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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 14, 2005 10:11 AM. The previous post in this blog was Off the hook. The next post in this blog is Facelift. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Last call for Santa's monorail

We missed my office Christmas party this year due to a scheduling conflict, and so yesterday we took the kids down to see Santa at the downtown Portland Meier & Frank store. We whizzed up to the 10th floor, where Santaland, a decades-old tradition, is in its final run. It will be ripped out after the first of the year as part of the makeover of the upper floors of the building into a new chi-chi hotel.

Santa himself will no doubt find a home on a lower floor once the store reopens (as a Macy's), but gone forever will be the monorail that takes the little ones on a free ride around the high ceiling. Nobody over 43 inches is allowed up there; it's all for the children only. Just a couple of loops around a small track and it's over, but to the passengers it's a very big deal indeed.

Believe it or not, I had never been to Portland's Santaland before, and I'm glad we got to share it together as a family before it's gone.

Comments (17)

As a wee 5 year old in 1972, I remember going to Meier & Frank all decked out in my brown corduroy and green plaid shirt to see Santa. I am pretty sure the Cinnamon Bear was there handing out bear shaped cookies. For a couple of years I was just as excited to see the Cinnamon Bear as I was seeing Santa since I listened to the KEX radio program special each night before going to bed. The monorail was glorious! I rode all around the store wide-eyed at all the lights, decorations, and toys, toys, toys. It was so magical.

I've since taken each of my three kids and I think I'm still the most excited of all. Last year my Dad came up from AZ and we all went together, three generations of Portlanders sharing in a common city tradition. It's too bad such landmarks have to come and go but I guess that's "progress."

Also disappearing will be my favorite secret hangout in all of Portland: the 9th floor "gallery" of Meier & Frank. An entire floor of comfortable couches and beds staffed by ZERO salespeople. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent up there hanging out with friends and even the occasional mellow date.

I was just up there last weekend for about three hours. Even on a busy holiday Saturday, the floor is just deserted and you can spend time conversing and relaxing with friends, secluded and comfortable in the middle of a busy downtown.

It's been one of my favorite places for about a decade, but I guess it will be gone soon :(

"Zero salespeople" pretty well describes the whole sorry store.

I rode the monorail when I was a kid. That was when Meier and Frank still had elevator operators.

Sigh. We have more than 20 years' worth of pictures of our 3 children riding the M&F monorail and visiting with the M&F Santa. It is sad that other young families won't be able to let their children experience the monorail. Alas, it has been 5 years since my youngest was under 43" and now she's too old (she thinks) for Santa. Now we have to have Xmas "glamour" shots sans Santa.

Maybe the city & OHSU should buy that monorail instead of the tram..

Right on, Jon, when I first saw the picture I thought our fearless leader had "photoshopped" a holiday tram [rim shot] with the KXL funbuch inside.
The monorail car looks a little scary with the mesh windows, but it sounds like the kids love it.

My memory may be slipping, but I seem to recall that the Cinnamon Bear was at Lipmann's, not Meier and Frank. Can anyong verify that?

In the late 1980's there was no height requirement on the monorail, or people chose to look the other way when my high school friends and I rode it.

Jerry you are correct.(see, when you start talking trams facts seem to blur).

Cinnamon Bear was Lipmanns mascot.

Meier & Frank had, well, the Friday Surprise.

"Zero salespeople" pretty well describes the whole sorry store.

Sorry, Allan L...can't let that one pass.

While that downtown flagship's had its ups and downs --and the bathroom's are a little scary-- its the salespeople who make a difference, and there are some fine ones there, though they're nervous about the transition to Macy's. There are people who've been there a long time.

Slick isn't always best, and I'll take a store with character --and a few characters-- over a bland superstore with indifferent part-timers at the tills.

My deceased Mom's favorite place to lunch --over anyplace I could take her-- was upstairs. And I still remember taking my kids to have breakfast with Santa there.

Some places have heart and history. I miss the basement sales, and still hate that the friggin' coupons that too often don't work for what I want (mon dieu...I'm buying Dockers!) Though I have to say I've bought some cool stuff already discounted plus 50% off, plus another 20% off coupon. (My Mom would be proud.) Figuring out what something's going to cost is part of the charm.

Sorry you missed the joy.

My Dad called last night and we takled about this year being Meier and Frank's last christmas. When I mentioned the Cinnamon Bear, he told me that it was at Lipmanns rather than Meier and Frank, and then I read others already noticed that as well.

I simply claim holiday spirit intoxication. I was high on the excitement--no wonder the christmas lights seemed so colorful! A five year old can only handle so much holiday spirit in that 40 lb body.

The mention of elevator operators got my memory banks going! Actual people, women, who SPOKE to you as you entered their domain. As the doors shut, their arm would wave beautifully in front of you, making sure that you were not in harms way. A lovely voice would speak, "Please face the front and state your floor please" and then it all began..."Second Floor, Men's Department, Third Floor, Women's Everyday"...and so on. My greatest hope was that everyone was going to the 10th floor all at the same time. Now, THAT was a ride to remember...whoooooooosh! "Tenth Floor, Toyland, Everyone out, please."
Yeah, elevator operators...while I realize that at the time, it was normal, it still seemed like an extra personal touch...and then we'd all go home and play department store in the only closet that had a sliding door! "Floor Please."

I will definitely miss the monorail at Meir and Frank, just as I have missed the Cinnamon Bear from what used to be Lippman's department store next door. I remember watching the Cinnamon Bear greet all the kids as my Grandmother and I dined at the restaurant on the Mezzanie level. Tuna sandwich and a chocolate shake! That's what I got everytime, and still order alot today.

Portland was an awesome place for me to grow up. I spent alot of time alone downtown, and in the south park blocks between the ages of 8-12. Used to ride that monorail all day long, then go visit my Uncle Bill who commanded Central and North Precincts as a Captain of the PPD.

Those were good times. To bad I had to grow up and watch Portland and the State of Oregon go to hell in a handbasket. Oh well, at least some people recognize, and are trying to fix things.

Tomorrow night I'll be taking my two beautiful Grand-daughters for their first and last ride. Got a blank memory chip and a fully charged camera to take with me.

I was a big fan of the Cinnamon Bear when I was a tyke growing up in the '80s. I don't know about the years prior to that but back then he could be found every Xmas at Frederick and Nelson's. We frequented the Washington Square location and CB was up on the second floor next to a treasure chest full of bear-shaped cinnamon cookies.

F and N practically turned into a Cinnamon Bear shrine every season. Two foot tall CBs could be found all over the store over the perfurme counter, in displays, etc.

When I was a kid we did a lot of shopping in Lippmans at Eastport Plaza. They had a cinammon bear. The biggest treat was when my mom would take me to the lemon tree cafe in Lippmans and let me order a Monte Cristo sandwhich. That was my reward for her picking out wing tip shoes and wide wale cords for me to wear during the coming school year... I was eternally out of fashion.

Remember Madras "bleeding plaids"? All the kids wore them, except me. Mom thought it was stupid to buy a shirt that would deliberately fade.

I rode the Meier and Frank monorail as a small child in the '60s. It was only a fuzzy memory when I was an adult living in another state, so imagine my joy at rediscovering it on a visit to Portland in the late '80s when my own children were small! I was beginning to wonder if I had imagined it. My children just loved it, and we'll be visiting Santaland this year to say goodbye. Why doesn't someone buy that monorail? It's a Portland classic.
I also remember visiting the Cinnamon Bear at Lippmann's in Eastport Plaza. The store always had a magical sweet scent to it that filled your nose the moment you walked in. (What was that, I wonder?) Does anyone remember the do-it-yourself cotton candy maker at Eastport Plaza? You'd put in a quarter, grab a cardboard cone, and dip it in as the machine whirled and spun the sugar.


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