By Robert Lucke
Many old-timers can remember the Lou Lucke Co. in Havre.
Remember that store and surely you will remember how it looked at Christmastime.
The Lou Lucke Co. was located downtown in Havre where Norman's Ranch and Sportswear is today.
Christmas was a big deal. Of course, 70 percent of the year's sales were made between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that probably is not the reason Grandpa Lucke, his brothers and, later, his sons decorated the store so elaborately.
Elaborate decorations in most all downtown stores were quite common, especially around Christmastime. Luckes, Blacks, Clacks and Buttreys spent days and days making their store interiors and windows just right for hundreds of window shoppers who strolled by each evening or sat in their cars watching people look in the windows to while away winter evenings.
Probably even more important was that Grandpa Lucke and his family were German, and keeping Christmas and making the store look very special and elaborate was part of their German heritage.
The store windows were beautiful. Months ahead of decorating the store, which, by the way, always happened on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, (not a day before, mind you), large floor boards and wall boards and display racks were calcimined and sprinkled with mica to glitter like the snow never could outside on the brightest of days. Those backdrops went in all display windows of the store and on the counter display racks as well. In the shoe department an arbor of white topped with bright Christmas lights formed a walkway from one end of the department to the other. Those were the days when merchandise was kept under glass and salesmen were hired to show and sell that merchandise.
Only at Christmas was all the merchandise set among those beautiful white backdrops so people could browse amid the Pendleton plaid shirts and Van Heusen neckties or Florsheim shoes. All looked most saleable for Uncle Charlie or Aunt Emma among their beautiful mica and calcimine snow backdrops.
Most impressive all times of the year and high on ledges above the main display floor of the store was a large and varied collection of trophy mounts acquired over a span of 50 years. At Christmas that collection would be surrounded by hundreds of fresh evergreen trees purchased from the Snowline Tree Co. in Kalispell. It is impossible to describe the smell of those fresh evergreens. The most grouchy old customer was instantly turned into a happy, buy-everything Santa. The trees did get very dry by the end of the season and with all the cigarette smokers in the store, it is amazing the place didn't burn down. However, for the Christmas season, the trees, the effect of the displays in among beautiful gifts, deer, bears, elk, moose, ducks, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and even alligators, why, that effect was something that people who experienced it never forgot.
For younger members of the Lucke family who could not yet work on the selling floor, their job was to start months before Christmas in the basement of the store and fold literally thousands of gift boxes. They had forts towering to the ceilings in room after room stuffed with gift boxes. That old store must have really sold the merchandise because by Christmas there were never any boxes left, even though three or four children had worked long months to fold what hopefully would be enough boxes for most of the holiday season.
For a small child to come into Lucke's store at Christmas or the oldest citizen of the region, that store decorated for Christmas, well, it was just something else.
The Lou Lucke Co. was established by Lou Lucke Sr. in 1903 and was open until 1964.