About Me

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ever Heard of Kobacker’s?

Growing up, Christmases and birthdays were always judged successful by the number of toys received. The dreaded department store shirt boxes all neatly wrapped were the last gifts to be open. Perhaps, like me, you ripped open these obvious clothing gifts with haste, took a quick look, said "thanks," tossed aside your Fruit-of-the-Looms and started looking for the AA batteries not included with your "Lost in Space" robot.

In my house the department store chain of choice was Joseph Horne's with its blue-lidded boxes, but when I started spending the holidays with my wife's family I noticed their shirt boxes all had red lids and were from Kaufmann's. Both Horne's and Kaufmann's were iconic, regional department store chains based in Pittsburgh. Both are now gone. Horne's became Lazarus and the Kaufmann's organization was dissolved and assumed by Macy's.

So, what does any of this have to do with Rock Springs Park? I'm getting to that. Like I said I frequented Joseph Horne's growing up and I knew of Kaufmann's because I wanted to be an architect and had visited Edgar J. Kaufmann's Frank Lloyd Wright house 'Fallingwater' as a kid. I was even familiar with Macy's and Gimble's thanks to Natalie Wood and "Miracle on 34th Street." Remember the scene where the Macy's Santa (the real Kris Kringle) sends a mother to Gimble's for a fire engine for her son that Macy's does not have.

I've heard of them all, but I had never heard of Kobacker's until I saw the news brief below from June 29, 1912 edition of the Beaver Daily Times. Have you ever heard of it?

Apparently, Kobacker's, like Kaufmann's and the others was a family-owned chain of department stores. The stores were located in Ohio and New York, but by the mid 1990s, they stretched into 31 states including Florida. At this time Kobacker's specialized in shoes under the name “The Shoe Works” which itself was sold in 1990 to Payless Shoes in a deal worth $50 million. Not bad for a company I have never heard of.

Anyways, in 1912 the Kobacker and Kaufmann store clerks had a combined company picnic at Rock Springs Park, according to the Daily Times. Gee, with a name like “Kobacker and Kaufmann’s” they should have gone into the law business. “Injured in an escalator accident? Call us at Kobacker and Kaufmann’s. We’ll get money for you.”

“There was a power outage at a department store yesterday. Twenty people were trapped on the escalators.” ~Stephen Wright

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