Eleanor Healy (front), of Evergreen Park, and Therese Quattrocchi, of Palos Heights, attend Leslie Goddard's "Remembering Marshall Field's" presentation. Both women said the lecture brought back fond memories. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 21, 2014 6:11AM
Historian Leslie Goddard’s presentation, “Remembering Marshall Field’s,” rekindled both distant and recent memories of the iconic Chicago department store recently at St. Xavier University.
The Butler Reception Room at the school in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community was filled to capacity for the hourlong lecture, one in the John T. Farrell, Sr. Forum series hosted by SXU’s Renaissance Academy.
Participants quickly answered Goddard’s opening question: “When you hear the phrase ‘Marshall Field’s,’ what are some of the ideas or the images that immediately come to your head?”
From a very engaged and vocal audience of former loyal Field’s patrons came “The customer is always right,” while others shouted out about Uncle Mistletoe, Frango mints, the Walnut Room and the big, green Marshall Field’s clocks.
For many in the audience, many of them retired and semiretired, trips to Field’s began when they were children in the 1930s and 1940s.
Goddard’s lecture included the early history of a dry goods store opened in 1852 by Potter Palmer. It was sold in 1867 to Marshall Field and Levi Leiter. It eventually evolved into a luxury department store, underwent several name and ownership changes, and survived two devastating fires, including the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.
But the Field’s name could not survive the sale in 2005 to Federated Department Stores, Inc., which converted stores into Macy’s in 2006, Goddard said.
Marie Doucet, 81, of Palos Heights, echoed the sentiments of many who missed what she said “was always my favorite store.”
Doucet said she remembered fondly the special brand of service by the sales girls at Marshall Field’s.
Doucet’s friend, Susan McCarthy, 83, of Crestwood, said, “We grew up with Field’s. I believe what I miss most is the quality of the clothing.”
The instantly identifiable green shopping bag seemed to be the memorabilia of choice for both women, who said they still have a bag.
“I have a Marshall Field’s shopping bag in the trunk of my car,” McCarthy said.
Goddard validated the Field’s shoppers’ loyalty, saying a group of Field’s customers annually have staged a protest since the name change to Macy’s.
Pat Haynes, 68, of Chicago’s Beverly community, said she has come to accept the change and now keeps her eye on the sales at Macy’s, but she will “always call it Marshall Field’s.
“I’m OK with going there,” Haynes said. “I was so horribly distraught when they changed the name and the ambience and all that, but I’m better about it.”
Haynes said she remembers the Marshall Field’s window decorations, which “unfortunately aren’t as super as they used to be.”
But she attended Goddard’s lecture more due to family ties than shopping, Haynes said.
“I had to come because my grandparents met at Marshall Field’s in the hat department,” she said. “They were both designers of hats, and if it wasn’t for them meeting at Marshall Field’s, I would be in a different form.”
Others also said the connection to Marshall Field’s was multigenerational.
Therese Quattrocchi, 84, of Palos Heights, said her fondness for Field’s includes its “sympathy for the Irish” over a hundred years ago. Quattrocchi said because Field’s hired Irish workers at a time when others would not, her grandmother Catherine Healy, who came from Ireland in 1886, was able to get a job there.
Eleanor Healy, 84, of Evergreen Park, recalled the benefit of having a job near the State Street store.
“I loved Marshall Field’s,” she said. “Every day on my lunch hour I ran over to the store, and I kept my eye on the sales.”
Healy said the sales girls would let her know when things she liked were going to be on sale.
Goddard said Marshall Field’s & Co. was able to generate customer loyalty for a variety of reasons: elegant surroundings, dependable merchandise, the best in retail shopping and excellent customer service.
“Marshall Field’s did inspire unbelievable devotion from Chicagoans and its customers,” Goddard said. “We have this ownership in it.”
For more information about Leslie Goddard, visit www.lesliegoddard.info.
For more information about SXU’s Renaissance Academy, contact Kathleen Fassl at (773) 233-3770.