I miss Walla Walla’s Wades Clothing Co. and Fred Merkle…
It has been at least twenty years since I purchased my last Suit or Sports Coat. I decided (well maybe it was my wife, Jill, that decided) that it was about time for me to have a new Sports Coat. I think that the fact that our son was getting married in three weeks may have also have had something to do with the decision.
Back in my high school days I would just go down to Wades Clothing and get a Suit. With this in mind, we stopped into the Walla Walla Clothing Co. (sounds local to me) hoping to have a similar experience but they only had five Sports Coats – five Sports Coats… really… it is summer, but only five?
So Jill and I walked across the street to Macy’s – a big chain store. They had a nice selection of Suits and Sports Jackets. I found just the style, size, and color that I had in mind and it was on sale too…
The sales clerk took the Jacket to the check out counter and pointed us in the direction of the shirt racks. He then turned to straightening out displays. When we asked about ties he took us over to a table full, pulled out three more boxes of ties and put them on top of the ties on the table. Then he went back to the straightening.
We bought a Sports Coat, a shirt, and a tie. The transaction was positive and the sales clerk was friendly. Whenever we asked a question he was helpful…
Then I began to think about going to Mens’ Clothing Stores in the late 1960′s or early 1970′s.. It was quite a different experience! I specifically remember two in Walla Walla; Wades and Sporleaders. Several other stores also carried Men’s Suits and those included: Gardner’s, Penny’s, Montgomery Ward, and the Bon Marche… we had quite a variety of options.
I generally went to Wades because our neighbor Fred Merkle worked there. Those were the days when men would make a career working in Mens’ Wear and Fred was excellent at his trade.
Fred would help me select a suit. While I still had it on, he would mark the alterations with a little white chalk marker. After I had changed back into my regular clothes he would lay the new jacket on a counter. Then he would bring a selection of shirts over to the counter and slip them into the jacket to see which ones looked good.
I’m sure that he already knew which shirts looked good but he didn’t let that on to me. Once a shirt was selected, the ties began coming off of the racks and onto the laid out jacket and shirt. Fred would say “this suit, shirt, and tie combination look good and work really well together.”
“When you want to change the look up a bit come back and buy this tie. This (second) shirt also goes really well with your suit..”
“Make sure you bring your dress shoes when you come back to pick up your (altered) suit, we need to make sure that the bottom of the pants legs break (on your shoes) just right.”
Several days later when the suit was back from alterations… “Ok, David try on the whole suit, shirt, tie, and shoes… we need to make sure everything fits just right… The suit looks great and remember this shirt and tie will look good with it too.”
Those were the days… when you not only left the Men’s Wear Store store with a perfectly fitted suit but you also left feeling really good about the whole experience!!! I miss you Fred!