Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Filene's Restaurant

When I was a little girl I remember getting dressed up in my best dresses to go "Downtown" with my great aunt. I wasn't really a dresses and frills kind of girl but by great aunt was and in hindsight now, I think she was trying to provide for me the things that she never had growing up as desperately poor as she did. My great aunt (and her sister, my grandmother who passed away before I was born) were raised under what, at the time, would seem shockingly tragic circumstances. Their parents were Irish born and moved to the US and the Boston area sometime right about the turn of the century. (I have the exact dates somewhere but they are not necessary for this particular story) At some point their father (a trolley driver) deserted the family, moved back to Ireland and started a whole new family. I think that is the reason that although my great aunt was very proud to be Irish, she never would discuss with any detail or clarity and details regarding her heritage. But I digress... Auntie Kay surely was living out her own childhood fantasies of proper young ladies raised in Boston when she dressed me up and took me to nice restaurants all over town. We had lunch at the Ritz, and we also dined at the very pleasant Filene's restaurant located int he flagship original Boston store. Decades later I worked for Filene's as a sales clerk and later a department manager. In various jobs at various times I was all over that building and saw many wonderful old relics of it's past life. There was a great black and white checked floor on the mezzanine left over from that floor's days as a hair dressing salon and a lovely wrought iron spiral stair case leading down from the Godiva candy stockroom, I have no idea where the stair case originally led to and from but it sure was a neat relic and one that I regret most not photographing when I had the opportunity to do so. Oh but I am rambling on again... I have memories of the Filene's Restaurant as being decorated in green and white in the mid 1970's and I also recall it being sun lit although I don't recall looking out any windows. I have heard from different sources that the restaurant was located on the 4th and or the 8th floor of the store at 500 Washington Street and it may well have been located on different floors at different time periods. The store was over 100 years old by the time I started working there... Close inspection of this card appears to me to be the 8th floor of the building. I remember the columns that dotted the large room and the bright high windows that was the employee cafeteria and restaurant when I was there. Employees could purchase inexpensive meals like burgers and fries or grilled cheese on their breaks while working. It was quite convenient if not quite as glamorous as it was when it was a restaurant open to the public. Anyhoo... I ran across this old postcard online recently and it reminded me of those lunches with Auntie Kay. I would have loved to have been able to tell her about conversations I had with employees that used to work in the restaurant during their long and very storied careers at Filene's but I have the feeling that even if I could have told her about these women, she might only have been disappointed (and not delighted like I was) to find her niece making friends with waitresses instead of executive Secretaries. When it comes down to it, whether we had overly polished manners or not (in my case, certainly not) we all apparently enjoyed our meals in the same place at different times...