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Old 03-31-2015, 10:06 AM
2 posts, read 2,018 times
Reputation: 22


I just came across this thread today (1 year after orig. post).
Back in the '60s, my Dad owned the display company (Gordon Displays) that built all the street level and 8th floor displays during that decade. He also built over three dozen floats for Dayton's that appeared in the Mpls Aquatennial and St Paul Winter Carnival parades. It was a full-time occupation.
The design work was all done in-house at Dayton's under the direction of Joe Wright. I remember people like Len Shimota and John Gantert who worked at the Dayton's display/art department coming out to the shop to work on various projects there. Many of the figures were made by a woman in New York named Tommie Roland. She'd send the figures to Dad, and his people, led by a talented guy named Roy Wilhite, would create all the mechanical movements by hand, each piece unique. Our own artist, Bob Edgett, contributed a great deal to the displays. The figures were all sent back to her for the costuming process.
Occasionally, Dayton's would bring in artists from Europe to get just the right look to the displays and floats. They even sent buyers to England for antiques to go into the Dickens Village display of the mid 60s, which, at the time, was the only display ever to be repeated.
Besides the floats and other projects Dad had to do in those days, the Christmas displays took a full two years to create before they were ready for the public. The day after Thanksgiving, a line of people went around the block just waiting for the street-level windows to be unveiled. The line for the 8th floor auditorium display started about the 4th floor.
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Old 03-09-2017, 10:56 AM
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With Macy's closing the downtown store many of the animated figures are for sale now - kind of sad because they seem to be in tough shape. I bought 7 original drawings from the 1985 Velveteen Rabbit display - there were always pictures of some kind going down the hallway to look at while you were waiting in line. I already had three that my husband acquired years ago and gave me for Christmas. I have been trying to find any information about these pictures - how many were there originally etc. They are signed by David Jorgensen who was an illustrator. Just stumbled upon this thread. I loved all of the displays - can't imagine how cool it would have been if my dad made the displays!
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Old 03-20-2017, 10:59 AM
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All the Christmas displays Dad did were during the 1960s, and I have very little from that era but memories. It's great that you were able to get something to cherish from that time! David Jorgensen isn't ringing a bell with me.
Back in the day, there was little time for nostalgia, and always a need for the mechanics of old pieces. Storage space was not something we had a lot of. I did manage to rescue one complete animated piece from the 1964 display! It was a very temporary type of biz, making all new displays and floats every year.
Check out facebook's Old Minneapolis page to see if there's anyone from Dayton's floating around out there. I hear there is a former Dayton's employee forum out there somewhere, but I haven't had time to do a serious search for it.
I did grow up in fantasyland, and I still maintain a residence there...
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Old 12-27-2017, 06:57 PM
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1988 polar express was designed and fabricated by a talented group of artisans "It Figures Studio" in Newport Delaware. I worked with them....the owner is deceased but his wife Mary is still an active artist.
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