARRYING ON
None of the original founders of the store are living today, but Herbert M. Schwartz and Albert J. Schwartz, sons of the long-time president, Maurice Schwartz, are president and vice president respectively.
Frederick S. Strelitz is manager of the Northgate Store, a young man who grew up in Popular tradition. He has worked for Popular ever since his college days; received his training in various capacities at the Downtown and Bassett stores, so that his experience equips him to handle the operation of a fine suburban store of this magnitude.
From merry Widow Hats to Mini-Skirts – from celluloid collars to teeny-boppers … the past six decades in El Paso have brought starling changes in every phase of community life.
And, as El Paso has grown from a small town of horse-and-buggy transportation and mule-cars, to a modern metropolis, hub of the Southwest – where the Atomic Age was born – the Popular, now a family of three, serving a trade area spanning some 600 miles in each direction, has expanded to meet increasing needs.
And now the proud parent of Two children, Popular-Bassett and the beautiful new Popular-Northgate … One Year Old, going on Two!