I rarely have my act together to buy Christmas presents earlier than Dec. 1st. But I'm about to make an exception and order a few gift copies of Wanamaker's: Meet Me at the Eagle, a wonderfully affectionate look at the Market St. store whose name, for generations, was symbolic of Philly. Published by History Press, it hit print this weekend.
Author Michael Lisicky says his love letter to the landmark institution is not just a history book but a "nostalgia" book. It's crammed with over 100 rare photographs and interviews with local celebs - from Ed Rendell and Sally Starr to Michael Nutter, Lynn Abraham and Pat Ciarrocchi - who share personal memories of the department store known for its holiday light show and - yes - that iconic, bronze eagle statue in the center of the first floor, which became a reliable meeting spot before we had cell phones to let us find each other when meeting downtown.
Hence the book's "Meet Me at the Eagle" subtitle.
Lisicky, an oboist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, comes by his subject honestly. A native of Cherry Hill, he's obsessed with the evolution of America's department stores and fascinated with how they came to symbolize the towns where they morphed from dream to reality. His first book, Hutzler's: Where Baltimore Shops - a look at the famed retail mecca that was to Baltimoreans what Wanamaker's was to Philadelphians - is already in its sixth pritning, after just one year in publication.
Lisicky also contributes to a fun website, www.departmentstorehistory.net, that aims to preserve the legacy and stories of America's pre-mall palaces of purchasing.
Wanamaker's: Meet Me At The Eagle will be on store shelves tomorow, and Lisicky will be promoting it here in Philly over Thanksgiving weekend, right in time for the Black Friday crush.