During the Great Depression 80 downtown Bloomington merchants staged a “Christmas Caravan” promotion to boost holiday retail sales. The vehicle in the background, equipped with a calliope and pulling trailers loaded with prize giveaways, passed through more than 50 Central Illinois communities. The idea was to generate excitement for a promotion involving downtown shoppers receiving gift certificates with each purchase.
Back in December 1934, the Bloomington Association of Commerce (now the McLean County Chamber of Commerce) staged a “corny” promotion to boost downtown holiday retail sales. The approximately 58-by-13 inch glass container shown here was filled with two bushels of shelled corn. With every downtown retail purchase of 25 cents or more, Bloomington shoppers would receive a slip of paper to write down their guess, with the closest to the correct total receiving a $200 cash prize. Remarkably, four area residents correctly guessed that there were 212,792 grains in this container!
We’re not sure this photograph was taken on a “Black Friday” sometime in the 1930s, but it sure looks like it! Seen here is an undated photograph of the main floor of the locally owned department store, A. Livingston & Sons, during a Christmas season in the 1930s. Livingston’s, located on the south side of the Courthouse Square, closed in 1979.
On November 9-10, 1937 First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, sans husband Franklin Delano, paid a visit to Bloomington-Normal. Mrs. Roosevelt is seen here relaxing at the Illinois Hotel in downtown Bloomington while taking questions from a Pantagraph reporter.
Holy Trinity Catholic Church's afternoon kindergarten class enjoyed candied apples among other treats during this Halloween Day 1939 party.
A Depression-era tradition in Bloomington was the annual Halloween Mardi Gras parade and street dance. Seen here from the parade of October 31, 1938, is Little Bo Peep played by Joe Raycraft.
On October 14, 1963 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigned in Bloomington. FDR’s whistle stop tour pulled into Union Depot on the city’s west side (see photo on the right) at 2:35 p.m. The photo on the left shows Roosevelt from the train’s rear observation platform.