One cannot live in the metropolitan area of Detroit and be immune to the truly glamorous stories of what was known as 'Hudson's'. Hudson's was the J. L. Hudson store in downtown Detroit. (This would have been when there was a downtown in Detroit.) The 49 acres large flagship store had 25 stories of world class shopping were no purchase was too big or too small. As a result it sold everything from grand pianos to a spool of thread. Hudson's had only one other rival in the entire United States, Macy's on 34th Street in NYC.
In the store's heyday (40's and 50's) Mr. P's late mother was on the staff at Hudson's as an artist. Among her many responsibilities were drawing the models in the latest fashions for the weekly full page newspaper advertisements. (Again this was back in the days when the Detroit newspapers still had home delivery.) She also created floor and window displays. At Christmas, well that's when Hudson's put her enormous talent to full use. She illustrated the annual "Christmas Carol" children books that were mailed to the homes of Hudson private account holders. Plus she designed "Toyland" - the entire floor given given over for the annual the Visit from Santa. According to memories of children that visited her annual creation, she did make a truly magical place. It was the J.L. Hudson company in 1924 that gave Detroit its famous annual Thanksgiving parade. Like its parade counterpart in NYC, the Hudson Thanksgiving parade ended with Santa (on his float) pulling up to the store and going inside where he would be in residence at Toyland for the next month. (Again, this was back in the days when the federal government did not run the private sector. Back then businesses were allowed to generate as much profit as possible and generated it in ways that benefited the quality of life in Detroit far better than any federal government plan or UAW strike ever has.) Hudson's sponsorship of the parade continued until 1979.
Sadly, the visits to Santa in Toyland basically ended in the late 70's when a father who was waiting in line outside the store (the lines where that long back then) was stabbed to death by a, for a lack of better words, murderous crook -in front of all the children waiting to see Santa, including his own.
By the time I moved to Detroit in late 1988, Hudson's flagship store had been shuttered for 5 years. Ideas about what to do with the empty building kicked around the corrupt City Hall for years while the final assault on Hudson's took place - thieves stripped the building of anything and everything they could sell. Finally in 1998, City Hall decided for the revitalization of the City of Detroit to knock it down and redevelop the land. Hudson's splendid 102-year history in Detroit came to an end.
While Hudson's in Detroit may be gone, there is something from it, that is not - The Maurice Salad. By 1953, the Hudson's had within its 25 stories of shopping 5 different restaurants to serve its shoppers. These restaurants, if you can believe it, served 14,000 meals a day. This was at a time when the Hudson store, if you can believe it, employed 12,000 people (including 500 home delivery drivers with a fleet of 300 delivery vans) and made 100,000 sales per day. The Maurice Salad was on the menu at Hudson's for more than 50 years. When you taste the Maurice Dressing you understand why.
J. L. Hudson's Maurice Salad
2 tsp. white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. onion juice (grate onion with fine grater)
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbspns. chopped fresh parsley
1 hard cooked egg, finely chopped
salt to taste
14 oz. ham, cut into strips
14 oz cooked turkey breast
14 oz Swiss cheese
1/2 cup slivered sweet gerkins
1 head Iceberg lettuce, shredded
12-16 pimento stuffed olives
Combine the first 6 dressing ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add remaining dressing ingredients and mix well. Combine the ham, turkey, cheese and pickles together in a large bowl. Toss together with the dressing. Divide lettuce among the plates, top with salad and garnish each plate with 2 olives. Serve with fresh bread.
Maurice Salad has been on the Peperium summer dinner menu since the earliest days of our marriage. It is a perfect hot weather meal. Also, Maurice dressing is wonderful on cold poached salmon, shrimp, or lobster.
Hudson's today (the flat white part).
For more than 10 years the City of Detroit has been incapable of redeveloping the city block where Hudson's made millions upon millions in spite of a Great Depression, two World Wars and the Sixties generation.
Yesterday, the City of Detroit felled another giant from its past : the historic Navin Field, (also known as Briggs Stadium and Tiger Stadium). From 1912 until 1999 it had been the home of the Detroit Tigers.
For 10 years the City was unable to figure out what to do with the old ball park where Ty Cobb and all the other greats played. The next to go will probably be the old train station.
It must be hard for the rest of the country to understand how beautiful the City of Detroit once was. In the 1920's it was our fourth largest city and its reputation was that it offered the most gracious living.