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Old Rike's holiday displays still bringing joy and memories of Christmas past

Visitors at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center viewing the holiday displays.
Alejandro Figueroa
Visitors at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center viewing the holiday displays.

The Rike’s Department store on Second and Main in downtown Dayton is long gone. But people of a certain age might still remember the store’s iconic holiday window displays.

The department store was a once beloved staple of downtown Dayton since 1853.

Since the 1940’s the window displays have been an annual holiday spectacle for families in Dayton.

Though the Rike’s store is gone — the building was demolished in 1999 — The robotic dolls and elves still attract children and adults alike. And for some, seeing it brings back memories of Christmases past.

The holiday windows are still up at the Schuster Performing Arts Center— the same location the department store was located in.

WYSO’s Alejandro Figueroa went down to the Schuster Center to talk with visitors about their holiday memories at Rike’s.

The following is an edited transcript of this audio postcard. Click the listen button at the top of the page to hear this story.

Linda Stuttman: You got dressed up, you came downtown, you stopped in front of the windows and you looked at all of them. They were fascinating.

Harold Brown: And you shopped. And so we always came down here for the midnight madness and we would shop for last minute gifts, and it was pretty common for us to do that. [With] my family and my grandmother.

Linda Stoddard: It was just something that you always did. It was, you know, tradition, you didn't have Christmas unless you went to see everything. And kind of started the holidays.

Bill Stoddard: Yeah.

Linda Stoddard: And a lot of times we used to take the Christmas bus with Santa on, downtown, so you didn't have to drive down and park and everything. And then you can go to the Rike’s windows.

Alejandro Figueroa
The "North Pole" window display.

Bill Stoddard: Yeah, my grandmother worked at Rike's, so we'd come down and see that and go up and visit her. The one thing they had was a Tike’s store where the kids could go in and buy presents.

Linda Stoddard: They would have helpers that would…You know you had this much money to buy how many gifts for mom,

Chris Glass: I took my son there and he bought my husband the ugliest tie you could ever imagine.

Stuttman: One of my favorite things was I bought for my dad, a ceramic dog, and it had a little upturned nose and a tail, and it was probably about eight inches long and was hollow in the middle. He kept it on his dresser until he was 83 when he passed away. And I have it now.

Figueroa: What was it...like? I mean, I’ve never even been there.

Kim Swift: This was like amazing back then, you know, because you didn't have
like moving dolls or anything, you know what I mean? Oh gosh I'm so old. But it was exciting. I mean, they're kind of creepy now, but back then it was like, really cool.

Dan Swift: It was really cool.

John Getrost: And then there was the trip to the top of the store to see Santa Claus, yeah I always remember that.

Jess Jensen: Yeah that’s right, it was on the very top floor wasn’t it?

Getrost: Yeah, yeah you had to go all the way to the top floor.

Danny Puterbaugh: Every year they would have that Santa sleigh and he started back about almost a city block that way. And then every year they would add two more reindeer and they came around the corner.

Sussie Holloway: I still miss seeing Santa and the reindeer going around the…

Figueroa: Outside the building?

Holloway: Yes, yes it was great.

Frank Holloway: Well I started my first job [here] and the training program was at the Tike’s Shop for that month of December. And this is the funny thing, I can remember standing and this little kid waiting and he says “mom, mom mom!” And with that he wet his pants.

Julaine Thompson: The old Rike’s store was my favorite as a child, we’ve been coming for a number of years to see it so it’s nice to see it ongoing and that they restored it and you know...It just takes you back.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming

Email: afigueroa@wyso.org
Phone: 937-917-5943