Sidewalk sale memories

  • Phipps Department Store's outdoor sale was a popular part of Boo Boo Days in Batavia.

    Phipps Department Store's outdoor sale was a popular part of Boo Boo Days in Batavia. Courtesy of Batavia Historical Society

  • Boo Boo Days in downtown Batavia in the 1950s. The sale days return this week as part of Windmill City Festival.

    Boo Boo Days in downtown Batavia in the 1950s. The sale days return this week as part of Windmill City Festival. Courtesy of Batavia Historical Society

Updated 7/12/2019 3:09 PM

This week marks the return of Boo Boo Days, a popular Chamber of Commerce promotion that took place in the 1950s and '60s. The new sale will be sponsored by Batavia MainStreet and will take place during Windmill City Festival, July 12-14.

"I'm excited about bringing back Boo Boo Days," said Christopher Faber, executive director of Batavia MainStreet. "I'm just learning about the history of this popular sale."


The popular promotion will begin on Friday, with downtown retailers setting up outdoor displays of discounted items. Some will continue on through Saturday.

Boo Boo Days was such a popular promotion that shoppers came from the surrounding communities to take advantage of the great values.

"My dad would bring in some items, like transistor radios, and we would set up our table right in front of the door," said Gene Olmstead of Olmstead's TV. "Sometimes the crowd would be so big that shoppers had to walk out on Wilson to get around it."

Johnson's Drugstore was another popular location because Bert Johnson drastically cut the price of any expired or soon-to-be expired product.

"I loved working at Johnson's Drugstore during Boo Boo Days," Sandy Ahlgren McDuffee said. "There was such excitement as children and parents pored over the discounted items from the store."

McDuffee also recalled how much she enjoyed going to Boo Boo Days as a kid growing up in Batavia.

"We walked downtown with a couple of dollars, if that, and rummaged through the discounted items set out on tables outside of the stores," she said. "My favorite was Ben Franklin -- you could buy inexpensive lipstick, nail polish and sparkly rhinestone jewelry, my personal favorite. Then I'd go home and pore over my purchases and dream of things I could buy the next year."

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Many children got excited for a promotion at Remsnyder's Drugstore. For $1, you could purchase a Boo Boo Bag that was guaranteed to have $5 worth of discontinued items inside. Some bags included a silver dollar.

When I was about 10, I headed downtown to buy my Boo Boo Bag. Our local radio station, WGSB, was covering Boo Boo Days and the commentator asked if he could interview me while I opened my bag. I was so excited -- I was on the radio!

I remember pulling out a small bottle of Evening in Paris perfume and remarking that it would be a great gift for my mom. After pulling out a couple of other items, I pulled out rat poison. Of course, that became a huge story for the radio station.

Mr. Remsnyder was shocked and didn't like the negative publicity. My radio career was over in a second, and without the coveted silver dollar.

The biggest draw during Boo Boo Days was Hubbards Home Furnishings. Shoppers would start forming lines at 6 a.m. to take advantage of the sale.


"They would literally run into the store once the doors were unlocked," Bob Hubbard said. "When my brother Dick was in fifth grade, he got to be the one to open the door, and they knocked him down."

Hubbard recalls having to move furniture one year to the old A&P store that was located where the current downtown Chase Bank building stands. They also used the Crane building at the corner of River and Wilson.

Some may wonder what made Boo Boo Days so popular.

"I think it was the advertising," said Hubbard. "My Dad and his brothers would really work on those ads to make them funny."

Each year, the Batavia Herald would put out a Boo Boo days supplement featuring what the downtown retailers were selling. Hubbards took out a full-page ad. One ad read, "Moss green sofa. It's either that or the thing is covered in green fungus." Another stated: "The chair has scratches on the seat, but when you are sitting on it, who cares?"

Even Avenue Chevy got into the act, selling cars at deep discounts. An ad for a 1960 Renault reads: "$17.00, if you can't get it off the lot, we'll give you a push."

So why did Boo Boo Days end if the sale was so popular?

"I think newer businesses saw the name in a negative way," said Olmstead. "Which was too bad, because it was a great sale."

Ending the sale may have been the biggest Boo Boo of all.

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