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Remember When Santa Ana .... Montgomery Wards

by Juanita Lovret 

Reprinted from The Tustin News, 2001 Juanita Lovret. Used with permission.

The closing of Santa Ana's Montgomery Ward store is a sad event, much like the death of a person you knew well as a youngster, but haven't visited for a long time.

During my childhood, and later, Montgomery Ward anchored the northeast corner of Fourth and Main. J. C. Penney had a store on the east end of the block with a Kress variety store sandwiched between the two department stores.

Although we seldom shopped in Monkey Wards, we never missed their display windows fronting on both Main Street and Fourth Street when we window shopped in Santa Ana on Saturday night. Mother favored Penney's when she needed yardage, patterns, sheets, pillowcases, towels, underwear, socks and my dad's overalls and work shirts.

We bought our good clothes, dresses, coats and hats for Mother and me, at Rankin's, Fourth and Sycamore, SQR in Anaheim or Buffum's in Long Beach.

Vandermast's, Hugh J. Lowe and Hill's, all west of Main on Fourth, offered plenty of suits, shirts, ties and Stetson hats for Dad. Shoes, of course, came from one of the shoe stores, Sebastian's, Schilling's or Newcomb's. Wards was the place to buy bicycles, balls, electric trains and other toys.

Their special Christmas windows were a veritable Santa Claus workshop, tantalizing with every toy imaginable. Visiting Santa Claus in his basement headquarters and prowling the aisles packed with toys was a holiday adventure. At home we perused their special Christmas catalog.

The store had three levels, the basement, main floor and second floor which, as I remember, stocked furniture. By today's standards the store was small, probably less than a fourth of the size of Tustin's Mervyn's. Montgomery Ward was one of the first stores to desert downtown Santa Ana.

When developer Allison Honer built Honer Plaza in 1960, replacing the orange and walnut groves at Seventeenth and Bristol, Montgomery Ward shuttered its old location and moved into the new shopping center.

Stores that stayed watched their customers drift away to Honer Plaza, Fashion Square and South Coast Plaza. One by one they, too, moved or closed.

Shopping in downtown Santa Ana was no longer popular. The block once filled by Montgomery Ward, Kress and Penney's became part of the First American Title Insurance Co. compound. As the years passed, Honer Plaza aged. Stores came and went. People from Tustin seldom shopped there although a huge Home Base was added. The center took a new name, Bristol Market Place.

Montgomery Ward store hung on as its parent chain underwent numerous changes, filing for bankruptcy in 1997, and being acquired in 1999 by GE Capital Services which rescued them from the bankruptcy.

Now, however, as the 128 year old department store chain closes stores nationwide, the Santa Ana location will shut its doors.

Goodbye old friend.

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